The post below was from 2014 but is reposted for the kickoff today of Carnival 2016 in New Orleans. Our holiday season really begins today and runs through the first weekend of May when JazzFest ends. It includes St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day in mid March so it is a ongoing parade route season! What that means is friends visiting, parties at various homes and listening to music and dancing and eating are on our schedule for the next few months. Don’t be fooled by the media’s focus on Bourbon Street or on bead-throwers: Carnival is a street celebration that allows citizens the chance to gather and offer satirical pokes at the powers that be. It even includes a demand by Rex on Mardi Gras Day that the city cease functions on its day:
“I do hereby ordain decree the following,” Rex says, “that during the great celebration all commercial endeavors be suspended. That the children of the realm be freed from their studies and be permitted to participate in the pageantry.”
And to the city’s political leaders, he adds:
“That the mayor and City Council cease and desist from governance.”
The mayor responds: “We will fulfill the will of the people and turn over the key to the city to you, so that tomorrow in New Orleans will be a day of abandon; Happy Mardi Gras.”
The Carnival season ends on Mardi Gras Day, February 9, which is a very early end to Carnival this year.
We have officially begun the 2014 Carnival season in Louisiana. The season starts on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan 6th and runs through Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday,
Interestingly, January 6th is also the birthday of the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc who is honored in New Orleans with a startlingly gold statue and her own lovely parade today. That parade along with the Phunny Phorty Phellows parade held on the St. Charles streetcar line tonight are the first parades of our season. As you probably can tell, all of this is closely linked to the Catholic tradition deeply embedded in French Louisiana.
The link to the video shows how a commercial king cake is made, which is the cake we eat throughout the season. The tradition is explained well in the video, so I’ll just add that with the surge in local and artisanal foods, many more types of king cake are now available in the area. Whole wheat cakes, french-style Galette des Rois cakes and more can be found at markets, at stores and bakeries. Happy Carnival!