Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mardi Gras Day and Indians

Today, did not go quite as I expected. I had intended to go to the first parade, but instead got side tracked by the Mardi Gras Indians, roving my neighbourhood. I live in an old and traditional area, which has traditionally had a large number of African-American residents. This is why we have Indians. As I am friendly with many of my neighbours, it was natural that I should get mixed up in these events.

One senior resident claimed that we have had Indians almost as long as New Orleans. What is interesting is the differences in traditions. Our Indians fiercely represent their neighbourhoods, competing for bragging rights. What is amazing is that the organizations of Indians run along lines that use names for neighbourhood areas, that are no longer current. This suggests that these are traditions of some antiquity. I am quite honored to be let into the 'inside' of these traditions, as the Indians are usually notoriously secretive.

After a while, I went to the second parade, where I ran into many friends and neighbours. Also, a friend of mine was riding in the parade, as he has political aspirations, so it was fun to yell for him.

After the parades were over, I wandered home slowly. There were vehicles parked everywhere and almost every household had a party going on the porch. Barbecue pits were everywhere. I was invited many times to join in the festivities. On a day such as this, it is fun to hang out with one's neighbours. It took me a long time to travel the short distance home. When I arrived at home, I was very, very full, having eaten many kinds of food.

This evening, I was invited to a Creole friends house for gumbo. It was a small, colorful gathering. There were many people I knew and several I did not. Meeting new people and making new friends are all an important part of the Mardi Gras tradition, just as much as beads and sharing food and drink. What a wonderful set of traditions!

However, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and all the merriment must cease, as the austere rigors of the Lenten season will begin. The rubbish will be cleared away. The only memory of the party will be the beads hanging in trees. The many facades and illusions will have to be dismissed. Reality will return. The one good thing to look forward to now is the ever wonderful Lenten specials, involving lots of shrimp. Happy Mardi Gras to you all.

The CP

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