Mardi Gras, Houma, Louisiana

Sunday, February 19, 2012

After a soggy day yesterday and a good nights sleep at The Walmart Arms, we got up to a very nice partly cloudy, warn morning.  It was our desire to see a Mardi Gras parade today.  We grabbed a coffee and a newspaper at Starbucks and found that we were in luck.  The rain had cancelled some parades yesterday and so there would be even more today.  So we set out in search of a good place to watch.

Around here Mardi Gras is a major holiday.  It’s second only to Christmas in the enthusiasm with which people celebrate.  Until now, whenever I thought about Mardi Gras, I thought about Fat Tuesday and New Orleans.  And in fact Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, but Fat Tuesday is only the last day of Mardi Gras.  The Mardi Gras season or the Carnival season as it is also called begins on Epiphany, January 6, also sometimes called twelfth night, because it is 12 days after Christmas.  From Epiphany to Fat Tuesday there are a series of wild parties and parades at which people get wild and crazy.  There is much drunkenness and debauchery.  It all culminates in the wildest and craziest parties on the final day, Fat Tuesday.  Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent.  Lent goes until Easter, and traditionally you have to be especially good during Lent to honor the sacrifice of Christ.  It may also be to atone for the debauchery of Mardi Gras.  Mardi Gras is celebrated to varying degrees anywhere you find French Catholics.  In the US that is, of course, Louisiana.  I have never seen more Catholic churches in my life.  They are everywhere and most have a cemetery next door.  And speaking of cemeteries.  They are very different here.  The graves are above ground, because if they were underground they would also be underwater.  If you dig a hole more than a foot deep around here, you need a pump.

During the morning, before a parade, these funny old busses without tops drive around with loud  music blaring and people in colorful costumes dancing and shouting, presumably to rouse enthusiasm for the upcoming parade.  Then about 30 minutes before the parade begins, the police turn on sirens and sped down the road followed by 6 or 8 schools busses carrying high school bands and cheerleaders and dance teams and such. It is very odd.

Lucy and I drove to where we thought the parades would begin.  We found a place to park in a JC Penney parking lot.  By the time we figured out that we were in the staging area for the bands and floats and such it was too late.  Before we could leave, the police blocked off the exits and we were stuck there for the next 3 or 4 hours.  It actually worked out perfect.  We were about a block before the beginning of the parade, which means we did not have to deal with the crowds and we got to see all the parade.  Some people came walking by and told us that they would not throw the beads until the actual start of the parade in the next block.  That was okay with us because we were not terribly interested in getting a bunch of plastic beads thrown at us anyway.  Oh, I didn’t tell you about the beads.  It seems that the tradition is for the people on the floats to throw beads and things to the people watching the parades.  Anyway we did not expect anyone to throw beads to us, but in fact they did.  I think they mostly liked LaKisha.  They threw beads and stuffed animals and little footballs and even a key chain. We ended up lugging about 3 shopping bags full of stuff away when it was over.  LaKisha was quite a hit.  At one point a police woman stopped her car which was in the parade, got out and came over to play with her.  LaKisha has many new toys.  She has a snake, a lion, a purple bear with green pants, a brown bear with jeans and much more.  I snagged a nerf baseball which I intend to give to my friend, the baseball fan.

So we had a very good time watching two consecutive parades.  The photos will speak to for themselves.  After that we found our way to a cajun restaurant.  Lucy had seafood gumbo and I had catfish and fried okra.  We also had hushpuppies, which was a first for Lucy.  It was very good.  Then back to the Walmart Motel and in for the night.

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