Since the 19th century, the ‘good times’ have rolled from New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast into Mobile, Alabama. It is called MARDI GRAS, French for ‘Fat Tuesday.’ It is a season of celebrations and parades beginning on January 6th, 12th night and culminates on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The locals use the term ‘Carnival’ from the Latin ‘carnivale’ meaning ‘farewell to flesh’. The ‘feasting’ of Carnival prepare for the ‘fasting’ of Holy Lent.
Mardi Gras has a long history rooted in the 17th century. It begins with two brothers, Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne de Bienville who were sent to the territory called Louisiana by King Louis XIV, to claim the territory in the name of France. d’Iberville and de Bienville entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on March 2, 1699. By 1720 Biloxi, Mississippi had been made the capitol of the Louisiana Territory that included Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The French Mardi Gras customs accompanied the colonists who settled in Mobile, Biloxi and New Orleans.
Mardi Gras is an experience of celebration and community. It begins with GATEAU DES ROIS (cake of the three kings) It is a simple cinnamon-like cake with the colored icing and set within the cake a plastic baby Jesus. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the ‘baby’ inside provides the next ‘king cake party.’
Another Mardi Experience is the Court Royalty for Rex, King of Carnival and his Queen. They have an entourage of maids and dukes and present a ‘masque ball’ for invitees. Mardi Gras colors are another tradition. Green for Faith; Gold for Power and Purple for Justice.
Mardi gras would not have any meaning without a Parade. There are hundreds of parades that roll the streets of New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Mobile, Alabama. They are led by a group called ‘carnival Krewe’ that organize a theme and present the parade to the public. From themed floats they throw cheap colored beads and other trinkets as souvenirs of Mardi Gras. It is the biggest free party in the United States!
Originating in Biloxi, we on the Mississippi Gulf Coast have our own King and Queen of Mardi Gras. King d’Iberville and Queen Ixobil. (Biloxi) They lead the grand parade in Biloxi on Mardi Gras Day. Once you experience Mardi Gras it too becomes a part of your social calendar as you chart the Parties and Parades from 12th Night to Shrove Tuesday. As the saying goes: COME TO THE PARTY. COME TO MARDI GRAS!
Therese O’Connor rsm