Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fat Tuesday - why DO we party like this? A little history

It occurred to me that though I have learned a lot about the roots of Mardi Gras and Carnival in my trips to Louisiana and in the crowd at handful of similar "Carnivale" parades on my visits to the Caribbean, many folks probably don't know much about the "WHY" of Mardi Gras, outside of the obvious opportunity to get drunk and enjoy the cheap thrill of a boobie flash for the cost of a few beads. Indulge me a bit of academic intervention. Who knows? Maybe it'll come in handy at trivia night:

Mardi Gras History from the official New Orleans Mardi Gras site (paraphrased) http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/history.html

The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional revelry of "Boeuf Gras," or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies.

On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans, naming it "Pointe du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of that festive holiday. Bienville 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 America's very first Mardi Gras.

In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile), similar to those that form our current Mardi Gras krewes. It lasted until 1709.

In 1710, the "Boeuf Gras 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--later, Rex would parade with an actual bull, draped in white and signaling the coming Lenten meat fast. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.

New Orleans was established in 1718 by Bienville. By the 1730's, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the parades we know today. In the early 1740's, 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 was 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 riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling gaslight torches, or "flambeaux," lit the way for the krewe's members, and lent each event an exciting air of romance and festivity.

In 1856, six young Mobile natives formed the Mistick Krewe of Comus, invoking John Milton's hero Comus to represent their organization. Comus brought magic and mystery to New Orleans, with dazzling floats (known as tableaux cars) and masked balls. Krewe members remained anonymous, and to this day, Comus still rides!

In 1870, Mardi Gras' second "Krewe," the Twelfth Night Revelers, was formed, with the first account of Mardi Gras "throws". Newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance, and even printed "Carnival Edition" lithographs of parades' fantastic float designs (after they rolled, of course--themes and floats were always carefully guarded before the procession).

1872 was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival--Rex--to preside over the first daytime parade. Honoring visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff, they introduced his family colors of purple, green and gold as Carnival's official colors. Purple stands for justice; gold for power; and green for faith. This was also the Mardi Gras season that Carnival's improbable anthem, "If Ever I Cease to Love," was cemented, due in part to the Duke's fondness for the tune.

In 1873, floats began to be constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France.

In 1875, Governor Warmoth signed the "Mardi Gras Act," making Fat Tuesday a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.

Mardi Gras krewes developed from private social clubs with restrictive membership policies. Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by their members, New Orleanians call it the "Greatest Free Show on Earth"!

So what are you gonna do with this info? You're going to come fatten up on Tuesday, February 12th from 11:30-close at Lat43 and Minglewood Tavern to help raise money for the YMCA Teens Service Mission to New Orleans. A little bit about the event and the cause...



4th Annual Mardi Gras Fundraiserjennifer goulart amero, 90 seconds and velvet

FAT Tuesday, February 12, 2013 11:30am- close

Teen Leaders from across the North Shore YMCA Service area will make their 4th trip to New Orleans, Louisiana to assist in rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina disaster.  Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. and though many years have passed since Katrina destroyed most of New Orleans and its neighboring communities, there’s still work to be done to bring this area back to “normal”.

“The devastation is vast, even years later”, explains Rick Doucette, Executive Director of Teen and Camp Services at the Cape Ann YMCA.  “This is a tremendous opportunity for local teens to help make a profound and lasting difference in the lives of people who so desperately need a helping hand.”   Travel, lodging and meal expenses are estimated at $1,100 per youth.  Our hope is to fully fund each teen’s trip through a collaborative effort with local donors and businesses doing events over the next couple months.  The Latitude 43 event is in its 4th year, and, like the trip itself, and has become a high point of our year; kicking off our fundraising efforts in preparation for the trip.”

“The event has been a big success for the teens raising travel money in past years. And it’s become a very important part of our connection to the community”, said Zak Sears, General Manager of Latitude 43 and Minglewood Tavern.  “Even our music this year is locally based and totally donated. The guys from The Runaround are my friends and a few are my cousins.  So when I asked them to help out, they agreed without hesitation.  This is Gloucester”.

The teen participants are involved in the preparations as much as they are the actual mission.  Dressed in Mardi Gras costumes, handing out beads and selling raffle tickets the night of is only part of their commitment to the success of their trip. Teens are credited for all of the in-kind (raffle item) donations they secure for the event.

“We believe this should be a team effort, and that the kids learn as much from having to work for their trip as they do in actually going to New Orleans,” Doucette explains.  “And by soliciting their own raffle items, they are reaching out within their own circles to build awareness for the trip and for the importance of our work in Louisiana.  These teens really get so much throughout the process to the end of the journey; their feedback in our Trip Reflections always show amazing insight and gratitude.”
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Other events to support Y Teens Rebuild New Orleans IV include: A concert at the historic Larcom Theater in Beverly featuring Henri Smith and Charles Neville on February 8th, 50% of ticket sales will be donated to the trip. Charles Neville is a Grammy winner and Henri Smith is both an incredible entertainer and a New Orleans native. The theater is a piece of history and the night will be one to remember. Tickets available throughwww.gimmesound.com


Event Details
Special supplemental "Big Easy" Menu available throughout both Latitude 43 and Minglewood for both lunch and dinner.
Live Entertainment in Minglewood Tavern from 7:30-10:30PM provided by:
The Runaround - Local Ska sensations

Reservations for dinner in the Latitude 43 Dining Room strongly recommended. Lunch reservations in Lat43 also available. Minglewood Tavern is first-come, first-serve.
Latitude 43 Restaurant & Bar
25 Rogers Street Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930 Phone: 978-281-0223
There will also be Raffles for Goods and Services, a 50/50 Raffle and other events planned throughout the evening.
As they say in New Orleans, "Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler". Let the good times roll......

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