Pardi Gras: the good, the bad, the ugly

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

It’s a time for indulgence, a time for friends to gather together and a time to live behind a mask, as if you were someone else.

Mardi Gras, historically, is the kick-off to the Lenten season. It’s the 40 days before Easter, a time when many Christians give up something that has been holding them down or something they feel they cannot live without. I usually give up either chocolate or meat.

This year, I should probably give up tequila.

Students from all across campus come from cities that are internationally known for their Mardi Gras festivities. New Orleans and Mobile hold two of the largest celebrations of Mardi Gras in the world. I was born and bred in Mobile, Ala., a city where the Pardi Gras festivities begin about two months before the actual holiday. New Orleans, from what I understand, starts its celebration quite early as well.

I have seen it all: men clothed in sparkly costumes chugging mimosas by the gallon, children begging the paraders for stuffed animals, teenagers sneaking shots out of flasks in hopes their parents don’t see and I have even heard the infamous phrase “throw me something mister” shouted across the streets.

To many who have never celebrated the tradition of Mardi Gras, it can look like a mess of booze, beads and bad behavior. I’m not saying that all three B’s do not play a part in the festivities, but there is so much more that can be discovered.

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

As a kid, I always attended Mardi Gras parades with my parents and three siblings. It was a family affair. Typically, my parents would take us to a few of their favorite parades, drop us back off by the house and then slip away to an extravagant ball with their closest friends.

My mom would be dolled up in gorgeous shades of purple and gold, and my dad would be dressed to the 9’s in tails and a bow tie. Being the parents of four active children, Mardi Gras was the only time of the year
my parents had the opportunity to have a night to themselves and had the time to make themselves look glamorous. See? There can be a little romance found in all of the debauchery.

Another thing people forget to mention as Mardi Gras season rolls around is how amazing the food is. When I think of Mardi Gras I immediately smell corndogs, gumbo and of course, King Cake. If you are from Mobile, you snag a King Cake from Pollman’s Bakery; and if you are from Louisiana, Randazzo’s is the place to go.

These delicate delights are filled with cinnamon, icing and if you go to the right place, cream cheese. They are colored in purple, green and gold dyes and topped with sugar crystals. If your mouth isn’t watering right now, you are probably reading this wrong.

Each cake has a plastic baby hidden inside and whoever receives the slice with the baby is to buy the next King Cake or host the next King Cake party. Mardi Gras allows for a little trinket to create fellowship among friends.

Last but certainly not least, the parades that take place during Mardi Gras are really what draws in the large crowds. If I had a dime for every time a strand of beads or a moon pie hit me in the face, I would be one rich lady. Nothing beats crowding the streets to await the arrival of lavishly decorated floats that are loaded with men and women in loud costumes eager to toss beads, moon pies, peanuts and other toys your way. It’s wasteful and wonderful and I love it.

I must say, though, that Mardi Gras isn’t all sweet and family-friendly. The streets are crowded, your hands get dirty from food and beads and often the horses in the parades leave undesirable trails throughout the route. Mardi Gras brings out the best and the worst animalistic sides of people.

People drink too much and do things they regret, tops come off in hopes of receiving the largest beads and you’ll always have that one friend who tries making out with the king of the parade in hopes to get an invite to the party that night. Mardi Gras is the only time of year you can indulge in food, drinks and flirtation without an ounce of guilt.

So this year, grab a crew of your craziest classmates, head down to the Gulf Coast and let the good times roll. The headache from too many mimosas and the five pounds you’ll gain after one too many slices of King Cake will all be worth it, I swear.

But no matter what the billboards in New Orleans say, don’t drink Taaka. It’s not vodka; it’s rubbing alcohol.