Let’s Go to the Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday falls on the day before the beginning of Lent, a period of self-deprivation for Christians that lasts 40 days. This series covers the New Orleans Mardi Gras in 2019 and 2020, the two events occur within a 12-month period.

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras celebration dates back to the 1700s, it is a day of self-indulgence and pleasure. Boisterous crowds fill the narrow streets, people void of inhibitions bare their bodies for decorative beads thrown from balconies above; quid-pro-quo and a “upstairs-downstairs” power structure are the norms. To some, such displays exude hedonism akin to that of the biblical sin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

A first-time attendee at Mardi Gras is inevitably bewildered by the sights and sounds and bewitched by the rituals between beads-throwers and beads-seekers. One thing that becomes apparent quickly is the smiles on everyone’s faces, they are perhaps more notable than body parts and wild costumes; the pure, child-like joy when someone catches a strand of beads is contagious. This is the allure of Mardi Gras.

The 2020 season takes place against the backdrop of COVID-19 at the end of February. The United States, under-prepared yet overly-confident, continues business as usual without any hint of impending doom. In New Orleans, the sign of trouble amongst the celebratory crowds is satirical, social distancing is as foreign as Wuhan in China and a sense of invincibility permeates the air. This is, after all, America.

No one knows what the next Mardi Gras will be like, but one can be sure that this is not the end.

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