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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Mardi Gras traditions keep rich history alive

    From the famed Bourbon Street to the parade routes of Bacchus and Rex, Mississippi State students enjoy the freedom and revelry of Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras season has roots with beginnings traced back to a French nobleman and his crew of explorers who conducted the celebration before founding the city of New Orleans around 1699.
    “Mardi Gras originated from catholic traditions of celebrating before the Lenten season of fasting,” Gordon Bohn, a Catholic senior engineering major from Pass Christian, said.
    Mardi Gras, literally Fat Tuesday, falls on the Tuesday that is 46 days before Easter. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the fasting period of Lent. The Mardi Gras season begins Jan. 6, the first day of Epiphany and the twelfth night after Christmas. As tradition mandates, the Twelfth Night Ball officially opens the Mardi Gras season.
    Today, Mardi Gras has moved from the private celebrations and balls of old to the biggest public party in the world involving parades, soirees and treks up and down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
    Although the times have changed with technology, the Mardi Gras traditions stay with the originally tried and true methods. The famous lighting of the way for Fat Tuesday’s evening parades down Canal Street still employs individuals to carry the hot metal torches before the floats on the darkened streets for change, dublooms or the now famous moon pies that are tossed in the streets at their feet.
    The parade season officially begins on the second Friday before the Mardi Gras season. At the beginning of the season, the parades are held on weekends only, and, on Fat Tuesday, nine parades are held, with the biggest parade being Rex. The king of the parade, also called Rex, is usually a prominent New Orleans native and is considered the king of Mardi Gras.
    The parades each have a theme and are complete with a king, queen and royal court. The court rides on floats in the parade and throws trinkets such as beads, doubloons, small toys or candy to the waiting crowds.
    The most sought-after prizes of the season are beads. The original beads that were thrown from the floats were glass, but were changed to plastic in the 1960s to prevent injury.
    “Mardi Gras is the most fun time of the year in New Orleans,” Gulfport native Dana Dawson said. “My friends and I usually go to New Orleans to watch the parades and catch beads.
    “We also go to the parades on the coast,” Dawson said. “My favorite is the Pass (Christian) Parade. It is the biggest and most fun on the Coast.”
    As lavish as the parades are, the city of New Orleans spares no expense as the decorations are arranged and displayed during the season.
    Traditional Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and gold. These colors were chosen by the first Rex, Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanov Aleksan-Drovich. The Russian Duke chose these colors to represent justice, faith and power respectively. Today, the colors can be seen throughout the city as symbols of the revelry to come.
    Dawson also said she loves the colorful decorations in the coastal cities. She said the colors were bright especially in the winter and that she has worn her purple, green and gold boa down Bourbon Street for the festivities.
    Along with the lavish parades, New Orleans has exclusive societies which plan the season. These societies are very elite, and New Orleans natives hold much reverence for them.
    Bohn said the elite aspect of Mardi Gras is not as prevelant or reveared on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast as it is in New Orleans.
    Playing on the Mardi Gras color scheme is another tradition of the carnival season-the king cake. The king cake, a favorite dessert of Mardi Gras, has become a sensation in itself. The delectable cake comes complete with a small plastic baby hidden inside, and, traditionally, the lucky finder is responsible for bringing the cake to next year’s celebration.
    Another Mardi Gras tradition is that of the Mardi Gras Indians. The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised of African-American New Orleans natives. The Indians have paraded for over a century in colorful, beaded costumes of intricate design and excellent craftsmanship. Complete with feathers and playing drums, the Indians create the intense sound that is the musical backdrop of the festival.
    From Bourbon Street to Bacchus parade, the Mardi Gras season opens its arms to anyone who will join the revelry of the season. The party continues non-stop until Ash Wednesday, when next year’s preparations begin early that morning to make sure the next King and Queen give spectators an even more spectacular show.

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    Mardi Gras traditions keep rich history alive