People raised their hands and arms high in the air wanting more and more trinkets and then surrounding our pedicab and begging for more. Why are these trinkets wanted so much, I wondered.
It is the human exchange of value from one person to another, I was told by natives of New Orleans. And it is the thrill of catching those beads, plush toys, necklaces, plastic cups, doubloons (Krewe coins), and shells and getting a little gift during this time of celebration. It is the tradition of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
And catching and throwing trinkets has been going on at Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, since 1870 when the Krewe of Twelfth Night Revelers became the first Krewe (crew) to throw Mardi Gras “throws”. And the Krewes have been throwing them ever since. And the people love it, both the throwers and the receivers, for this is celebration time in New Orleans before the fast begins for Easter.
Mardi Gras began in 1703 in Mobile, Alabama and soon was celebrated in New Orleans by the 1730’s where it became the premier celebration in the USA to this day. Mardi Gras is always held 47 days before Easter in the Christian religion. It begins Jan. 6 each year on the Feast of Epiphany or King’s Day. Parades are held all over New Orleans during this 47-day period by scores and scores of Krewes.
And it all culminates on the last day, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) when people stuff themselves, before the start of Lent on the next day, Ash Wednesday, where all begin to fast or give up something for Lent for 46 days to Easter. Mardi Gras is the time of parties, celebrations, food and drinks to the max before the fasting begins. And everyone joins in with the Krewes to party.
A Krewe is a group of revelers that band together to host a Mardi Gras ball, ride on a Mardi Gras parade float, and participates in social gatherings. So Sharon and I joined the Krewe of Tucks which began in 1969 by a group of students from Loyola University who came up with the name “Tuck” from a no-name pub. It started as a rag-tag group or animal house “theme” where anything goes yet keeps its sense of humor on everything.
We were told we would be lionesses, queens of the jungle, and each would ride in a pedicab “float”. So we arrived the day the final 5-day festivities began. Awaiting us was our costumes, designed by Mardi Gras costume designer, Alan. We laughed and laughed and took photos as we put on each costume piece. As luck would have it, that stash of large safety pins that had been riding in the checked bag for months came in handy as we pinned the lion’s furry “legs” to our black sweat clothes to keep them from falling off. More pins kept the lion’s ears in place. With all on and pinned, it was show time.
Arriving at out parade gathering location around 10 am, we saw some of the other funny characters in our parade. As we waited for the parade, we learned that it would be delayed for hours because a float in the parade before ours had a tire bend under the float. It was so bad; the repair man had to come to the float because it could not be moved.
So we had time to see other floats like the man riding in a recliner chair on wheels complete with beer and cigarettes. And a group of bicycles that became a dinosaur, an elephant, a tiger and other fun designer animals. It was hodge-podge and it was so much fun.
But I didn’t realize what fun was to come as the parade finally started 1 ½ hours late. As our pedicab advanced along the parade route, we were inundated by revelers, one after the other. Soon our bag full of beads and shells and necklaces was empty.
Talking to the people, seeing them in their creative costumes and interacting with them was the ultimate fun. And we did this for 6 miles and almost 4 hours.
When it ended, we did walk and move our arms slowly but we were very happy to have had a one-of-a-kind experience. And the people seemed to enjoy our costumes and pedicab “floats” as they took many photos of us..
We thought we had seen all the Mardi Gras parades until we attended the Mardi Gras Indian parade. It began by meeting the big chief, Shaka Zulu, a Mardi Gras Indian, in Congo Square in the French Quarter where he told us about the Indians and showed his elaborate costume. Shaka Zulu explained that the Indians began doing their own celebrations and parade because the Indians felt they could not do Mardi Gras with the American Sector of New Orleans.
So the 42 tribes started their own mask making, creating and hand sewing their beaded costume and finishing it with elaborate colored feathers. Then, each put it all together to wear and show in their “Black Parade.”
“We used to burn our costumes after Mardi Gras so no evidence existed of us. And, we would make a new one anyway for the next year’s Mardi Gras, “Shaka Zulu said. But now their incredibly gorgeous costumes are placed in the Backstreet Museum for all to see.
Before or during parades, each day we attended a party along a parade route at a private home all decorated up with Mardi gras colors of purple signifying justice, green for faith and gold for power. At these private home parties, we also viewed a major Krewe’s night lighted parade while sitting on the front porch or balcony in perfect viewing seats.
At one parade, Sharon and I were sitting on the front porch of a gorgeous 1850’s home watching the parade go by. Sharon stood up one time with her hands in the air begging for a trinket. A man on a float saw her and threw her a bag of beads full of many necklaces and it landed on my foot. It was like a large rock had landed on my foot/ankle. My foot hurt so much and so long that I had to have a bag of ice applied to stop the pain. And it worked and I was fine.
When we watched parades, we were eating delicious New Orleans dishes like Jumbo, Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, PoBoys, or Muffelettas, with King Cakes and Beignets for dessert. This Virtuoso trip was a dream to experience plus we had a major adventure with Mardi Gras.
And all I did was ask that my travel agent Maureen Paap (firstname.lastname@example.org) book a hotel for us during Mardi Gras. And we got wonderful revelers begging us for trinkets as we rode in costume in our pedicab with the Krewe of Tucks, went to parties at private homes, watched many parades, enjoyed our own parade as we participated in Fat Tuesday in our pedicab, and other experiences of a lifetime during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Contact your travel agent for this Virtuoso experience.
Photo Copy © 2017 carolyntravels.com