What’s A Mardi Gras?

When it was announced that Mardi Gras 2022 would happen, I almost didn’t believe it, and I didn’t dare mention it to my kids for fear of disappointing them in case it got canceled. But when the first parade of the season rolled, I brought it up casually: “Are you guys ready to go to Mardi Gras parades?”

My almost five year old responded with an enthusiastic YES, but my two and a half year old just stared at me and said, “What’s a Mardi Gras?”

What’s a Mardi Gras?

What’s a Mardi Gras???

I remembered that he was only five months old for his first, and last, Mardi Gras, and thus had no memory of the parades. He had no memory of being strapped to me in a baby carrier, cheeks pink and raw from the cold, while I deflected beads coming our way. He had no memory of giggling at the brightly lit, colorful floats that rolled past his shining little eyes. No memory of the giant headphones to protect his ears from the jubilant noise of the marching bands.

How could I explain it to him?

Sure, I could tell him about the floats, about the beads, the bands, the king cake, and the dancing in the streets. I could tell him about the electric shift in mood once you hear those first sirens, however far away, and you know the parade is coming. I could tell him about the smells and the sounds. I could write a love letter to Mardi Gras pages upon pages long. I think everyone could write a love letter to this season. And I think there would be a beautiful similarity between everyone’s reasons on why they love Mardi Gras. 

But I think there would also be so many beautiful differences– beyond the things we all know and love, we would all have some unique answers on what Mardi Gras is to us.

For me, it’s my nephew in his dinosaur costume, entertaining kids in the street.

It’s the smorgasbord of food that we all graze on during the day, but specifically the Manchu fried chicken my family eats.

It’s making sure we catch at least one spear– an old joke my husband started– to “win” Mardi Gras for the season, and shamelessly using our kids to get that darn spear.

It’s the frantic catch-all that our trunk becomes during the whole season, where I just throw anything and everything I think we might possibly need for the parade route. Light jacket, heavy coat, extra chairs, footballs, frisbees, water bottles, extra bags for beads, change of shoes, tissue packets, snacks on snacks… JUST IN CASE.

It’s letting strangers in to use the bathroom at our family’s parade-route house and trying to explain which of the two bathrooms are suitable for which of their restroom needs…

It’s the absolute magic of the garbage trucks and street sweepers that I never knew existed before I had kids– what my son would arguably consider the best part of the parade– and knowing we cannot and will not leave until the very last bead has been swept up and their flashing lights have finally faded from our view.

And there is so much more. There are so many more little details that make Mardi Gras… a Mardi Gras. And he may not remember now, but he’ll learn.

So tell me… what makes a Mardi Gras, specifically, for you?

Erica Tran
Erica lives in Kenner with her husband Michael and her three sons, Benjamin, Joshua, and Elijah. After graduating from UL Lafayette with a degree in advertising and landing her dream job, she left her chosen field and now works part time as an administrative assistant for a Catholic retreat movement. She spends the rest of her time at home with her boys, finding lost toys and actively ignoring various messes. In 2019, she self-published her first book, The Sister. There's not a lot of free time between working, reading and writing, and chasing her kids, but in those moments she's usually sprawled on the sofa in casual denial about just how messy her house is.


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