Every year, just as the rest of the nation is winding down after the 1-2-3 punch of Thanksgiving-Christmas/Hanukkah-New Year’s, we in New Orleans are just getting started. The festivities begin on Twelfth Night with the Phunny Phorty Phellows riding the streetcar down St. Charles, heralding the start of Carnival season. The night is also Joan of Arc’s birthday which is celebrated with a parade through the French Quarter. Though not everyone attends events that day, most offices (and many homes) commemorate the season with King Cake. In the last few years, King Cake has become the focus of parties with people bringing cakes from their favorite bakeries and sampling them all.
In our home, Twelfth Night’s passing means turning the Saints’ Who Dat wreath into a Mardi Gras wreath and switching the tree decorations from Christmas to Carnival. Over the next few weeks, Mardi Gras flourishes will adorn homes and shops, bleachers will be assembled along the parade route and Krewes and other organizations will hold their annual balls. As a member of the Pussyfooters (120 women over-30 who dance in the parades wearing pink corsets and white combat boots), I’m making time to personalize my uniform and learn the dances we’ll be performing at our annual Blush Ball. Featuring Big Sam’s Funky Nation, DJ Ronnie Roux and MC Fresh Johnson, Blush Ball proceeds benefit victims of domestic abuse through Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Our ball is January 20 and tickets are available HERE.
Throughout the city, bands and dancers are practicing, uniforms and costumes are being prepared, floats are being decorated and dues are being paid – all in preparation for the largest free party in the world. Mardi Gras is a community event and a family affair. Neighbors come together to pay for their Krewes to dazzle and entertain with colorful floats, bands, dancers, horses, stilt-walkers and more as well as generous offerings of beads and throws. The riders in the floats even pay for the police and (amazingly quick and efficient) clean up. Carnival is a labor of love and an expression of our community and its culture.
For the Pussyfooters, preparations began as far back as last June when we selected our next class of “Kittens.” Since then, we’ve been choreographing new dances, practicing our routines and marching techniques, creating new uniforms, performing at non-profit and community events and planning our ball – all to kick off the Mardi Gras parade season where we will appear in 5 parades including Muses, Nyx and Thoth.
With Twelfth Night falling on January 6th and Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) landing on February 28th, Carnival is a marathon done at a sprint’s pace. The last two weeks are nearly relentless with up to 5 parades a day and balls for many of those Krewes – some until 5am. And though we’ll take a short break from parading after that, the St. Patrick’s parades begin on March 10th for a week and are followed immediately after by St. Joseph’s Day and the Mardi Gras Indians’ Super Sunday parade. Then festival season kicks in…
Enjoy the ornaments made mostly from medallions and other throws we’ve caught over the years. Below the photo array, you can also find a video of the painting I did featuring some of the ornaments pictured.