It's Fat Tuesday!!

I love saying that because it's actually the ONLY day you can call FAT! LOL!

Mardi Gras is one of those celebrations in which I would love to go one day. I know, I know, it's all about the party... but I think that we all need something to get distracted from the madness that surrounds us. 

What is Mardi Gras?

According to MardiGras.com:

"The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to Medival Europe, though we have no written record of how that really transformed into the current Mardi Gras of today. But the origins of the Mardi Gras we celebrate today -- with Kings, Mardi Gras colors, and brass bands -- are traced to New Orleans.

"Although we can trace its history to the Romans, a French-Canadian explorer, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, landed on a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans in 1699 and called it "Pointe due Mardi Gras." He also established "Fort Louis de la Louisiane" (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated the very first Mardi Gras.

"In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile) ... similar to those who form our current Mardi Gras Krewes. It lasted until 1709. In 1710, the "Boeuf Graf Society" was formed and paraded from 1711 through 1861. The procession was held with a huge bull's head pushed alone on wheels by 16 men. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.

"New Orleans was established in 1718 by Jean-Baptise Le Moyne. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans.. but not in parade form. In the early 1740s, Louisiana's Governor The Marquis de Vaudreuil established elegant society balls -- the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.

"The earliest reference to Mardi Gras "Carnival" appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Association is the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.

"By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback to celebrate Mardi Gras. Newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance.

"In 1871, Mardi Gras's second "Krewe" is formed, the Twelfth Night Reveler's, with the first account of Mardi Gras "throws."

"1872 was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival -- Rex -- to parade in the first daytime parade. They introduced the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold; the Mardi Gras song, and the Mardi Gras flag.
In 1873, the first floats were constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France. In 1875, Governor Warmoth of Louisiana signs the "Mardi Gras Act" making it a legal holiday in Louisiana, which is still is.

"Most Mardi Gras Krewes today developed from private social clubs that have restrictive membership policies. Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by its members, we call it the "Greatest Free Show on Earth!"."

So -- What is Fat Tuesday??

Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, the festival New Orleans, Louisiana, is famous for. "Gras" is French for fat and "Mardi" is French for Tuesday. 

The annual festivities start on January 6, the Twelfth Night Feast of the Epiphany, when the three kings are supposed to have visited the Christ Child, and build to a climax on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which always occurs on the day before Ash Wednesday. The parties and parades will continue until Lent begins at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday.

Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in New Orleans. It is scheduled to occur 46 days before Easter. Since the actual date Easter occurs on changes yearly, Mardi Gras can happen on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9.

For two centuries it has been an annual event in New Orleans, except during the two World Wars.

Now... for the cheap thingies...

The Rich History of Mardi Gras Cheap Trinkets 
by Johm Roach
for National Geographic News
February 20, 2004

It's Mardi Gras, which is French for Fat Tuesday, the final day of the weeks-long Carnival season of feasting and celebration. On Ash Wednesday Christian revelers sober up for the pre-Easter fasting and the penitential season of Lent.

Louisiana's Mardi Gras is marked by several lavish parades thrown by Carnival organizations known as krewes. But instead of politely watching the floats go by, spectators belt out the time-honored plea of "throw me something, mister" as they jostle for one of the trinkets tossed by masked men and women on the passing floats. 

Contrary to popular belief, however, there is no need for a special strategy—such as exposing one's usually clothed body parts—to get the attention of the masked riders. 

"There is so much thrown that there is no way you are not going to go home with a bag full of goodies," said Arthur Hardy, a New Orleans television personality and publisher of Arthur Hardy's Mardi Gras Guide.

The goodies, or "throws," consist of necklaces of plastic beads, coins called doubloons and stamped with krewes' logos and parade themes, and an array of plastic cups, toys, Frisbees, and figurines.

"Beads always have been and continue to be the most popular items," said Fred Berger, owner of Mardi Gras Imports in Slidell, Louisiana.

Berger is one of the several merchants competing in what has become the multimillion-dollar industry of Mardi Gras throws. On average, individual krewe members spend U.S. $800 on the trinkets. "Some people won't bat an eye at spending $2,000 or $2,500," Berger said.
Throw History

According to Hardy, who is considered New Orleans's unofficial Mardi Gras expert, the tradition of throws dates back to the 1920s. The parades themselves date all the way back to the 1830s.

The parades run throughout Carnival season, which begins on January 6, the Twelfth Night of Christmas, and culminate on Mardi Gras. Each parade is put on by a krewe, and according to Hardy, the Rex krewe began the tradition of throws by tossing out inexpensive necklaces of glass beads.

The beads were an instant hit and were soon adopted by all the parading krewes, of which there are about 60 today. Hardy also credits Rex for first adopting and throwing out doubloons. The plastic coins were the 1960 invention of the late artist H. Alvin Sharpe.

The glass beads of the early throws were imported from Czechoslovakia and Japan. Today the plastic throws are manufactured mostly in China. Krewes, working through a merchant such as Berger, must get their orders and special design requests submitted by September in order to receive their shipment in time for Carnival.

"My belief is Mardi Gras throws are the most shopped merchandise on Earth," Berger said. In the late 1980s Berger would buy a case of beads for U.S. $70 and turn around and sell it for $90. Today, given increasing competition, that same case sells to customers for $21 or less, he said.

One of the few throws not made in China is coconuts hand-painted by members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a prominent krewe of New Orleans's black community. The coconuts are considered the most prized throws by many Mardi Gras aficionados. But owing to liability issues, they are handed out in bags rather than tossed.
French Quarter

Starting in the late 1970s, drunken Mardi Gras revelers converging in New Orleans's historic and notoriously raucous French Quarter district began the much publicized bartering of beads for glimpses of a women's bare breasts.
According to Hardy, the practice started several years after parades were banned, for safety reasons, from the quarter's narrow streets. This new tradition, he says, has nothing to do with Mardi Gras.

"If you want to see these types of behaviors, you have to seek them out in the French Quarter, where there are no parades," Hardy said. "It's always young co-eds who get drunk. They would never do this back home, but they feel they have the license to do it here."

Nevertheless, Berger says he does brisk business in fancy necklaces that have bartering power linked to "the trend of women exposing body parts to get a pair of beads." After all, it's the end of Carnival, which loosely translated from Latin, means "farewell to flesh."



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