Mardi Gras Custom #3
One of my fellow Gulf Coast friends, Pamela Mason,
offered to write a blog for this countdown to KREWE OF SOULS
book release with some info! Take it away, Pam!
It’s the biggest free public party in the world.
But thanks to YouTube, many of y’all who have never been down
for a parade think that Mardi Gras is some kind of bacchanalian,
Well… in some neighborhoods (ahem French Quarter) that’s probably
true… who can argue with video evidence?
Personally – but not up close – down on the street on Fat Tuesday,
I’ve seen way more exposed body parts on people who don’t get to
the gym often enough. Actually, the drag queen beauty contests
are my favorite. Those ladies know how to make the most of the girls,
if you know what I mean.
But there’s more to Mardi Gras and Carnival Season than just getting
your boobs and booze on.
Between New Orleans (biggest, most flamboyant) and
Mobile (oldest,most hysterical… or historical, however you want to look at it)
there are traditions Mardi Gras their celebrations are famous for that carpe
the hell out Fat Tuesday’s diem.
Sundays before Fat Tuesday hold the Bacchus Parade in New Orleans,
and the Joe Cain Parade in Mobile.
The king of Bacchus is usually an invited celebrity – Woody Harrelson,
Harry Connick,Jr.- and they’re always dressed like the god of wine for the occasion.
They’re also full of wine for the occasion as well. Those short Roman togas
don’t keep away the chill on a February night.
And if the king gets all happy and energetic and does a chorus line high kick
the way one hairy legged celeb did at the first Bacchus parade, wellllll…
Thank the gods of video that YouTube was just a spark in a garage
computer geek’s mind way back in the 70’s, when Bacchus trucked through
the French Quarter.
In Mobile, the Joe Cain parade – named for Joe Cain himself, who resurrected
Mardi Gras in Mobile during the Reconstruction – walks early in the afternoon
led by Joe Cain’s Merry Widows. Dressed in solid black from head to toe – opaque,
veiled hats in lieu of masks, long dresses and gloves, heels, they walk or ride in
a black bus (with a fridge to keep their libations cold) down Government Street
leading the L.C. (”Lost Cause”) Minstrels and the rest of us to Old Joe Cain’s grave
in Church Street Cemetery. I attended once when I was in high school back in the 70’s,
when everybody was able to enter the cemetery and party and picnic on the graves.
Now, crowds are so huge and damage to the graveyard so prevalent that the revelers are relegated outside the cemetery walls to watch Joe Cain’s Merry Widows ‘wail’ (not really) and dance (really) on their dear departed Old Joe’s grave.
Yes, it’s a little weird if you’re not from here,and politically incorrect. But it’s
completely entertaining, so don’t go getting your panties in a wad, because we’re all
too busy laissez’ing les bons temps rouler.
Have another beer.
Europe in the Middle Ages took their Lenten Season seriously, with sackcloth and ashes and fasting – meaning no meat for forty days. The Rex parade has a float to represent Boeuf Gras that is right behind the king’s float, and when Rex, King of Carnival, stops to raise a toast to his queen and to the City that Care Forgot, the parade continues through the streets and everybody proceeds to pass a good time – drag queen beauty contests, boob flashing and all.
In Mobile, Rex is known as King Felix, and instead of a bull, there is Folly.
The Knights of Revelry select a member to represent Folly, who chases away evil with a silver painted hog bladder called a “mace”, which has to do with that old line tradition stuff again and the fact that it makes a loud noise, like those massive soccer balloons fans bop against each other at the World Cup. He dresses in a classic jester costume – tights, bloomers and jingle tipped hat with full face mask – and rides a champagne glass float and bops more hog bladders with his mace.
The Order Of Myths – the oldest mystic society – has Folly (another select member dressed like the jester) chase Death (yep… he’s a member dressed in a skeleton costume) around a broken column that represents Life and its troubles. At the end of Fat Tuesday when the parades end and the balls put a period to the Carnival Season, Folly always defeats Death and Evil, and all’s well… as long as you have tomorrow off.
Fat Tuesday 2016 falls on February 17.
It’s all about living like there’s no tomorrow , so leave your politically correct baggage home, because a little Carpe Diem’ing for one day doesn’t hurt anybody…
As long as you have a good hangover cure.
Happy Mardi Gras!
Here are some sources on Mobile’s Carnival details (with pictures!), since you probably are already familiar with New Orleans’:
Order of Myths – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pamela Mason is a hybrid native of New Orleans (where she was born) and Mobile (where she grew up). Sometimes her birthday actually falls on Mardi Gras! Her mother always said she lived in fear that she would go into labor and get stuck behind parade traffic and have to deliver in the car. She now lives in Georgia, where she and other New Orleans expats like Elaine bemoan the lack of doberge, Dixie beer, and boiled crawfish in their daily lives.
Find her at all the major social media hubs: https://www.facebook.com/pamelavmason/, https://www.pinterest.com/pvmason/,https://www.instagram.com/writermason/and her woefully neglected soon to be resurrected wordpress site, http://writermason.com/.