Tuesday, February 16, 2021


 P. Bernaigne, "A Carnival Ball"
José Benlliure y Gil, "At the Carnival"

Carnival season officially began on January 6 and ends on Shrove Tuesday or "Fat Tuesday," called Mardi Gras. It is now Shrovetide, when most parishes used to have Forty Hours devotions in order to atone for the excesses of Carnival. Outside of certain exotic places such as New Orleans, carnival is not celebrated to the extent that it once was in the Christian west, when the season was a time of joyful merry-making before undertaking the rigors of Lent. At home, we usually have a "king cake;" HERE is an easy recipe. Amid the festivities, the traditions of the liturgy remind us that Lent is near. Not only Lent approaches, but death as well; the hour of reckoning for each soul is unknown.

"If Ever I Cease To Love" is the theme song of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It is a song which does not make sense, but then neither does love, most of the time.
In a house, in a square in a quadrant
In a street, in a lane, in a road.

Turn to the left on the right hand
You see there my true love's abode

I go there a courting, and cooing to my love like a dove;
And swearing on my bended knee, if ever I cease to love,
May sheep-heads grow on apple trees, if ever I cease to love.


If ever I cease to love, if ever I cease to love,
May the moon be turn'd to green cream cheese,
If ever I cease to love.

Winslow Homer, "Dressing for Carnival"


Alan Phipps said...

There is a significant amount of Catholic and Cajun influence here on the Texas Gulf Coast, and so Mardi Gras is typically celebrated here in Houston and Galveston with parades and festivals, bead throwing, plenty of king cake, etc. The overall tone is much more tame and family-oriented than you'll find nowadays in New Orleans, but due to the destruction created across Galveston due to Hurricane Ike, there will probably be little celebrating this year. My wife and I are going to a Catholic Mardi Gras party next weekend though.

Alexandra said...

I love the carnival season,and I miss the celebrations! When I was in elementary school living in Germany we celebrated with the Germans at Fasching, and then as a teenager in Latin America for their carnival.

I've never been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras because it's too wild for me. Carnival in Latin America, which I remember best is much more of a family affair(albeit Latin American wild style).

elena maria vidal said...

Have fun, Alan. Texas Mardi Gras sounds good to me.

elena maria vidal said...

Alexandra, your experiences of different ways of celebrating Carnival are fascinating!

May said...

Splendid pictures!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you!

Julygirl said...

Considering the kind of winter we have been experiencing throughout the Country we all needed a little Carnival 'right this very minute'!

Christina said...

It's gratifying to hear about folks in the North celebrating Mardi Gras - it really is a holiday for all Catholics. I am a Southerner transplanted to Indiana, and last year I attempted to bake my very own king cake. It was so great I did it again this year, brought it to work and shared with my co-workers. They may not know much about Mardi Gras, but being grad students they do like free food!

The recipe I make is more complicated, but the results are worth it. It is really more like a bread than a cake, with its yeast-raised dough. The store-bought cakes I was accustomed to are very sweet. The homemade version is very similar to brioche, lightly frosted and just sweet enough to enjoy. If I hadn't come here where they aren't sold in stores, I never would have discovered how much better the homemade version is.

I have been given to understand by Louisiana friends that the Mardi Gras often seen on TV is far from representative of Mardi Gras in Louisiana, or even in most of New Orleans outside Bourbon Street. Every little town has its parade. Lots of the parades in the greater New Orleans area are really family affairs. Laissez le bon temps roulez!

Elisabeth said...

Christina - yes, I believe N'Awlins is in a class all by itself when it comes to Carnival season. I spent a Carnival season in a small cajun town about 20 miles SE of The Big Easy, ten years ago, and I can tell you that the small towns have very wholesome, family-centered celebrations - not at ALL like the bawdy behaviors one sees advertised from the French Quarter.

Of course, not all the krewes or events in Vieux Carre (sorry I haven't figured out to do accents, here) are really notorious, either.

elena maria vidal said...

Sounds like fun, Laura!

Flambeaux said...

Having grown up in New Orleans and now living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I've always tried to bring a little Carnival with me.

We're making a King's Cake, too, although we'll go with the classic brioche rather than the contemporary super-sweet cinnamon roll.

We're having a priest who is a friend of ours to supper on Tuesday evening, with a ragout made of pork shoulder served over rice for the main course.

As to the infamous excesses...most of what gets televised in NOLA or winds up on YouTube is all about drunken tourists in the Quarter.

I don't know if the parade routes, even in Metairie, are family-friendly any more. It's been too long since I've been home.

I have friends in Mobile who've invited us down. One of these years, we'll accept their offer.

As much as I'd like to participate in a 40 Hours devotion, I'd be happy if the parishes near us would at least hear confessions in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday.

I remember a couple of priests I knew when I was growing up in Metairie would stake out convenient trees on the neutral ground and put their violet stoles on during the parades. Some people would comment on the "great costume". Others, moved by grace, would approach sheepishly and come away from the tree shriven. That was in the 1980s so, Deo gratias, I at least grew up recognizing the connection between Carnival and Lent.

For as bad as somethings in my childhood and formation during the Silly Season were, I'm grateful for that memory, among others; lights shining in the darkness that the darkness could not overcome.