As a former New Orleans resident I wish to inform you readers in the northernmost part of this country (and I’ll throw you Canadians reading this into this mixture too) that Mardi Gras works well for people in Louisiana who wouldn’t know what snow is if they got hit by an avalanche. I know many up north like to celebrate as well this traditional period of Bacchanalia (or, if that is too big a word for you to digest- ‘drinking binge’), but who in those lands encased this time of year in the white powder of the Nordic gods (ie,- SNOW!) would really want to be running around half-naked and flashing normally hidden body parts with 4 feet of snow on the ground? Frostbite is not fun on parts of the body that normally rarely see the sun. How much wiser wouldn’t it be up north to celebrate it in August at a time when people in the Big Easy as New Orleans is nicknamed (or as ‘the Big Sleazy’ as some locals call it) are sweating enough to refill the Great Salt Lake several times over? Something to consider…….
Mardi Gras began as a celebration of feasting before the spartan fasting of Lent. New Orleans being a Catholic town observed Lent, but also being New Orleans went way overboard with it. WAY overboard. Sink-the-Very-Ship-You-Are-Standing-On overboard. It became an excuse for wild drinking, partying and carrying on which New Orleans did all the time anyway except that at Mardi Gras you could wear costumes while doing it. The debauchery gets so bad that real priests and nuns will lock themselves in the churches not only to keep away the sin but to avoid having to hear tourists say “Whoa, really cool costume there, sister!”
The whole downtown of New Orleans is cordoned off a week before Mardi Gras to allow for the huge influx of partiers from areas of the country where lewd debauchery gets you a jail sentence, some of whom still have a vague inkling of where they are. Passage through the streets is only by foot, or, as Fat Tuesday draws to an end, by crawling, rolling or being dragged by the feet back to your hotel by your new found drinking friends. Bourbon Street (was there ever a street so aptly named?) resembles a cattle drive not only in its numbers but also in that many participants are on all fours and only able to articulate in one syllable. The only thing controlling the crowd is gravity which by 8 PM really starts taking its toll. Many who go down stay down where they are found by post-hangover relatives the next morning.
Huge parades pass by the size of which would intimidate Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies. Beads are thrown from the parade floats to the crowds in such great numbers that it takes one full day’s worth of Kuwaiti oil production just to manufacture them. People collect huge amounts of the beads and put them on themselves which in some cases is all they are wearing.
Emergency workers here have a tough job. People mistake the flashing red ambulance lights for a bordello causing unspeakable things to happen in the back of the vehicles. Medical technicians simply use Jack Daniels for I.V.s since any pure, non-alcoholic solution put into most partier’s veins would surely cause shock.
Costumes range from the outrageously extravagant to the barely existent. Black ‘Crewes’ will spend thousands on ‘Indian’ costumes, using enough feathers to make Big Bird think he had found his soul mate. Space aliens could invade southern Louisiana at Mardi Gras and most people would think they were just Carnival loving Brazilians who had scored cheap airline tickets. The Elephant Man himself would pass for normal here. Many men will ‘moon’ people from the balconies raising the question if this is where the New Orleans nickname of ‘Crescent City’ came from. At 12 midnight the police form a line and move the revelers out of the French Quarter, an action that often fails due to an overabundance of attractive women finding the police officers ‘really sexy’ in their uniforms and letting them know that.
So, northern lands, be happy that you only resemble the Big Easy in that both have a lot of fish and water. Then again, if people in the snowy lands of the U.S. insist on celebrating Mardi Gras in winter the N’Awlins way then I guess the shade of red made by frostbite is about the same color as a Louisiana sunburn anyway.