Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Season Begins

I arrived here in New Orleans last March after carnival season. According to Waffle it was even wilder than usual last year due to the Saints winning the super bowl. Since my arrival I have been hearing about the season, traditions and obsession over Mardi Gras. It's tough for an outsider to wrap one's head around all of the trappings and customs involved. Parallels with other cities' festivals would not do Mardi Gras justice. New York's Thanksgiving Day parade and Times Square New Years eve combined Philadelphia's Mummers attended by the Jersey Shore's Fourth of July revelers would still not even come close to the scope of Mardi Gras.

Since 1837 a combining of various religions, politics, social cliques and cultures have evolved into one of the most recognized and unique festivals in the world. This city's identity and life force comes from the season. Without it, the city would be no more special than Memphis or Birmingham. A delicate balance of music, art, spirituality and decadence combine to unite a community that otherwise might implode with racial and economic tension. Carnival, not levees protect New Orleans.
One sign that the season is approaching is the emergence of "King Cakes." An old tradition that I researched on line and found way too much information on.  History of King Cakes  Popular with locals the baked delicacy is as much a part of the season as Pumpkin Pie is to Thanksgiving for the rest of the country. A long held tradition of each cake having a a small plastic baby baked inside, (porcelain dolls were used in ancient times.) Today the custom dictates that whoever gets the slice of cake containing the trinket is obligated to buy next year's King Cake. 

You could never have such a tradition back in New Jersey. With all of the lawyers in Jersey, it would only be a matter of time before massive lawsuits would be filed against bakeries for "Intentionally baking a choking hazard into pastries."

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