Mardi Gras, which in translation means “Greasy Tuesday”, is the last day of the carnival, preceding the Great Lent, and is celebrated in many catholic countries of the world. As a matter of fact, it is the analogue of Russian Pancake week, just instead of pancakes there are pastries, and the festivals are turned into splendid carnivals.
This holiday came to America from the French colonizers, who never forgot their traditions in foreign countries. After the Spanish had kindly asked the French to leave the territory of the present Louisiana state, the holiday was under a ban, and appeared only after these lands were included in the territory of the USA.
In spite of the fact that carnival isn’t a typical even for the USA, the carnival in the French block of New Orleans became famous as one of the most spectacular and colorful in the world. And it is the longest one, too.
The holiday lasts for two weeks. Every day at least one costume parade with the participation of musicians and cars with figures is held. Every procession is prepared by a company of like-minded people in a strict secret, often with the slogan “The best free show in the world”. In the evenings there are masquerades and noisy parties in the city. It is not surprising that these two weeks the city is filled with tourists and the holiday itself is not a bad source of income for the owners of hotels and restaurants, and all the people engaged in the industry of hospitality.
The New Orleans hotels are reserved for two carnival weeks six months before. By the way, they have to take care in advance not only about a hotel, but also about a convenient place to watch each of the parades. A place on the sidewalk, in the line of which the procession will move, has to be reserved 2-3 hours before it starts.
These days you can come across a lot of famous people in the city.
The most memorizing procession is exactly on the Mardi Gras day, which is, incidentally, a non working day. On that day not only the participants of the parade are in costumes, but the spectators also have to invent maximum crazy dresses for themselves not to be noticed in the crowd.
For example, this lady wishes to be called exceptionally “Madam Butterfly”.
During the procession beads, coins and small toys are thrown from the cars to the crowds of spectators, who are all happy to catch them and beautify themselves by the caught trophies.
In order to get the main trophy – the coconut thrown from the cortege it is necessary to attract the attention of the thrower. For this purposes girls usually make use of quite a simple way – they just undress their breast.
In the processions, besides many jazz musicians, members of different charitable organization and clubs take part. Among them you can see a very popular parade, presented by Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
The so-called “Indians” play an important role in the carnivals. Not only the aboriginal population of New Orleans is called that way, but also the black people dressed in hand-made costumes, mainly consisting of a great number of feathers.
The roots of this tradition goes to the far past when the aboriginal population of America fought for its independence.
The official dessert of the holiday is the “Three Kings’ Pie”, more exactly, the Magi who brought the gifts from all the parts of the world to the baby Jesus. The pie looks like a multicolor pretzel with cinnamon. A small figure of Christ is hidden in the dough and the person who gets it will have to gather friends to the holiday dinner next year. In the streets all the people may also help themselves with the king’s gift. The red-green-gold pies are sold everywhere. In spite of their somewhat poisonous color they are delicious. The usual stuff inside them is cinnamon, berries and custard. In that stuff also a tiny figure of Jesus is hidden and the person who gets it must buy a pie next day again.
The show is crowned by the election of the king and the queen. There is a legend that the great count Aleksey Aleksandrovich, the Russian throne heir’s brother who was in love with an American actress once came to her to New Orleans just at the eve of the carnival. And then the organizers learning about the high guest constructed one more platform with the title “Rex”. The great count became the first king of the carnival, and since that time there was a tradition to choose crowned persons every year.