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Throw me something, mister! - Curt Yeomans

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

There is something to be said about pure debauchery that lasts for several days.

On Feb. 24, the world will celebrate Mardi Gras, which technically is "Tuesday Party," when it is translated from French to English, but it is more commonly known as "Fat Tuesday."

Oh, how I wish I still lived near New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I already bought a grocery store brand King Cake earlier this year, but it's not the same as eating a King Cake from Paul's Pastry in Picayune, Miss. Paul's is the authority on King Cakes, in my opinion. It doesn't seem to dry out as quickly as a grocery store cake. It's so soft, like eating a little piece of Heaven with every bite.

And, Paul's isn't afraid to hide the baby in the cake, unlike the grocery stores.

While Mardi Gras is acknowledged around the world, there is something to be said about how it should be done. When I say this, I mean, how it is done on the Gulf Coast, and in New Orleans.

But, before I proceed, I want to point something out. Whenever you read "New Orleans" in the remainder of this column, you have to understand that I say it like a true New Orleans native would say it. It is pronounced "New Oarlens," not "Nawlins'"

While I did not grow up in New Orleans, and I never lived there, I had several roommates in college who were from the city. I also had several friends in college who were from the area. They all pronounced it "New Oarlens."

Now that we have that out of the way, lets proceed to look at Mardi Gras. I've noticed, from time to time, that people tend to think Mardi Gras is a season, instead of a day. Well, that is wrong.

There is a long season called, well, Carnival season. This begins in early January, with the Catholic recognition of the Epiphany. It ends with Mardi Gras. See, Mardi Gras' roots are based somewhat in religion, and are also based in ancient Roman culture. The Romans had a festival in mid-February, called Lupercalia, which also was full of debauchery.

As Christianity began to rise, the Catholic Pope Gregory XIII made the festival a Christian holiday in 1582, by putting it on the Gregorian calendar, according to mardigras.com, which is run by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The pope made Mardi Gras the day before Ash Wednesday, so the debauchery would end with the beginning of Lent, according to the web site.

Lent, of course, is a time of sacrifice, and preparing for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Basically, Mardi Gras is people trying to let it all hang out before a period of restraint.

So, why do I enjoy Mardi Gras so much? Well, heck, it's party time. Who wouldn't enjoy that? There are the parades, thrown by the Krewes of New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Of course, the parades hosted by the Krewes of Zulu and Rex are the biggies, and they are on Mardi Gras itself. But, there are 37 other parades in and around New Orleans in the week leading up to Fat Tuesday.

Some of them are thrown over the preceding weekend by "Superkrewes" like Endymion and Bacchus. Others are smaller, like the Krewe of Napoleon parade in nearby Metarie.

Several people put boxes on the ends of broomsticks to catch beads and doubloons. I used to have a "Cat in the Hat" style headware, in the Mardi Gras colors of green, purple and gold, of course, which I used to hold up and let the parade participants through stuff into. That works really well, by the way.

Anyway, I could go on forever about Mardi Gras, but I'm already getting a real hankering to skip work to go down to New Orleans. That wouldn't be a good idea.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.