Mar 5, 2019
A brief history of the Mardi Gras celebration, courtesy of a hotel blog post:
Mardi Gras was first brought to New Orleans by French settlers in 1699. The first party was recorded to been held at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Later accounts of celebrations in New Orleans in the 1700s include mention of music, cross-dressing, music and masks. The inclusion of parades years later became a big part of the celebrations.
In 1856, New Orleans' first “krewe”, the Mystic Krewe of Comus, was founded. It was created after six Anglo-American businessmen decided they needed a more elevated way to celebrate Mardi Gras. The Krewe of Comus brought elaborate floats, costumes and music to the scene. They also brought torches, or “flambeaux,” which are still a staple of night parades today. The Mardi Gras colors of purple, yellow and green were originally taken from the Rex Krewe, who came into the parade scene in 1872.
Another big part of Mardi Gras is eating good, so look out for specials of gumbo, jambalaya and other Nola favorites in local restaurants. And that colorful bread eaten before Ash Wednesday? King’s Bread is circular bread made out of brioche and is typically baked with a small bean or plastic baby inside. Whoever gets the bread with the little bean may be “king” for the day, but has to provide the next year’s King Bread.
And oh yes – the MUSIC! New Orleans is one great steaming pot of musical gumbo, with sources from music the African slaves brought through the Caribbean; French-Canadian sounds that would not be out of place at the Grand Old Opry; and what we now think of as good ol’ Soul, R&B and Rock & Roll. The jazz comes from brass bands, from those imitating what became unfortunately tagged as “Dixieland” and even modern improvisation. It is, simply put; the best scene one can hope to find in a few square miles.
If you can’t go to the Mardi Gras, the next best thing is to whip up some jambalaya and turn up Podcast 670 nice and loud. Dance around your kitchen. Let the good times roll, baby!
Because tomorrow is Lent, and the tradition of abstinence begins.
Musical selections from a handful of Nevilles, a couple of Marsalises and more, include:
Wynton Marsalis – “New Orleans Bump”
Wycliffe Gordon – “Lil’ Liza Jane”
Art Neville and Aaron Neville – “Go to the Mardi Gras”
Jambalaya Brass Band – “Congo Square”
Kermit Ruffins – “Monday Night in New Orleans”
Bob Brookmeyer – “King Porter Stomp”
Cyril Neville – “Second Line Soca”
The Meters – “Hand Clapping Song”
Jon Batiste – “Saint James Infirmary Blues”
Rebirth Brass Band – “What Goes Around Comes Around”
Ivan Neville & Cris Jacobs – “Dance for Me Mama”
Delfeayo Marsalis – “Put Your Right Foot Forward”
Wild Magnolias – “Handa Wanda”
Dr. John – “Sweet Home New Orleans”