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Mardi Gras In The South

Mardi Gras: 101




Hi parents! Jersey Girl here (well, born Jersey, moved to Tampa in high school, but in Oxford for the past 19 years.) There is something we’ve never talked about here on POM; A Spring tradition that should be on everyone’s bucket list (After tailgating in the Grove, of course)  -  Mardi Gras!

If you thought football and tailgating were the only big activity for your college student to participate in during a school year, let me be the first to introduce to you Spring in the South.  Ole Miss baseball is off the charts, the crawfish are perfectly spiced and the sun reappears after a long, grey, wet winter.  But what you might not realize, regardless of your religious affiliation, another spectacle of spring in the South is Mardi Gras.

So, this Jersey gal didn’t grow up really “knowing” about Mardi Gras. I’d heard of it but didn’t really understand it. When I returned to Ole Miss after Christmas of my freshman year, the buzz around campus about plans for the upcoming Mardi Gras season intrigued me. Before I knew it, it was February and I’d made the decision I was going to New Orleans; and I did the same the next three years!

Quick History:  Mardi Gras is the “season” of the biblical epiphany and the words truly mean “Fat Tuesday” (ie: the day before Ash Wednesday – when Lent begins).  So, the idea, historically, is to eat and live rich before the fasting begins. Beginning the 12th day after Jesus’ birthday, begins the “Carnival” season and again ending on Fat Tuesday. The modern way we celebrate Mardi Gras down south (with parades, carnivals, beads, parties) is widely debated to have first started in Biloxi, Miss. or Mobile, Ala. It depends on who you’re talking to, but just allow them to have their space to work that out J.  


The most widely recognized Mardi Gras celebration takes place in New Orleans, but Carnivals happen throughout the Gulf Coast region.  A “Carnival” is a social celebration and will always include a King, Queen and Court of each krewe in the carnival. There are parties, balls, and celebrations in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, and these celebrations often include large, elaborate parades to celebrate this “krewe.” Each town can have multiple Carnivals and each carries their own name; for example - Krewe du Vieux, or Zulu, or Rex.  These krewes are built from social clubs in each area.

Attending Mardi Gras is something everyone should do.  Hundreds of thousands of people come each day to celebrate, roam the streets and well, drink.   There is nothing like it and, truly, some of my best memories of college were made at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Last tidbit: Eat the King Cake!  It's only available during Mardi Gras season, and I think the best can be bought (and shipped) from Sucre.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!


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