Mardi Gras – what does it all mean?! 

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Costuming is a big deal.

After I wrote yesterday’s post about riding in a parade, it was brought to my attention that a lot about Mardi Gras doesn’t make sense. Now, I’m really not the best person to write this probably but it’s my blog so I’m going to anyway. Interspersed are random Mardi Gras pictures.

First I’ll start with Zandy‘s questions.

How many krewes are there? Are there always 42 floats? What are throws and why do some krewes have certain ones? Do krewes have a theme? Do they have a larger goal (like donating to charity)? Do they do other parades?

There are a bunch of krewes. If I had to guess, I’d say…50. Now let me google that to see if I’m right.

Okay, I was wrong. 35. That said, those are only the ones that roll in New Orleans. Metairie has ten parades, and there are more on the Northshore. So maybe my initial guess was close. My memories of Mardi Gras as a child involve going to my aunt’s house on Bonnabel in Metairie and watching the parades roll by while my sister made out with her boyfriend on the sidewalk. Good times, good times. So I can’t discount the non-NOLA parades.

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Stuffed animals are very coveted throws among the younger set.

The number of floats in each parade vary. I’m going to guess again and say 42 is on the high end, but I don’t really know. I could probably look it up. Nope, wrong again. Endymion has 81!!! Holy cow!

I should back up. What is a krewe, and why is it spelled so…ugh?

According to Wikipedia, “A krewe (pronounced in the same way as “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season.” I can’t see any good reason they spelled it “kreatively” but it’s been spelled that way since the 1800s so I’m going to just have to let it go.

They are non-profit organizations, or social clubs. I think some of them do charitable things throughout the year, but I’m not sure, to be completely honest. The purpose seems to be to put on a parade at Mardi Gras. And for some krewes, to show how fancy and rich you are. (I mean, that’s probably not in their mission statement, but let’s face it, it’s true.)

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A good wig collection is a must.

Anyway, a krewe basically equals a parade. So the Krewe of Nyx rolls on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras, and that’s the Nyx parade. The Krewe of Endymion rolls on the Saturday night before Fat Tuesday, and you say, “I’m going to Endymion tonight.”

So on to throws. A throw is anything you throw off the float. Get it? Beads are the traditional throw. But most krewes have a signature throw. As I mentioned, Nyx has glittered purses and Muses has shoes. Tucks has toilet paper. Zulu has coconuts. They also will have custom cups and doubloons and stuffed animals and basically all sorts of random stuff. That’s part of the fun! But the purses and shoes and coconuts are the coveted prizes. Those are the things you want to get.

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When you see your mom’s friend all dressed up to dance in the parade.

All parades have a theme. For instance, Nyx’s theme was something about music and dancing so all of the floats had a music or dance theme. My float’s theme was Belly Dancing so our float and the headpieces reflected that. Tomorrow, Thoth will roll with a theme of “Thoth’s Cookin'” so I imagine they will have a lot of cooking-related throws. (Great chance to restock the kitchen!)

Oh, and how could I forget what goes on between the floats? A parade is not just a line of floats going by. Oh no. Between each float might be a high school marching band. (Or elementary school!) Or a group of grown women dressed in corsets and wigs doing a choreographed dance down the street. Or men, for that matter. The music is what makes the parade.

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There’s Liam marching!

Okay, I think I hit Zandy’s questions. Robyn asks:

I actually want to know the schedule of things. How many parades? Are they all different? Why was your parade NOT on Mardi Gras? Does the whole city get involved? Is it a school holiday?

As I said, there are 35 parades in New Orleans. They are all different, yes. Mine wasn’t on Mardi Gras because…well, 35 parades running on roughly the same route uptown at an average of, what, 3 hours each (totally making that up), would take, well, a lot longer than a day. So they’re spread out over a few weeks. The majority of them run from the Wednesday before Mardi Gras through Fat Tuesday.

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How you parent at Mardi Gras.

I’d say the whole city is involved in some way. I mean, you can’t really escape it.

School is out for Mardi Gras. The boys get off the entire week of Mardi Gras which enrages me, since Mardi Gras is on Tuesday. Why they need Wednesday – Friday off after the holiday is beyond me, but I know a lot of people vacation then. But still. A week? Ugh.

I suppose you might also want to know about King Cake. It’s basically a circular brioche bready thing, maybe with cinnamon, usually frosted with colored sugar on top. Everyone has a favorite bakery or grocery store king cake, but I’m not even going to touch that with a ten foot pole, so I made my own.

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I could go on for hours talking about the weirdness of Mardi Gras. But I have a parade to get to!

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2 thoughts on “Mardi Gras – what does it all mean?! 

  1. one of your best posts, Pam! hard to describe Mardi Gras to those who’ve never seen it and this nails it. I will be showing it to people in Dublin to explain the weirdness that I love about our city!

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