Mardi Gras's Fat Tuesday: The music, the beads and the king cake (Photos)
For the past five days, the southern party town has given itself over to excess, good food, lots of drink and maybe a little debauchery. And that's not the weeks leading up to the event with small parades preparing for the celebration. Mardi Gras is a marathon, New Orleanians will tell you, and Fat Tuesday marks the final stretch.
For the non-New Orleanians, a quick primer on Mardi Gras: Before the Catholic holiday of Lent, in which worshipers fast and repent for 40 days, people do their best to make up for the days of restraint with jam-packed days of plenty. Festivals are observed all over the world, such as Carnival in Brazil, but it's never been so associated with a city's identity as it has with New Orleans.
For the parades, krewes organize floats and balls. The krewes -- part secret society, part drinking club, part business networking (think country club without the walls) -- fund the costumes, decorations and gifts given to spectators. Each krewe is famous in its own right, though Rex, Zulu and Orpheus krewes are probably the best known outside the city limit. Rex, the king of Mardi Gras, and his queen get the official nod from the city and Orpheus usually has a Hollywood celebrity add some Tinseltown glitter to the melee. This year comedian Jennifer Coolidge rode the Orpheus float. The spectators make one contribution to the mix: they offer up the phrase: "Throw me something, mister."
As with any proper tradition, there is the music of the holiday (jump down for some of the famous songs or listen to a live stream from the public radio station in New Orleans, WWOZ) and there is the food. Both, in line with all things Mardi Gras, are loud and bold. The music is big brass bands made for marching. The food is the king cake, a gooey, butter-rich cake with a hidden baby Jesus tucked inside. The Post's Tim Carman looked into the history of the cake and found "The cake's appeal becomes clearer the closer you get to the city limits and, conversely, becomes more comical the farther you travel from the voodoo-sexual-second-line cultural vortex of the Big Easy."
Come Wednesday morning, some trash will line the streets, beads will swing from tree branches, and the citizens of the city will shuffle off to church to atone for all that excess. Until then, though, go on and throw me something, mister.
If you have your own photos of festivities, add them to our gallery here.
I love this one. This woman plays the tambourine like it should always be played:
Melissa Bell and TJ Ortenzi
| March 8, 2011; 9:23 AM ET
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