Mourning Mardi Gras

My struggle started this year on January 6, aka Epiphany, aka King’s Day, aka the start of Carnival Season.

I was minding my own business, quietly sitting at my desk in a nearly empty office, preparing to eat a slice of king cake I’d purchased on my way into work, silently celebrating in a small way. I’d convinced myself that If we couldn’t have our annual office King Cake competition, I would at least have one tiny sliver of joy. As I was getting ready to take my first bite, I got the call…turns out someone in our office tested positive for COVID, so I needed to head home, and plan to work remotely for the next two weeks. Later that afternoon, as I was taking my “lunch break” to catch up on the news, I watch chaos erupt in our nation’s Capitol. What a strange day, and strange way to kick off one of my very favorite seasons.

It seems that no matter how much I’ve tried to get in the Mardi Gras spirit, I just can’t find the joy. I’ve had a couple of pieces of king cake (compared to the dozens of cakes I’ve normally tasted and rated by now). We’ve been to visit some house floats. (I am so very thankful to the organizations who have worked so hard to make these things happen! My kids are loving the creativity and grandeur!) But recently, as we got some of our decorations down in my husband’s attempt to lift my spirits, I realized exactly what has been making me so sad.

crowd of people on St. Charles during Mardi Gras

The thing is, Mardi Gras is a community holiday. It is a team sport, so to speak.

You see, Mardi Gras means many things to many people. Some people love to costume and walk through the Quarter on Mardi Gras Day. Others spend the weekend before Mardi Gras on the Avenue, setting up in the same block that their family has been parading for years. Still others prefer to ride on a float or dance their way down the route in one of the many dancing troupes. That’s how they Mardi. While I do love a good setup on the Neutral Ground on St. Charles, or a fun time dancing with my girl (and my girls!) during Muses, Mardi Gras for me happens on the actual day. Our house is just a couple of blocks off the Rex route, right at the start, so we’ve taken to celebrating by opening our house as a place to come hang after their parading or partying. I serve up a big pot or two of gumbo, and watch as my house fills with friends (and friends of friends), seats filling with familiar faces, the backyard filling with kids not quite ready to stop playing, the sounds of laughter and tales of parading pitfalls and  and my heart swells. This is what Mardi Gras is for me.

Mardi Gras party after parades

I think that is the reason I’m struggling this year. No matter how you celebrate, you don’t do it alone. Except this year. We’re being asked to celebrate apart. And I’m willing to do that, as hard as it is, for the good of everyone around us. But I can’t pretend my heart isn’t hurting a little (or a lot).

I’m praying that life looks different this time next year. And that we can gather again, standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers and neighbors, dancing in the street with friends, hoisting kids on to ladders as they raise their kids in search of beads and throws. I’m sure that the parades and parties that pop up will be of epic proportion. But for now, I’m going to savor the sadness a little, because it represents the depth of the joy I’m missing.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans with Kids

What about you? Are you feeling the Mardi Gras Blues? Making the most of 2021 celebrations? What are you most looking forward to for Mardi Gras 2022?

Sarah Brichetto
Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Sarah moved to New Orleans in 2009 after graduating from the University of Tennessee (Go Vols!) and is proud to call New Orleans home. She is a CPA and the Finance Director at a local real estate development company. Sarah lives in the Freret neighborhood with her husband, Matt, and their three kids: Elizabeth, Paul and Isaac. You can often find them roaming the neighborhood streets, taking streetcar rides, or enjoying one of the many local parks. In her non-existent free time, Sarah loves to try the newest local restaurants, cook, read, and write.


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