FRANKLYWNOW - The Buzz on Mardi Gras

The Buzz on Mardi Gras

by Claudine Zap

Feb 12, 2010

Some would argue that every day is a party in New Orleans. But the Mardi Gras season stands alone as the carnival-street party-revelry that goes pretty much unrivaled — until Ash Wednesday, that is. The celebration got an early start this year when the New Orleans Saints pulled off their first Super Bowl win. Ever. But something tells us that NOLA can still find the energy and enthusiasm for the party of parties. Here, a Buzz roundup of some of the common questions about the event.

What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras is the time of year to let loose and feast before the fast of Lent, for those who observe. Let's just say that in the U.S., the good people of Louisiana have turned the celebration into high art. Translated from the French as Fat Tuesday, it's a time to indulge, dress up, and throw a big street party before repenting (or at least sleeping in) on Ash Wednesday.

Short history of a long party
The American version of Mardi Gras dates back to the 1800s. But in 1872, the all-important King of the Carnival was first crowned. Cue krewes, parades, masks, and costumes — and the rest is history. Party people are getting a jump on the events on the Web, with lookups on "Mardi Gras" heating up the Yahoo! search box 300% in the last day alone. Wanna-be celebrants also typed in "fat Tuesday," "Mardi Gras costume ideas," and "Mardi Gras cam."

Party on
This year, Fat Tuesday falls on February 16. And the parties get underway the weekend before. According to the Mardi Gras New Orleans web site, parade float decorations are decided by private "krewes," usually with Greek or Egyptian themes. (And if history is our guide, those two ancient cultures sure could party.)The site actually recommends that if you plan to be along the parade route, bring large bags to collect all the loot thrown from the floats, usually those bright, plastic bead necklaces.
Find out the parade route.

Cake fit for a king
It's not a party without cake, right? The official eats of Mardi Gras is the king cake: Traditionally served to commemorate the visit of the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus 12 days after Christmas. These days, the treat is consumed for any and all days after January 6 through Mardi Gras. Best of all, one of the slices comes with a toy surprise: A tiny plastic baby baked in. Whoever gets the baby, tradition says, must host the party the next year. Seems a small price to pay to the party gods.
Find king cake recipes.

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