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Mardi Gras Makes No Sense

Mardi Gras Mask and Beads

Full disclosure: I’m from Southeast Texas, just a few miles from the Louisiana border. However, I’ve lived in Louisiana for just about a full year now, so it’s not like I’m a damn yankee or anything. Still, I’ve never understood Mardi Gras. Not ever.

Let’s start with the name. Mardi Gras. It literally translates to Fat Tuesday, which is fine. Fat Tuesday marks the last day before Lent, when everyone is expected to turn into a hedonistic monster that consumes every ounce of joy from life before giving up this or that or whatever for Lent. It makes sense.

Except Mardi Gras doesn’t mean Fat Tuesday. Not here in Louisiana, anyway. Not really. Mardi Gras is an entire holiday season here, longer than even Christmas – which is saying something, considering most stores start stocking candy canes and Santa hats about two weeks before Halloween these days. Here in the Pelican State, Mardi Gras runs from Twelfth Night straight up until Ash Wednesday, which is Fat Tuesday’s black coffee hangover morning.

Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Celebration Takes Place In New Orleans
Getty Images

That adds up to nearly two months of celebrating…something. I’m still not sure what, though.

Which brings me to my second point. What the heck is with all the things? Let’s start with the beads. We’ve got plastic beads in three colors: purple, green, and gold. Why? Because they apparently represent certain concepts, but I had to Google that to find out. Purple represents Justice, green represents Faith, and gold represents Power. Since Mardi Gras has its roots as a religious observation, I understand the Faith part, but what’s up with Justice and Power? Honestly, if you take all three of them together, it sounds like a super hero squad.

Justice, Faith, and Power: The B-List Avengers.

mardi gras beads

Then there are the costumes. Sweet merciful Zeus, there are the costumes. And masks. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around all those feathers. Seriously, why are they there? NOBODY KNOWS. Trust me, I asked around. I searched the internet. I looked in books, I consulted the bones, and the closest I got to an explanation was that there are feathers on everything because there have always been feathers on everything and stop asking so many stupid questions, annoying little Texas boy.

Fine, then. Let’s move on.

One part of Mardi Gras that I do understand is the King Cake, but that’s probably only because it involves food and I like food. I understand food. I get it. Food gets me. It’s my only real friend. Sad.

Staff Photo
Staff Photo

Anyway, the King Cake has its origins in the story of the wise men bringing gifts to the baby Jesus, so it’s just an extension of that. It’s a cake baked in honor of the King of Kings, sort of thing. Of course, I don’t quite understand the symbolism behind baking a tiny Messiah into cake batter, but whatever. The baby doesn’t really represent Jesus anyway (even though everyone thinks it does), and actually started out as a plain old bean. The whole baby thing didn’t start until the 1940s, when a traveling salesman sold a bunch of little porcelain dolls to a gullible baker in New Orleans, who thought it would be a good idea to take out the bean and slip in a tiny, tooth-cracking choking hazard into the cakes, instead. Seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess.

See? Nothing about Mardi Gras makes any sense. Which is probably why it’s so awesome.

New Orleans Celebrates Mardi Gras
Getty Images

You’ve got a holiday season literally translated as a single day spread out over two months that culminates in loud, tacky colors clashing against themselves while people in giant, feathery costumes ride atop lavishly decorated floats, throwing beads and coconuts at people who are dancing and partying and having a good time along the parade route. It’s barely controlled insanity, which is pretty much the defining characteristic of Louisiana – and I mean that in a good way.

I don’t really like King Cake, though. Sorry.

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