Thursday, January 21, 2016


King Cakes for Mardi Gras

Traveling around and staying for months at a time in an area gives us time to experience the local customs, taste the local food, and it is almost the time of year for Mardi Gras in Louisiana.

Speaking of timing, the celebration is not on the same date every year. According to locals, this year Mardi Gras is very early. So what determines the date?  Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent starts. Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox, or March 21st. Whew! It sounds complicated, but just Google it for the dates.

Some of the things I have had to look up and learn about:

Mardi Gras is one day, Fat Tuesday, the last day to eat (pig-out/party) before Lent (fasting).

Carnival is the season, stretching from January 6th through midnight on Fat Tuesday. During this time it is tradition to eat King Cake.

King Cake celebrates the visit of the three kings to the Christ Child and is served at parties during Carnival season. The cake often has a small plastic baby Jesus inside and the one who gets that piece of cake gets to buy the cakes for the next party.

Traditions. Mardi Gras is not just in New Orleans and it is not all about booze, beads, and bare skin. Some of the smaller towns celebrate in the traditional way with the Courir de Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday Run" a.k.a. Chicken Run.

Chicken Run. The townsfolk have a parade, it is not all show, but a traditional 'parade' of folks going through the town/countryside to each house to gather ingredients for the community pot of gumbo to be made later in the center of town. Traditionally you will be given a live chicken for the pot and you will most certainly have to chase it down, which of course is great fun and frivolity, especially as the day lengthens and the spirits flow.

This reminds me of the story in Stone Soup.

Colors. The revelers wear the traditional colors of Mardi Gras - Purple for Justice, Green for Faith, Gold for power - which can be seen everywhere this time of year, yes even the local Wal-mart where they sell t-shirts and beads and flowers and jewelry and king cake all in purple, green, and gold.

Zydeco. You can't have a party without music, which will most certainly be Zydeco, using accordion, guitar, and maybe even a washboard.

The campground here has a full schedule of events for the Mardi Gras season including lots of live music, barn dances, and a chicken-run for the kids.

But while we are waiting on the party to start, we might just have to try one of those King Cakes J

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