Growing up in South Louisiana was amazing. I was lucky enough to be born into the Cajun culture and for that, I am forever thankful. We are born with a spice for life, family is everything, there is a festival every weekend and we love any excuse to make a huge meal and celebrate. A huge part of our culture is Mardi Gras, a huge celebration that runs from the Epiphany until Ash Wednesday. It wasn’t until I moved to the Houston area almost 9 years ago, did I realize that everywhere else, it really is just Tuesday.
I also found myself explaining to strangers that I do bring my children to Mardi Gras and that the celebration is not at all what they were thinking. Yes, you do have some debaucheries associated with the celebration, but to South Louisianans, it is So. Much. More.
It’s taking turns bringing King Cakes to dinners and the excitement of seeing who ends up with the baby (they get to bring the next cake). It’s getting to the parade route bright and early to grab a good spot and tailgating until the parade makes its way to you. It’s dancing to all of the music around you, cooking out, and eating more king cake. It’s watching your kids throw their hands up for more beads and getting so excited when they catch a football, or a fancy light up toy, or a huge bag of beads. It’s searching for the “good parades” and making the short drive to experience them. The goal for every parade being who can collect the most beads. Seriously, each kid brings a massive shopping bag or garbage bag and we almost always accomplish our goal and fill them to the brim.
It’s getting invited to a ball, spending all day getting your hair and makeup done and getting to wear a beautiful ball gown. Enjoying the Krewe’s presentation, mingling with your friends and watching the performance/parade. It’s the suspense of getting to your table to see what sussies will be sprinkled around for you. Dancing until your feet hurt and then taking your shoes off and dancing some more.
It’s waking up at the crack of dawn to load your beads on a float and make sure your daquiri is iced down. Its throwing beads out to the crowds, tossing footballs and stuffed animals to little boys and girls. Its hopping off of the float at the end and enjoying the after party and listening to a live band play. It’s the music, listening to songs such as La Danse de Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras mambo and feeling it in your soul. Mardi Gras music is an experience and we listen to it every evening throughout the season and have dance parties in our kitchen.
My fondest memory as a little girl was watching the parade with my grandparents, aunts and uncles and my mom and grandmother teaching me how to throw both hands in the air, wave them and yell “throw me something mista” until I lost my voice. So, while everywhere else is just Tuesday, I will always choose to celebrate the season and always make sure that my babies know the joie de vivre of the season and their culture. And on Wednesday, we will go to mass to receive our ashes and make our Lenten promises in preparation for the Easter season.
… and my sweet Mardi Gras baby will always have an authentic King Cake every year for his birthday, even if his MaMa has to overnight it from Louisiana.
Laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!