Mardi Gras- Let The Good Times Roll

Hi Y’All,

February was our absolute favorite month of the year during our 3 year stay in Louisiana.

DSC_0538Not because spring was around the corner and not because the summer holidays were coming closer, but because February was the month of beads and floats- MARDI GRAS!!

Mardi Gras is the biggest celebration the city of New Orleans hosts every year. This magnificent, costumed, beaded and feathered party is laced with tradition and is all about having a good time. And we were partying all along!!
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This year, Mardi Gras is this coming Tuesday, “Fat Tuesday”, February 17th. Carnival traditionally begins the 12th night after Christmas. And about two weeks before Mardi Gras, the parading begins! Every year different “krewes”, these are carnival organisations, prepare extensively for their parades. They design and build magnificent floats, wear costumes and hold balls and parties.
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The krewe of Rex, the oldest parading krewe since 1872, is responsible for the official Mardi Gras flag and traditional famous Mardi Gras colors purple, green and gold.
Each year the krewes are responsible for electing REX, who reigns as “The King of Carnival”. The identity of Rex is made public on Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras. Rex is one of the highest civic honors a person can receive in New Orleans and is usually a prominent person in the city, one who is usually involved in several philanthropic and civic causes. The Mayor of New Orleans traditionally hands over a symbolic key to the city of New Orleans to Rex for Mardi Gras Day.
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No king without a queen! Like Rex, she is chosen in the spring of the previous year, and must keep her identity secret until Lundi Gras.
We had the opportunity to attend one of the famous balls in New Orleans to which one must be invited by a member of a krewe. One of our friends was riding in the krewe of Mid City and we got to enjoy an amazing evening with them in New Orleans.
The greatest fun was to spend afternoons and evenings with friends along the routes of the krewes cheering the floats and screaming “Please, throw me something Mister!” at the top of our lungs and trying to catch as many beads as possible. The kids would sit on our shoulders and get light up toys, stuffies and what not… one day, I remember hauling home tons of long toy spears …and always bags full of beads.
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And let’s not forget the line in front of one of the most famous New Orleans KING CAKE shops. This little shop was only open during Mardi Gras and closed as soon as all the king cakes had been sold..which was about 11.00am. Luckily, my husband had to drive to work in the mornings and could get his hands on one of the desired cakes (after waiting in line behind 50+ people).
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KING CAKES are made from a rich Danish dough that is braided and baked, and in which the “king baby”, a plastic baby, is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. The lucky person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by having the next KING CAKE party (or at least purchasing the next cake for the office). You can imagine how the kids are trying to get as many king babies as possible..I still find them in every other drawer in our house.
Even at school, the kids held a Mardi Gras parade each year, where leftover beads were thrown and the kids went crazy. One year, we were lucky to be part of the parade and had a blast decorating our own wagon and throwing the beads as opposed to receiving them.
We really miss Mardi Gras and wish we could spend it together with all our friends in New Orleans again this year. Instead, we’ll dig out our beads, invite some friends over for drinks (of course Mint Juleps), cook up some red beans and rice and- of course- bake a king cake! Here are the links to my recipes:
Now, you need to excuse me- I’m off to the kitchen to start preparing for our Mardi Gras evening.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Cheers,
Ursula

 

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