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Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Monday, January 01, 2024

⚓Part 1 Mardi Gras Glossary and History / Jan 2024







~ Fiction ~

Roman à clef, cher

by Leonard Earl Johnson 

of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana


© 2024, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 

Your comments and corrections

are welcome

click here




~ www.LEJ.world http://www.LEJ.org

~ Carnival 2024 ~

LEJ's Mardi Gras Glossary 

and History

Part One

BY  Leonard Earl Johnson

© 2024, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

~ * ~    * ~    ~ * ~

🌴 📖 🌴 


The following Carnival terms are used by everyone in
 Louisiana, from Rex to thee.
Follow their revelry as you read them and become one with the Greatest Free Show on Earth.

There are many Carnival terms here, and a few historically mystical Louisiana stories sprinkled amongst them.

Read them as needed. 
A few now, perhaps more later!
© 2024, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

~  *  ~       ~  *  ~      ~  *  ~

Many the Carnival carpetbagger awakens befuddled after Mardi Gras, with moss-stuffed voodoo dolls staring at them from atop their suitcases and laptops.

They come, sway with our musicians and dine with our chefs.

Then they dance off home with our rhythms sounding in 
their ears, and a peptic re-flux marching in their stomach


We show them our "dis and dats," and they fill our hotels.  
We give them beads, and they pay our rent and laugh at our jokes.

~       ~       ~

"Ever hear the one about the tourist who ate the paper bag at Antoine's!?"

~ * ~     ~ * ~     * ~

Be Advised: 

Carnival is like the Catholic Church,
the deeper you look the more there is to see.

Carnival celebrants /  NOLa
Carnival's colors are 
purple, green, and gold.

The Season begins every year 
on the Christian Holy Day of Epiphany, January 6. 

It ends on different dates of the month ~ but always on Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. 


This calendar shapeshifting is done for the expressed purpose of  keeping Lent ever forty-suffering days

To achieve this wrongheaded goal joyful Carnival 
shrinks some years.  Other years it swells. 


Shrovetide (les Jours Gras)  A historic term little used in today's Louisiana, denoting the last three day weekend of Carnival Season.  Sunday is for going to Mass; Monday and Tuesday are called Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras ~ Fat Monday and Fat Tuesday respectively ~ and they are for everything you probably think is Carnival. 

~      ~      ~
LEJ and Alyse Morgan shopping for Mardi Gras
Rêve Coffee Roasters, Lafayette

~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~

Mardi Gras dates


February 21, 2023
February 13, 2024
March 4, 2025
February 17, 2026
February 9, 2027
www.LEJ.world ✍  
© 2024, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved

"It moves," 
L. A. Norma says, 
"it's alive!"


Bal Tableaux  ~ A masked party featuring performances of scenes in still-life representing a specific theme.  Can be deadly dull.  Can be uproariously funny.  

Movable tableaux on Carnival Day (Mardi Gras) are the funniest.  Who can forget the Westbank Big Hair Emergency Repair Krewe marching along, stopping in freeze-motion to fix misshapen bouffants along parade routes of yore?

Boeuf Gras ~ The fatted bull or ox in the Rex parade ~ representing sweetly excessive death-to-the-fat, and the beginning of Lenten abstinence (true death).  Said by Louisiana journalists-emeriti and Mardi Gras overseers, Arthur Hardy and Errol Laborde to be the most photographed sight of Carnival.

Boeuf Gras ~ Rex parade ~ Mardi Gras ~ NOLa
~  *  ~    ~  *  ~    ~  *  ~ 

Captain ~ Leader of each Mardi Gras organization.

Court ~ The king, queen, maids and dukes of each Mardi Gras organization.  There is a hierarchy here culminating in Rex (Latin for King)  However, no court or krewe is more important than the one you are in.

Rex Doubloon                                     Wikipedia

Rex ~ One of the "Big Four" oldest krewes of Louisiana Carnival. Founded in New Orleans in1872, calling itself, The School of Design. Ponder such a krewe name ~ with its religious, mythological and historical resonance ~ and you will see dimly into the mysteries of Carnival.  
Doubloons ~ Coin-like objects bearing some 
Krewe insignia on one side and the parade theme on the obverse.  Doubloons were first introduced 1959-60 by New Orleans artist H. Alvin Sharpe They were gold colored aluminum and first thrown by Rex in 1960.  For a few years ~ even after being adopted by other krewes ~ they were generically called Rex Doubloons. Today doubloons are thrown by many krewes in various colors, themes and names. 

Favor This is a personalized souvenir.  Given by organization members to friends.  More precious than float throws.

Invitation ~ A non-transferable printed request for attendance at a Mardi Gras ball.

King Cake ~ This is an oval bread or cake gussied up (traditionally brioche but today anything).
King Cake with Baby
Sugared, like a 'Brioche Royal'
 with Mardi Gras tri colored sugars, and baked with a plastic baby doll hidden inside. 

It is called 'King Cake' because it commemorates the visit of the Three Kings to see the Baby Jesus, literally a Christian epiphany.  

Epiphany ~ means a first-appearance or manifestation of a divine being.  In this case, the Three Kings (representing the peoples of the world) seeing for the first time the Baby Jesus, a new God (at least a new branch of an old one).  

The baby doll in the King Cake is loosely seen as the Epiphanous Baby Jesus, and concurrently all temporal joys-on-Earth. 

Widely overlooked by brethren of the secular press, the 2021 U. S. Capitol Insurrection occurred on Epiphany ~ January 6 ~ symbolic timing for religious minded romantics and blood lusting insurrectionists. 

Al Johnson (purple robe) and Krewe of Fans
photo credit: Mark Konikoff
Al Johnson's beloved song, Carnival Time opens with the line, "The Green Room is smokin' and the Plaza's burnin' down / Throw my Baby out the window, let those joints burn down..." An act of rescue or callous disregard?  Or, as we see it in Louisiana, both!  

 The person who finds the Baby Jesus in their cake slice is crowned "King."  A king without duties other than buying the next colorful cake and giving the next King Cake Party.  

In New Orleans, the first Carnival parade each year is organized by the Phuny Phorty Phellows, a happily knit group of swells, on January 6, also known as Twelfth Night, King's Day, and King Cake Day, as well as Epiphany.

Phunny Phorty Phellows  Street Car Parade / NOLA.com
The P. P. P. Krew is made up of a 1981 incarnation of 1878 revelers ~ who  neither looked nor acted much like anyone today. 
Originally they paraded on foot Mardi Gras Day, behind Rex.  Today they ride the Saint Charles Streetcar in colorful costumes on Epiphany night. Sometimes with brassy music. Around street car stops and the Car Barn are good spots to see this first-of-season show.

Krewe ~ a generic term for all Carnival organizations and clubs. Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology are sources for half the krewe names.  Some clubs are named after neighborhoods, while others are named after historical figures or places.

Photos courtesy of Krewe of Rio en Lafayette 

Amid large parades i
n Acadiana's Hub City of Lafayette rolls the samba-swinging Krewe of Carnival en Rio.

~ * ~      ~ * ~      * ~
Krewes are chartered by cities as non-profit entities and are financed by dues, by sale of krewe-emblemed merchandise to members, who give them as favors to friends (not the same as the 'throws' tossed from parade floats) and fund-raising projects.

Lundi Gras ~ French for Fat Monday (Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday).  "Fat" is a broad term for prosperity and joy, the very things being done in Carnival-excess before somber Lent takes them all away.


The Day before Mardi Gras from 1897 to 1917 was celebrated by arrival of Rex aboard a steamboat on the Mississippi River.  Revived in 1987, under the New Orleans Mayoralty of Sidney Barthelemy, a local book learned
Courtesy of Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club
Creole Catholic seminarian turned Tulane trained master-of-sociology. 

With mild manners and movie star looks Barthelemy revived the practice with the addition oKing Zulu.

Each year since ~ aboard separate vessels and for a few years Rex came on the streetcar.  (Louisiana kings and gods are, like the King Cake Baby Jesus, very much human.)  

Eventually Zulu and Rex arrived at Spanish Plaza and greeted each other, "There at the foot of Poydras Street." 

"One River Two Boats!"  
~  L. A. Norma wrote at the time in a letter to the old Times-Picayune daily.

~ * ~      ~ * ~      * ~

Comus ~ One of the oldest krewesFirst paraded in 1857 ~ four years before the Confederate Secession ~ with the parade theme: The Past, The Present, The Future. 

Comus does not currently parade ~ a bitter hangover from political battles at the end of the last century, with former New Orleans City Council Woman, Dorothy Mae Taylorover race restrictions in business luncheon clubs and Carnival krewes. 

Comus and Rex still hold an elaborate meeting-of-the-courts ball on Mardi Gras night.  But only Rex parades.

~ * ~      ~ * ~      * ~

Lee Circle, Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans
  from Confederate Memorial Hall Museum

Nineteen years after The War, in 1884, the first Queen of Comus was Mildred Lee, daughter of defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee, subject of the Lee Monument once on Saint Charles Avenue at Lee Circle, by Alexander Doyle.  Targeted in 2015 and removed that year by Mayor Mitch Landrieu 

"You lose, you blues," 
a musician we know says.

New Orleans is often described as a city built along a bend in The Mississippi River, and organized around Mardi Gras.


Old line Louisiana comedians tempered with cheeky Carnival spirit have been seen feigning the Sign of The Cross while saying, "Comus, Momus, Proteus and Rex," the big four of the old line New Orleans krewes.  Every Louisianan alive today understands this joke.

Zulu A black krewe formed some forty years after the Civil War and the post- War wars.
click image to read caption
Battle of Liberty Place ~ a Reconstruction era battle that took place at the foot of Canal Street in front of today's Harrah's Casino. The battle's monument was in the news lately as it, too, was targeted by Mayor Landrieu for removal.  

The obelisk ~ erected 1891 ~ commemorates the bloody post- Civil War battle of 14 September 1874.  Part of a terrorist plot that hoped to remove the elected governor, William Pitt Kellogg. The inscription on the monument refers to the National Elections two years later ~ 1876 ~ as the moment that ended failed-Reconstruction, and united Louisiana White Supremacy with Yankee complied Jim Crow Laws.  Names of whites fallen in the battle were chiseled in the stone.  Names of fallen blacks, though they were sworn and uniformed policemen, were not.  

Heartless tradition?  Yes, and prognosticator.

The 2021 US Capitol Rioters, today's Republican heirs of Lincoln's party, also attacked and killed police, even though they were uniformed officers of the law.
New Orleans Civil War Era 
US Custom House and Post Office
free  downloadable  poster
 Norma chortles from inside her plume of Camel-plus smoke, "Would the King Cake Baby Jesus do such a thing?!"


Some people think both insurrections should be remembered and kept sharply in focus. 

In the words of William Faulkner, "Our past is not forgotten, it is not even passed." 

Two out-of-town deconstruction companies hired to remove New Orleans' Confederate memorials asked out of their contracts because of death threats.  One, H and O Investments owner, David Mahler, had his $200,000 Lamborghini torched in the company's Baton Rouge parking lot. 

 Eventually down the statues came.  They are being warehoused somewhere undisclosed.

~   ~   ~

For three days, in September of 1874, Governor 

William Pitt Kellogg

 and his cronies (krewe?) took refuge in the recently built U. S. Custom House and Post Officea handsome Union thumbprint first opened in 1856 ~ as war clouds gathered ~ and serving through the Nineteenth Century (including all the years of War Between the States) as the U. S. Post Office and U. S. Custom House.  

Remember, NOLa mostly spent The War occupied, having surrendered about one year to the day after New Orleanian, P. G. T. Beauregard fired The War's 'first shot' on Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor (April 12, 1861).  The first Yankee soldier reached the steps of Gallier Hall (then NOLa's City Hall) on April 29, 1862.  New Orleans surrendered without resistance.

The Old Custom House still stands, at 423 Canal Street, across North Peters Street from the Yankee haberdashery, Brooks Brothers; and not more than a block away from the site of the Battle of Liberty Place.  Today the crestfallen edifice is home to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.  

"The Bug House," Norma calls it.

~ * ~     ~ * ~     * ~

💜 💚




© 2024, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 

Your comments and corrections

are welcome

~    ~    ~

Lagniappe du Jour


💜  💚  💛


The Ladies Wore Red,

July 2021

Origin Story


The Red Women Warrior Stories


© 2024, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved



Photo credit, Conni Castille

If you wish to read any month's column go to www.LEJ.world anytime. 
They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few years.

~   ~   ~

 LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.world,
and historically at
Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans
publication of the

It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana

The following is one of history's odder foot notes ~ a darkly shrouded background to Louisiana's Devil-may-care Carnival.  It involves clueless white Louisianans sending a delegation to President Ulysses S. Grant, offering help reopening the Port of New Orleans by establishment of a new confederacy.

The 1874 insurrection commemorated by the Liberty Place Obelisk, was drummed up by the Crescent City White League, a group of Confederate sympathizers, planters, and World traders who wanted what everyone wanted.  At least everyone who was a World trader, planter, or Confederate sympathizer. 
Hell, even President Grant wants this, they reckoned.  Because, an ill-functioning Port of New Orleans makes for an ill-functioning Western Expansion of the United States.  

If the Louisiana Purchase...  Hell, the very War Between the States, itself, were for anything ~ more than evil slavery ~  it was for this Western Expansion, and the newly discovered California gold!  Grant would be too!  So felt the White League-rs, anyway. 

It was, however, establishment of a confederacy they were advocating, though this time allied more with Washington thinking, and less with London's.  London?

~ More on this next month ~

© 2024, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved 

Your comments and corrections

are welcome