JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I know, dear readers - it's unusual for us to have two chats back-to-back! But today is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival, Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday, and I really wanted everyone to have a chance to share their memories of celebration.
Like Hallowe'en, Mardi Gras is a festival that's been pretty thoroughly separated from its religious origins. In medieval Europe, it was a time to be shriven (go to confession, which for many was a once-a-year thing) and then to enjoy all the foods that would be forbidden during the coming forty days of Lent: meat, eggs and dairy products. People then and now, however, rarely turn down the chance to get their party on, so Shrove Tuesday expanded from a day, to a week, to a month in some spots, with activities from the always-popular pancake eating to parades to blackout drinking. Its popularity has only increased in the past few decades, becoming, like Halloween, an excuse for a raucous adult fling.
My most, shall we say, celebratory Mardi Gras were in Washington, DC, where I went to grad school and had my first adult job. DC, land of universities, internships, and glamourous low-paying government positions, has an enormous number of young, single adults, and any holiday that can be celebrated with Jello shots inevitably leads to teeming masses filling the streets of Georgetown. One year, I recall a great deal of singing and dancing followed by a trip beneath a flaming limbo pole set up (utterly illegally, I'm sure) in the back garden of someone's group house. In my memory, I limbo'd beneath it with great agility; I suspect in reality it was more of a stagger and crawl before getting poured into a taxi in the wee hours of the morning.
Nowadays, it's all about the pancakes, as my church has a pancake supper followed by a Dixieland Jazz performance every Shrove Tuesday. We have a nice time chatting, it raises money for the youth group, and we're all home abed by nine. Sigh. I never made it to the most famous celebration in the US, New Orleans' Mardi Gras, and I fear that time has passed. The thought of spending vacation time being kept awake by noisy drunk twenty-somethings has lost its appeal.
How about you, Reds? Do you have any memories, bacchanalian or benign, of Mardi Gras?
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I have to admit the holiday was only something on the periphery of life until a few years ago, when we discovered the Hubby's father's side of the family is Creole and from New Orleans. So, now in our house it's all great music, great food—crab ettoufée, sazeracs, and King cake—and some second line dancing after dinner with the newly found cousins. Good times! And it must end at midnight _exactly_.
RHYS BOWEN: When I was growing up we always had pancakes on what was called Pancake Day in England. Thin crepes cooked in butter, drizzled with lemon and sprinkled with sugar. Fabulous. It was the only time in the year we had pancakes. For some reason my mother thought it was not right to make them any other time. When I moved to the US and found I could have crepes every Sunday for breakfast--Freedom!!
But I've always wanted to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Maybe some year I'll get around to it.
HALLIE EPHRON: I hate crowds and I hate drunks. I could get into the food and the beads, I suppose.
LUCY BURDETTE: Tee hee, Hallie, you make me chuckle. I think we would all enjoy the party that Susan is having! The food sounds wonderful. I did go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans one year when I was in graduate school. We borrowed the department's research Winnebago and drove over from Gainesville. (Or was it just a psychology conference but it felt like Mardi Gras?) Anyway, we had a blast. Though there was an incident involving the sheering off of the window on the roof of the RV. I don't believe they loaned it out to graduate students after that...
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have absolutely no Mardi Gras cred. None. I have been to New Orleans, but not since I was a teenager with parents. No partying... I've had pancake suppers on Shrove Tuesday, but it's not a tradition for us. Does having seen The Big Easy count?
(I want to have Susan's party!)
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Coming to Susan's! But going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras...yeesh. I love coffee and beignets--can we go with that?
JULIA: Clearly, the Reds need to make a non-Mardi Gras trip either to Susan's or to New Orleans to enjoy the fabulous food sans college students. But for the part day itself...Carnival in Rio, anyone?
How about you, dear readers? What are your Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras experiences? Tell us all, and laissez les bon temps rouler!