• Mardi Gras Season Starts Soon!

    December 1, 2016 | News
  • MARDI GRAS 2017

    This year's Carnival season (which absolutely nobody calls the Carnival season) starts on Friday, Jan. 6, and ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras day), Feb. 28.  New Orleanians may celebrate the start of the season on Jan. 6 because of a drunken king cake party in 1870.  But before we go into detail about Jan. 6, 1870, here's what you should know about Jan. 6, 2017.

    Starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday, you are free to say "Happy Mardi Gras" to the bus driver, in the same way you might start saying "Merry Christmas" on the first day after Thanksgiving.

    Starting Jan. 6, you are also free to wear purple green and gold, the ghastly colors of Mardi Gras.  But start out slow.  In the workplace, your fellow employees should not be asked to endure your purple, green and gold bowtie or scarf until, say, Endymion Saturday (Feb. 25).

    Starting Jan. 6, you are free -- obliged, even -- to eat king cake (round pastries with ghastly purple, green, and gold sprinkles) whenever you encounter it.

    Truth is, these days you'll see king cakes for sale pretty much all year round. However, purists view purchasing king cakes before Jan. 6 as a demonstration of gauche impatience.  Sort of like shooting off fireworks on July 3.  Or opening the Christmas presents a day early.

    It's no big deal.  A cultural misdemeanor.

    Traditionally Kings Day, aka Epiphany, aka Twelfth Night, is a time of feasting.  So, back in 1870, one of the very first Mardi Gras clubs decided to have a parade and party on that night.  They called themselves the Twelfth Night Revelers.

    According to a 2009 NOLA.com story titled "A History of Mardi Gras" by Becky Retz, the Revelers employed jesters to serve king cake to young ladies at the party.  Back then, king cakes had a gilded bean hidden inside (because pink plastic babies were very, very scarce in those days).  Whichever young lady got the lucky bean would be crowned queen of the Revelers. But, according to Retz, the Revelers' jesters went off the rails. 

    "It seems the fools were drunk," Retz wrote, "and instead of presenting the cake, they either dropped it on or threw it at the women."

    Oh you guys!

    And there you have it. Since the Twelfth Night Revelers' fateful drunken king cake party, New Orleans has apparently begun the Mardi Gras season on Jan. 6.  At least that seems to be the answer.

    Happy Mardi Gras!