Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let the Good Times Roll

Magnet # 170: Louisiana Accordion-Playing Alligator

Material: Resin, Pipe Cleaners

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

Well, Mardi Gras is now underway in New Orleans and the rest of the world. It's the last chance for many folks to have a good time before the fasting of Lent begins, and they're ready to enjoy every last minute of it. Given that the Saints have just won the Superbowl, this year's celebration should be particularly lively, especially considering the trouble New Orleans has had to deal with since Hurricane Katrina.  Good times have returned to the Big Easy, and it's time for them to celebrate.

Sure, the tradition of Mardi Gras dates all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe, but most of the traditions we associate with this celebration originated in New Orleans, who has truly made Mardi Gras its own.  The French were responsible for importing the tradition to their lands in the Americas.  In the early days, Mardi Gras was celebrated with elegant balls and eventually masked carriage processions in the streets were added to the tradition.  Soon, trinkets and medallions were being thrown into the gathering crowds.  Finally, other features like floats featured in a daytime parade, a King of the Carnival, a color scheme featuring gold, green and purple, and an official song and flag were all added to create the Mardi Gras that is celebrated in the Big Easy and known worldwide.  Nowadays, organizations known as Krewes, many of which have been around for decades, are responsible for financing and putting on the parade and all other Mardi Gras events.  Because these individuals give their time and their money, everyone else is able to enjoy these festivities for free.

If you're unable to make it to Bourbon Street for the main event, or hate big, rowdy crowds like I do, there is another way to get the Mardi Gras experience all year long. Tourists in New Orleans can take a free ferry ride across the Mississippi River and check out Mardi Gras World, where nearly all of the parade's floats are designed and built during the year. Guided tours are given through their enormous warehouses and visitors can watch as their artists create next year's amazing floats, costumes, props, and figures. They can also hear about the various traditions of Mardi Gras music and balls in New Orleans.  At the tour's end, King Cake, perhaps the most beloved of all Mardi Gras dishes, is served, and someone will end up with the plastic baby inside, which some say represents Baby Jesus.  He or she will be King or Queen for a day, but must bring the next cake or host the next party, although I guess that wouldn't apply to the tour.  Anyway, if you're curious to see this truly unique tourist destination, you can visit their site at http://www.mardigrasworld.com/.  Whether or not you're able to make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, it's definitely worth taking in some part of the festivities, and this destination offers an excellent opportunity to do so.  As for those citizens of the Big Easy who are celebrating today, I wish them the best.  After all they've gone through, it's nice to see good times being had again in this historic city.


  1. I've been to New Orleans quite a few times. I have to agree with you I'm not much for crowds so I've never been to Mardi Gras. I will have to check out Mardi Gras World. That would give me the flavor without the hassels. Thanks!

  2. Sure -hope you enjoy it. I definitely want to check it out someday.