When I was a kid, I lived in a small town outside Atlanta and I would spend a week in New Orleans every year for Mardi Gras with my family. When I would return to Georgia, I would regale my friends with stories about this amazing party that I attended. Conversation usually went something like:
Me: “Y’all, there is this party I went to, and you wear masks and costumes and these huge boats travel on the road and you scream at people to throw you beads and toys and candy and you get to eat all day long and all the adults are smiling and playing around too!”
Everyone: “Oh Morgan. That’s not real.”
I can understand the way that child-me explained the holiday does make it seem like something out a dream. But I wasn’t lying and now that I get to live in New Orleans, my favorite holiday is Mardi Gras and my favorite thing to do is find those new to town and be their Mardi Gras Ambassador (which is really just making sure they don’t get lost, pass out or end up naked).
Now if you are from Amish country or a commune in Utah, then you may see Mardi Gras as a holiday of debauchery and abomination, a celebration of vice, licentiousness and sinfulness. If you do, there is a group on Bourbon Street that you would love. They have a big, huge cross and a loudspeakers and everyone seems to be giving them the finger. So hang with those cool kids if that’s your scene.
But if you want to celebrate the tradition, the history and the benevolence that is Mardi Gras here are a few reasons to help you remember why you are drunk as shit at 4 in the afternoon and screaming at strangers to give you stuff.
- Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday.” In Catholicism, Ash Wednesday follows Mardi Gras and begins the Lenten season. Lent is a time for sacrifice, penance and reflection. Mardi Gras is a time for people to let loose and celebrate with their family, friends and neighbors before the humble Lenten season begins. You party on Tuesday and you’re in Church Wednesday morning. Do you have to be Catholic to celebrate Mardi Gras? No. Do you have to like a good time to celebrate Mardi Gras? Abso-freaking-lutely.
- Drinking at 10 AM on the street is totally acceptable. Encouraged even.
- No dress code required. A costume, wigs, a pair of plastic boobs, whatever your little heart desires. Do not get naked! We’re having fun, not the MTV Spring Break house. Seriously, you’re just asking to get arrested.
- Food. There is so much food. There is even a specific type of cake only served for this holiday. And when you’re drunk and stuffing it into your face, try not to choke on the baby. Every tent, circle, and corner has food. Eat as much as you can.
- The whole city is off. Seriously, I don’t think the doctors even have to go to work.
- The music is everywhere. Whether it is the high school bands, the musicians on the float, the blaring music from the dance teams trucks, or the entertainment at the bar you’re in, you better be dancing or you’re gonna stick out like a sore thumb.
- Leave the parade looking like Quasimoto, with a neck full of beads, two spears, a lacey thong, a garter, a feather boa, roses, a mask and stuffed animals in your bag means that you have conquered Mardi Gras and come out victorious. Congratulate yourself with another beer and give all that shit to a kid you see on the route.
- No drunks left behind. If you see someone passed out on the street, here is what you do:
- Check pulse. If no pulse, scream bloody murder and find a cop. NOW!
- If pulse is found (whew!) take a picture.
- Try to wake up, get them to sit up, and give them any food.
- Then continue walking.
- If you are a server, bartender or anyone in the service industry, you make so much freaking money. Don’t be mad if you have to work. You can pay your month’s rent with one day. You can make fun of customers right to their face. You can probably get drunk with your customers too.
- You may get gifts on Christmas, but can you demand gifts from total strangers by screaming at them as they pass by on a float? You may be able to dress up on Halloween, but do you and all your friends get Halloween off from work? You may drink a lot on New Year’s Eve, but can you start drinking at 10 AM? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Mardi Gras FTW.
Mardi Gras is basically a city-wide party. The best party in the nation. A time to celebrate the city and the traditions that make it different from every place in the world. And you’re invited. Don’t be late.