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Mardi Gras

When I was a little girl, my Granny would send us a big box. This box arrived sometimes after the New Year. It came before Easter. It was full of candy. The Mardis Gras box. My parent grew up in Mobile, Alabama. Mobile, like so many cities and towns along the Gulf coast, have a tradition rooted in Catholic and French traditions. Mardis Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is actually several weeks of parties and parades. The parades are connected to different social groups. My grandfather, Joe Hall was in the Crew of Columbus. It was a huge parade that ended in a fancy black tie formal ball. I have pictures of my PawPaw in a top hat and morning coat on parade day. I also have pictures of him and my Granny (and later my own parents) in elegant tuxedos with white gloves and tails and full length ball gowns….and the prerequisite Mardi Gras mask.

When my mom was a little girl, her mother made her living sewing elaborate satin Mardi Gras costumes for the parades and ball gowns for the ladies. Every year, she sewed and hand beaded a new mask to match her own gown. Everything was beaded and sequined by hand. My Granny was in the Pierrettes, the ladies “crew” and they had their own parade, too.

I remember Mardis Gras as a little girl. We were only there a few times. It was once that they threw all kinds of things from the floats: candy, beads, real metal coins and MOON PIES. We would scramble around in the streets (ie gutters) grabing candy and treats. Mardi Gras was a family time. It was not always the raunch and debauchery of what is now New Orleans.

Most years we were in Miami for Mardi Gras. My Granny did the scrambling for candy and sent us the box. It always seemed so huge. A dozen moonpies, beads for dress up and candy. There would also be a large Dandee bread bag filled to capacity with SHELLED pecans. Anyone who knows, pecans are slow to shell. This was of the day of hand crackers. Not mechanical or electric crackers. It was a labor of love. My Granny sent her daughter a box of treasure every Lent. My mother would put the pecans in the big freezer and use them sparingly throughout the year. Sometimes, I think she eat them right from the freezer. It was not until I was older that I realized that pecans were a regional food and quite expensive to buy at the store.

Next week starts the Lenten season. Tuesday is Mardi Gras. We “fatten up” and celebrate, because the next day is Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time of sacrifice. It is a time of reflection. Lots of people give up chocolate or beer until Good Friday. I try to make a Lenten sacrifice of something I want to give up forever. About 8 or so years ago, I gave up pessimism. It sounds strange, but I was a “glass half empty” kinda girl. That Lent changed me. I am less fearful, less anxious, less doubtful, less negative in my thoughts and in my words.

I hope to discern some kind of sacrificial offering that could have the same profound impact on me as a person….because I will not give up chocolate. I would rather give up gossiping for the rest of my life than chocolate for the next 40 days!

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3 comments

  1. Mardi Gras – I LOVE IT!!!!!! wish I could go every year. Momma saw that we never missed a parade and the chandelier in our LR would be draped with serpentine from the 1st parade ’til Ash Wednesday. Moon Pies & beads came much later than when I was little – we got Hershey Kisses, Bubble Gum, rolls of serpentine, boxes of Cracker Jacks (they hurt when they hit you in the head) peanut butter candies, bean bags, and lots of hard candies. Serpentine was the best thing to get –

    Momma a Joe would attend 11 formal balls during Mardi Gras – how they did it and worked too is wondrous – but they thrived on it.

    Joe was in the Crew of Columbus (not related at all to the Knights of Columbus), the Stripers and the Mystics of Time at one time, but dropped out of all but the Crew because of costs to buy throws and costumes.

    Momma rode the first Polka Dots parade, but found it too expensive – she stayed in the Pierrettes til she died – but they didn’t parade, only a ball. At first the ladies org. didn’t parade…the Polka Dots was the 1st to do so. Now there are many ladies and several that are “co-ed” – men and women/or couples.

    My memories of Mardi Gras are treasured – and if I could, I would still be scrambling in the gutter for whatever came off the floats….”Throw me somethin’ mister” —

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  2. Here’s a link to the Mobile Paper so you can show the boys pics of Mardi Gras parades..

    Also meant to say…on the Saturday and Monday before and Mardi Grad Day on Tuesday we’d spend all day downtown…and we kids would “run free” – we’d have money to ride the amusement rides and get snacks, but roamed from one amusement site to another, (fair rides and food places all over town in vacant lots and parking lots), then back to the K of C or the Elks Club (wherever the parents were for the day) – and we would check in once in a while and let them know we were OK (or try and get more money for rides, etc). We always were where the parents were when the parades started.
    Parents wouldn’t dare allow kids to do that today. We had so much fun…and it was safe, and it’s too bad that it can’t still be that way.

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