- Mardi Gras is not just a day, it’s a season.
Carnival season, to be exact. This season includes king cake, parades, beads, costumes, balls, and so much more!
King cake is literally served everywhere during this season. There is king cake flavored ice cream, coffee, and just about anything else you can think of. King cake also has a ton of different flavors like cream cheese, strawberry, and pineapple.
We even have king cake for breakfast!
Parades are just about as prevalent as king cake. Below is a link to the parades in New Orleans. You’ll see that there is not just one big parade on Fat Tuesday, there are MANY parades throughout the carnival season.
Beads are around all year long. If you look up while visiting New Orleans, you’ll see beads hanging from trees and streetcar lines.
Costumes are as prevalent as they are at Halloween. People do dress up like jesters and queens (which are more traditional for Mardi Gras), but they also dress up in anything you can imagine. Today I even saw Santa!
At the country club, there is literally a ball every weekend during carnival season. (The staff is definitely ready for the season to be over!) Krewes, which are basically organizations that host parades, throw balls before their parades. They are extremely fancy and very southern. I sometimes feel like I’ve stepped into the 1800’s or a fairy tale.
- Parades can be fun, not obscene.
When a seminary professor first said there are “family-friendly” parades, I was skeptical. Very skeptical. I asked so many different people for reassurance and they all said the same thing. I hesitantly attended my first parade and, sure enough, it was family-friendly for the most part. People were drinking, but there was nothing obscene or vulgar. (And I’m convinced the only place drinking does not regularly occur in this city is on the seminary campus.) In fact, there were a lot of middle school marching bands and kids dressed in sequence and feathers.
My understanding is that the more obscene parades are in the French Quarter. If you know where not to go, you can have a really good time. My experience was honestly a lot of good, clean fun. It was wholesome, free, and enjoyable. I’m sure you could quickly find the wrong crowd doing the wrong thing, but that was not my experience. My only reservation about parades is that they literally happen every night for a few weeks. It makes the traffic awful and I don’t know how people function when they stay out so late on weeknights. (In fact, I’m ready for the season to be over just so the girls in my dorm will come home earlier.)
- Getting beads does not require flashing.
There are some parades in the Quarter that encourage flashing, but no parade requires flashing. In fact, tourists are the ones that keep this “tradition” alive. Locals don’t flash. The parades that aren’t tourist-driven do not encourage or even suggest flashing. I did not see one person even mention flashing at the two parades I attended.
Beads are also not the most desired throws. The Krewes that host the parades often have a special throw for their parade. The Krewe of Nyx throws purses, the Krewe of Muses throws shoes, and the Krewe of Zulu throws coconuts (technically, they now hand people coconuts for safety purposes, but I did get handed multiple coconuts).
3 of the 15 coconuts my group caught
What one of the guys in our group used to catch coconuts…quite a success!
- Mardi Gras isn’t just a big party, it’s a tradition.
I scoffed at Mardi Gras before coming to New Orleans. I’m sure I still don’t get it and I definitely don’t support a lot of it, but I think I’m closer to understanding than I was before I came. People here care about their traditions. It is a huge part of their lives. Personally, I don’t have such deep-rooted or festive traditions, but I do care about my traditions. I think we are all people of tradition.
Jesus wasn’t a fan of a lot of traditions. The Pharisees were pretty harshly rebuked for some of the traditions they added to the truth God gave them. Jesus did still adhere to some traditions though and he used a lot of traditions to teach us valuable lessons.
This Mardi Gras, I watched crowds of people SCREAM to get coconuts, beads, and other worthless items. We were begging the float-riders to have mercy on us. My group arrived at 6:30 AM to get a place at the front of the crowd, increasing our chances for a coconut. Although it was all in fun, it was somewhat degrading to beg people for something and then have them turn away. It was also thrilling to have someone hand you a coconut or throw you beads. One girl said afterward, “I just felt so special when the Mardi Gras Indian chose me out of everyone to receive the coconut.”
I am so grateful that I don’t have to beg Jesus for mercy. I can just ask. He gives it freely. He gives it wholly. He doesn’t torment me with a gift that He’s not willing to give. He doesn’t overlook me. He doesn’t favor or discriminate. He has enough for everyone. I know He loves me and He has my best interest in mind. He cares about the person in the back as much as the person in the front. I don’t have to do anything to earn His love. His love never ends, never fails, and doesn’t perish. His love is better than a coconut.