Today is Ash Wednesday and Carnival season has officially ended. BUMMER. Shreveport closed the season with Fat Tuesday ceremony on the iconic Texas Street bridge in downtown – the bridge is closed to traffic and the floats from major krewes make their way to the apex of the bridge around 11:30pm. As midnight rolls around there is a final toast to the season which is followed by the administering of ashes, signifying the arrival of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
I really wanted to attend the ceremony and gave my self pep-talks throughout the day about how I could totally stay up past midnight and make it to work the next day. Needless to say, I laid down for a “nap” at 9:00pm and didn’t wake up until well past the designated poppin’ bottles time frame. There are photos from the ceremony on Flickr so I plan to have a delayed toast this weekend… who said Carnival season had to end?
Mardi Gras in Baton Rouge (last weekend) and Shreveport (this weekend) were the perfect introduction to the celebration. I was able to learn a ton about the traditions, local tips and false stereotypes (ahem, flashing for beads) associated with the holiday – we plan to celebrate in New Orleans next year and I am going to need a full year to mentally prepare. But until then, let me drop some knowledge for fellow newbies, like myself:
KREWES AND PARADES: a group of revelers who join together to create and ride on a parade float, host a ball and participate in various social events throughout the year – like a fraternity outside of college. Each krewe has it’s own unique history, traditions and themes – some have been together for well over 50 years while others are just a few years young. There are multiple parades throughout the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday and usually they have a theme, in fact the Krewe of Barkus and Meoux in Shreveport is all about animals and animal rescue – while it’s a much smaller event, it’s fun to see different groups getting involved and who can say ‘no’ to a puppy parade? Usually the parades are named after the krewe that sponsors the event, i.e.: the parade we attended on Sunday was the Krewe of Highland parade – while there were multiple krewes participating, Highland footed the bill for permitting, etc.
We were able to walk around all of the floats at the start of the parade route. The krewe members were prepping their throws and staying hydrated – lucky for us we stopped by the Flying Heart (a brewery opening in March) float and were treated to special beads that can be turned in for a free beer.
THROWS: traditional throws include beads, cups, small stuffed animals, etc. Some krewes have a signature throw, like the Krewe of Barbeque, a sub-krewe of Highland – known for throwing hotdogs or the Krewe of Zulu in New Orleans, who offers one of the most coveted throws: a painted coconut aka Golden Nuggett. Contrary to popular misconceptions about Mardi Gras, flashing your boobs for beads is not considered a tradition among Louisiana natives. These shenanigans happen mostly on Bourbon Street in French Quarter, an area popularly associated with Mardi Gras, but ironically not on any of the big parade routes.
The strangest throw we caught was a banana – thrown from the Chimp Haven float.
MASKS: Mardi Gras and masks go hand-in-hand. Traditionally masks were worn by most everyone attending carnival events – they allowed people to escape society and class constraints, mingling with people of all walks of life throughout the celebrations. While I’ve read that float wearers are required to wear masks by law, I’m not sure that is strictly enforced but some krewes require masks for their annual ball attendees.
Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler aka let the good times roll!