Tuesday (tomorrow) is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday for those of you who don’t know the lingo. Not having been raised Catholic and having grown up in a north Louisiana city that did not publicly celebrate this religious holiday, I didn’t know much about it when I moved to Thibodaux in the heart of Cajun Country back in 1978. The first Mardi Gras parade I attended was on Canal St. in New Orleans – one of the BIG ones. I recall it being crowded and noisy, but the excitement in the air was palpable as the music blared, bright lights making the floats sparkle to life, and the whole joie de vivre quickly becoming contagious. That is, until I reached down to pick up a doubloon and some buffoon slammed his foot down on my knuckles. After that, I pretty much left the doubloons on the sidewalk for a braver soul than I.
As I married and had children, it seemed Mardi Gras parades in the big city grew more and more dangerous, with folks being accidentally run over by the tractors pulling floats, or the random child that somehow ended up under a float, or the drunken krewe member who failed to duck as the tall float went under a traffic light (ouch). Sorry to be such a downer at a time when so many revelers are lining the streets for tonight’s parades, but when the degenerates started shooting into the crowds of innocent onlookers, I lost all desire to attend another parade.
Oh, go ahead, call me a killjoy, but honestly, I value my life and those of my children more than a few plastic trinkets and metal doubloons. My children will tell you they never attended a Mardi Gras parade until they moved out of my house and were on their own. Truth. I swear it. They joke with their friends about how deprived they were, but if you ask them now that they are adults how they feel about attending the parades, and they will tell you they couldn’t care less.
So, now that I’ve totally bummed you out about Mardi Gras, let me turn this around. There WAS one small parade in a safe, alcohol-free, drug-free zone. It happened last Thursday at Terrebonne ARC where Miah now works. The Captain and I went and watched as Miah and his co-workers were lavished with all the goodies of a true spirit of Mardi Gras parade. I’ll share a few photos with you so that you can see how much he enjoyed himself.
The other good thing about this holiday is King Cake, which I’ve written about before. Wouldn’t you know it? Just as these tempting pastries hit the bakery shelves, my thyroid doctor tells me that I need to cut out ALL BAD CARBS. I mean, have you ever met a BAD CARB? I’m told that King Cakes are just chock full of them. Well, darn it all, anyway!
King Cakes are a big deal and very special because they are only offered once a year during this holiday season. January 6th on the Christian religious calendar is considered the Twelfth Day of Christmas and Epiphany – a Greek work meaning “to show” – referring to the Wise Men finding the infant Jesus. That is the day that King Cakes hit the shelves. Many south Louisiana Catholics look forward to Epiphany and the first King Cake of the season as much as they do Christmas.
The colorful frosting also has special meaning: purple for “Justice”, green for “Faith”, and gold for “Power”, which represent the colors of the jewels on the crowns of the Wise Men.
In old France, from whence the King Cake came, different items were baked inside the cakes, like a dried bean, a nut, a coin, or a tiny toy of some sort. Whomever ate the piece of cake with the item inside would become the “King” and would host the next party and provide the King Cake for that gathering. This continues on until the celebration of Mardi Gras, (Fat Tuesday), which always occurs 46 days before Easter Sunday. Today, that tiny item is a plastic baby, representative of the baby Jesus. However, because the baby is a choking hazard, it is no longer baked inside but is included separately to be slipped inside the cake if you so choose – at your own risk, of course!
Earlier this year I discovered a very old French tradition of a certain kind of cake that they baked for Epiphany. I was going to bake one and blog about it, but I lost all inspiration when my doctor told me I couldn’t have any. Tell y’all what, though, once I get these carb cravings under control, and hopefully before next January 6th, I will bake that sweet surprise and share the recipe with you!
The wind is blowing a true gale here, but judging from the trucks, cars, chairs, wagons, etc. lined up and down Park and Main streets, attendance at tonight and tomorrow’s parades will not be negatively impacted. I just pray that down here in bayou country, everyone enjoys themselves, drinks responsibly, and gets home safe and sound.
Wednesday, the streets will be cleared of all the tons of litter left behind during the parades, somber, hungover Catholics will go to mass and get their ashes. Then the sacrifice of Lent begins. That doesn’t really impact the rest of the religious world, unless like me, your doctor said you have to give up carbs, which for me is strictly for my health and not for Lent at all.
Giving up carbs and not having King Cake. Who ever heard of such a thing!
I would like to welcome our February sponsor: Haunted Cypress Studios. Nell Bentz is a very talented jewelry maker who paddles the Manchac Swamp gathering up beautiful things from nature to include in her swamp terrarium necklaces. She has generously agreed to donate one for you to win. Please leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win this gorgeous, one-of-a-kind piece and please share this post with your friends.
Stay safe, my friends, and please don’t hate me for my views on wild and crazy parades!!!