Once I left New Orleans what I had accustomed myself to as normal was not normal to mainstream America. I had to learn another language, menu, and cultural origins. That is not bad, but sometimes you get tired explaining why our habits are so different to that of the rest of the "States" and why we talk funny as if we were from Boston or the Bronx.
Now that the Mardi Gras is upon us, it makes me think how much fun it is to be a New Orleanian. This year the Super Bowl winner Saints and Mardi Gras all hit within the same 10-day period and what a celebration it is.
Does one really have to dress to the occasion? Remember that the 'Fun' stops on Ash Wednesday. Lent starts that day, and the one thing one gives up is the partying mode. So when you're partying during Carnival dress for fun, eat for fun, and drink for fun.
So in New Orleans the official start of Carnival is Epiphany -- The sixth of January the day that the three kings visited the Christ Child. In the mind of the French Colonist of la Nouvelle Orleans , it was to recognize that its citizens are bidding farewell to winter and getting ready for natures renaissance. Europe did and the colonist should have it too. Social and economic levels were key as to who partied where.
It depends on how much history we took and what we remembered but the main Mardi Gras tradition started in Mobile (now Alabama). As the French settled there between Spanish Florida and northern Spanish Mexico (Texas today); and that eastern part of Louisiana that looks like the toe of the boot and western part of the panhandle from Florida were the line that divided French Louisiana northern border to the English colonies that are today the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast.
They are called the "Florida Parishes" – - in Modern parlance that is where Hurricane Katrina hit. So In French Mobile the first Mardi Gras in the French American colony started. What is so popular during that yearly event from Epiphany and Mardi Gras is a celebration of dancing, drinking , and joviality. The epitome of every party is the "King Cake" that is cut at the apex of the party and a ceramic doll is hidden in the pastry of the cake at baking time and the lucky person that finds that in their piece of cake which one would drink with Champagne at the noble or high society gatherings, would have to give the next party.
Outside of Louisiana in the USA, this ceremony is not popular. Yes, in Spanish America and Portuguese America there is Carnival, but in Europe it is linked more to the Roman Catholic practices. English know it as Shrove Tuesday, the Germans as Fasching.
Mardi Gras the French for 'Fat Tuesday' is the day one has the last drink (alcohol) and certain foods for Lent, and is the day before Mardi Gras.
So when we celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans, we are enjoying a tradition set up by our French forefathers.
Today the King Cake is enjoyed by all revelers and it is not just washed down with Champagne. New Orleans is also famous for inventing the 'Cocktail.' Many rum punches are popular at these gatherings. Today a most favourite is the Pat O'Brien Hurricane.
With the Saints winning the SuperBbowl, the party will last until Ash Wednesday: February 17. Remember that New Orleans is now the 'Who dat? Nation.'
(Don Merlot is Ron Alonzo, who now lives in Florida).