Mardi Gras Throughout Louisiana: A Guest Post by USA Today Bestseller @paulinebjones #MardiGras #mys
Many people even Louisianans may not realize how diverse celebrations for Mardi Gras are. Still, all the festivities have one thing in common, they’re celebrations of indulgence the day before the fasting of Lent begins.
Everyone is familiar with the New Orleans Mardi Gras, but what about the second oldest Mardi Gras in Louisiana? It’s held each year in Lake Charles— officially known as Mardi Gras of Southwest Louisiana. From Twelfth Night to Fat Tuesday, 150,000 folks come to enjoy parades, music, and food. There is a family-friendly alcohol-and-tobacco-free zone along parade routes.
For even more history and variety, there is the courir du Mardi Gras, sometimes called the Cajun Mardi Gras. This French Louisiana version is held by rural farmers and ranchers on the prairies of Southwest Louisiana.
For Courir de Mardi Gras which means Mardi Gras Run, masked men on horseback or in wagons, roamed the countryside, riding from farmsteads to farmstead begging for food to make a communal gumbo to feast on at the end of the day. People threw chickens to the masked men, who then ran after the fowl, trying to catch them for gumbo meat. The maskers are expected to dance and sing for the food. They may come as meek beggars or they might swagger on their horses and play pranks as an unmasked Capitan and his helpers try to control them.
Not much is known about the history of courir du Mardi Gras in Louisiana but most likely it goes back to the medieval European celebrations, which included lampoon and role reversal. Some of the costumes that are still worn like the capuchon—a medieval cleric’s pointed hat— might have been inspired by festival participants mocking their social betters back in the old days.
Mardi Gras comes at the end of winter, when—historically—stored food might be running short. Gathering food from members of the community was a practical way of providing a big feast for everyone. While the New Orleans Mardi Gras suggests the communal diversity and division of the city, the rural gatherings suggest the social solidarity of small country communities. Also, participating in the run for the first time served as a rite of passage for young men.
Mardi Gras parades in Lafayette, New Road, and Monroe emulate the grander ones in New Orleans. Although beads and other parade throws are also popular in these smaller cities, the floats are often simpler, even home-made. Many of these places also feature krewes, balls and carnival kings and queens, though often less formal than those in the Crescent City.
Similar to harvest festivals and other small-town events, Mardi Gras is an opportunity for the community to come together and show their local pride though there may be a satirical edge to some of the festivities, like the Spanish Town parade in Baton Rouge.
Title Worry Beads: The Big Uneasy 4
Author Pauline Baird Jones
Laura Baker has seen a lot during her job as a New Orleans EMT. She has responded to just about every type of emergency known to man. An unexpected act of kindness during one call puts her on the news—and her life and heart at risk.
Archie Gunn receives an unexpected tip that sends him to the beautiful and mysterious city of New Orleans. His trip opens up more than he expects –and a bayou full of danger. There is a lot going on in New Orleans and it isn’t all good times and Mardi Gras.
Download the latest installment of The Big Uneasy series and discover what happens in New Orleans can be downright deadly!
Laura hesitated, then ran some water in the bowl and gave the beads a good cleaning with some disinfectant hand soap. She patted them dry with paper towels and held them up again. Cleaned up, the beads weren’t totally awful. That big blue stone that dangled below a Krewe badge that looked like it had been carved out of wood. The blue stone caught the light, flickering with a muted blue fire. She lifted it closer so she could study the Krewe badge. She didn’t recognize it. The beads looked aged, almost like real pearls. Back in the day, Mardi Gras strands used to be made out of glass, she recalled. These looked aged enough—or had been faked to be aged, she decided. Granted their victim had been tossed in the garbage, but there’d been something seedy about him that did not indicate a lot of prosperity.
She rubbed the beads between her fingers, her daughter-of-a-cop’s brain wondering if there was a connection between a hit and run and this strand. Treasure? What had he meant by that? And don’t forget the ogre or the scary baby, she reminded herself. Where treasure was concerned one should never forget the ogre, though the baby was a new twist. She half smiled, then frowned at the strand. Could they be valuable?
How could she know? She came from blue-collar stock, the kind without family jewels. She hesitated once more, then wrapped the bead string in more paper towels and tucked it in the pocket of her light jacket. She released the clips holding her hair up, feeling tension releasing as her hair fell around her shoulders.
Outside, dawn was just edging over the city, spilling light on glass-sided buildings and the Greater New Orleans bridge. She rubbed her tired face as her car pulled up with her brother Frank at the wheel. She clambered in next to him, arching a weary brow in his direction.
“Couple more days in the shop. Thanks for the borrow.” He looked back, pulled into the street, and then relaxed enough to slant a glance at her. “Must have been a slow news night. I saw your backside on TV at eleven. Not the lead, but right after it.”
“At least they got my best side.” One thing all the Baker girls had learned growing up with seven older brothers, show no reaction or the hits would ramp up. She slid down until she could rest her head against the door and gazed out at the passing city through sleep blurred eyes.
“What was with the nasty beads?”
She half frowned and glanced at Frank, but he was looking at the road. Which he should be. How did he know—the news camera. Apparently, the beads had also made the local news. Yay. “My reward for being a real blonde.”
He glanced at her with a quick grin. She saw the next question in his eyes and said, “Don’t—” She looked ahead with a sigh. “He didn’t make it.”
“Sorry.” His tone was the one men used in the face of emotion.
That was one of the advantages of being an EMS. She could kill the conversation faster than her dad.
As the second youngest, she’d kind of hoped it would get easier as siblings peeled off to their own places, their own lives. Sadly, she’d seen no sign the brothers had lost interest in any of the sisters’ dating lives. And she’d lost the toss for who had to move back in with their dad when Alex moved in with his wife. Speaking of which—she saw the house come into view as Frank turned the corner. At least she didn’t have to look for a parking space, something that was almost impossible to find this time of day.
The car jerked to a stop in front of the partly blocked driveway. The frat boys didn’t park so well when they were plastered.
“Thanks.” She managed to push the door open and climb out, though it wasn’t pretty or graceful. She gave a vague wave as he drove off. She went round to the back door and inserted her key.
There should be a sign over the door, she thought blearily, as she pushed the door open.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
USA Today Bestselling author Pauline Baird Jones never liked reality, so she writes books. She likes to wander among the genres, rampaging like Godzilla, because she does love peril mixed in her romance. Loves chocolate, bacon, flamingoes, and mid-century modern anything.
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