Sunday Inspiration: The Spirit of Mardi Gras

Dog in feather maskYes, Mardi Gras is almost here! Fat Tuesday is only two days away, and if I was still living in New Orleans that would be all everyone was talking about.

Carnival Season actually begins on Twelfth Night and ends on Mardi Gras day with Lent closing the partying down after midnight. The excitement and parties and parades pick up pace in that intervening time until the wild and jubilant climax on Fat Tuesday when spectacular parades run all day with thousands of people cheering at full throttle, dancing to the raucous bands that prance down the streets, and grabbing for colorful beads, doubloons and other trinkets that fill the air. (In our days in the city we caught bikini panties, ice cream scoops and umbrellas.)

It’s hard to imagine unless you’re there.

The roots of Mardi Gras are religious, growing out of the Roman Catholic tradition, and though in many ways the holiday has become secular and sensual, it’s still spiritual at its heart, celebrating love of life in all its many glorious manifestations.

Chris Rose expresses the spirit of Mardi Gras well in his excellent book “1 Dead In Attic: Post-Katrina Stories.”

“To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.

Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.

Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CD’s in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year–people whose names you may or may not even know but you’ve watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they’re not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?

It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.

Now that part, more than ever.

It’s mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88’s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under Claiborne overpass and thrilling the years you find them and lamenting the years you don’t and promising yourself you will next year.

It’s wearing frightful color combination in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who–like clockwork, year after year–denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the ten bucks for the next one.

Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.”

Happy Mardi Gras to all of you!

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