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Posts Tagged ‘Mardi Gras’

wish for us all to be as happy and blissful as this ceramic-figured window dressing in New Orleans during Mardi Gras:


Thanks, God, for seasons of bliss, mirth and joy.

Please, Lord, help us figure out how to carry this feeling into every dark corner, crevasse and cave…that we may endure and prevail over any hardship we may encounter. 

In this Lenten season, God, please help us to find the happiness and victory that come as a result of the reason for this season. In our imperfections, may we inch towards lauging in the face of fear. 

Let us humble ourselves at the lightness of life which arises out of cruel death itself. Let us emerge from the ashen grave with victory!

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This week’s Photo Challenge involves a trio of shots which include the subject in general, two elements interacting with one another and a close up.

Mardi Gras is in full swing here in the Gulf Coast and offers no shortage of colorful subjects for such a challenge.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

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One of the floats in one of last night’s Mardi Gras parades, getting ready to roll!

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Two maskers on the float, discussing strategies for throwing beads, Moon Pies, doubloons, stuffed animals and other treasures to the crowds. Yes, there is an art to throwing, as well as catching particular trinkets!

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A friendly masker poses for a close up.
Let’s hope he remembers to throw the beads in his right hand and not the drink in his left hand!

Hey, God…thank You for a season of celebration, of community and good times. Thanks for the joy Mardi Gras brings to the faces of the little children, the big children and the tourists. May we remember that we are ultimately celebrating You.

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Baby’s first Mardi Gras:

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A week ago our fair town held its annual “Lighting of the Trees.” Everybody goes downtown where the bands play Christmas music while hot chocolate and hot cider flow, and the mayor flips the switch.

The trees downtown will be lit through the end of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras in the United States is celebrated from Texas through Florida (roughly Galveston through Pensacola) and ends the night before Lent begins.

It is such a huge part of our culture here that banks, public schools and most government offices are closed. Parades roll nearly every night for the five weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. Everybody participates in one form or another – it is a festival of lights, a feast for a child’s eyes.

In a couple of weeks, another festival of lights will occur in our neighborhood when we have a Christmas boat parade down the river at the end of our dead-end road – boats of all shapes and sizes will quietly float downstream lit up with Christmas decorations – with spectators lining the banks, back decks, piers and bridges – and ending in the small bay leading to the beaches.

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Click here for some incredible light sources around the rest of world.

And thanks, God, for Your light in the world, for You, the source of all our light – without which we would be forever in darkness. Thank You for all the life-giving forms of light you provide us with – especially for my sunshine and rainbows and sunsets over peaceful, sweet dreams. ~~

 

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A visual summary of this season’s Mardi Gras in my neck of the woods (er, beach):

Taking advantage of a well-situated city planter along the parade route, this poor gentleman pooped out before the parade even began. I like the reflection of the tree lights in the bank window, and the fact that the man is ready to roll (in theory) with beads around his neck. But somehow his body language speaks to a different drummer:

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Awaiting one of many big events (small town version, as evidenced by only by “two-deep,” as opposed to bigger cities which are “8-10 deep” on the sidelines):

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Truth be told, it may be a small town and only two-deep, but the reason is because the parade snakes around all the main venues in the small town. So everybody lines up near the start to see the parade, then when it passes, everybody stampedes around the corner and down the next main drag to catch it a second time, and when it passes again, everybody stampedes toward the last street to catch it a third time. So not only does everybody get practically a front-row spot, they get it three times in succession. This is especially handy if you know someone in the parade who is looking for you on the sidelines and wants to throw you something.

Often the maskers will taunt the people with a particularly large or coveted throw, gyrating and teasing the crowd as they roll by with the throw, making everyone think they will be the lucky one. Arms outstretched, this second-floor masker has just rewarded a fortunate fan with her prize. Maskers typically shop for and pay for their own throws, so they reserve the right to be particular with who gets what. And it helps if they have a good throwing arm. Or arms.

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All Mardi Gras parades have a theme. This one included books-turned-movies. I thought they did an excellent job on this float:

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Because many horses parade as well, the obligatory pooper-scooper duo follows up the equine display. This pair includes one in a gas mask and one with a wig so thick, he’d never be able to smell the fruits of his labor. They were pretty good dancers, too.

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Mardi Gras etiquette dictates that if there are children or tourists also viewing the parade near you, you should offer some of your throws to them and share some of your loot, although people can get a little weird when it comes to the trendy throws. Each year there is one flavor of Moon Pie that somehow gets tagged as “IT,” a new or improved flavor that may be harder to come by.

These, when caught, are quietly pocketed and enjoyed in secret like a good prayer. This year, the crunchy peanut butter Moon Pie was “IT.”  This little one couldn’t wait until he got home to indulge in his curbside cuisine:

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Maskers in action:

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Two Rear Admirals (no, wait, they’re Marines!) see up the, uh, admirable rears of two mermaids:

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The front view of the float:

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A hug between two bff-maskers about to take place (at least that’s my assumption…perhaps the float jerked to a stop suddenly and it was catch as catch can):

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Orthopedists must love the long-term damage done to fragile necks at a generous parade:

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“Laissez les bon temps roulez,” is French for “Let the good times roll” and is the official Mardi Gras motto. The culture here is steeped in French tradition. And when we stomp another team in football, it is not uncommon to see the score written as “21-Zereaux.”  Here, these gals are having some very bon temps while they roulez (pardon my improper verb agreement, fellow Frenchfolk):

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Aftermath:

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Parades roll each night and day as the season progresses. Here are a few of my fun-wacky neighbors as we wait for our home-boy neighborhood parade to begin:

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Our humble little neighborhood parade near the water is pretty laid-back. And pretty slapped-together, but always a bucket of fun! This was my view:

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So the neighbors rig up trailers towed by their trucks, or ride their boats in tow for our little parade:

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I had gotten up for only 5 minutes to assist our disabled child in catching throws, and returned to my seat to find it littered with goodies in that short time:

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No proper Southern shin-dig would be complete without a topless drummer backing a down-home, up & coming band (note cup holders stationed precisely within arm’s reach):

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Even Elvis makes it to Mardi Gras! Mr. Presley knows that you get more throws with a large net:

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And what do we do with all those beads? They look very festive when hung in strategic places such as on the front door, around the mailbox, on the rocking chairs or in the trees as decoration. When the children grow tired of playing with them, they are recycled for next year. Krispy Kreme has a wonderful bead recycling program where you can trade pounds of beads for boxes of doughnuts. Wonderful, anyway, if you didn’t give up doughnuts for Lent.

Thus, herein ends the season of mirth…

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Hands in Shark

Hands in Mardi Gras Beads

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She bounded past the ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, rounding up the walkway, vaguely hearing a fountain gurgling in the courtyard beyond. Like a rebellious child arriving late to school, she came tripping past the heavy doors which stood open facing the busy avenue. The doors were, as she was taught in preschool, purposely shaped like hands clasped together, praying and pointing Heavenward. They were also ominously dark; she was grateful they were welcomingly wide open. Had they been closed, she might have turned away.

She sat in the very back of the cathedral, the very last pew. For once she wasn’t late, but nonetheless was still the last to arrive and did not wish to be conspicuous. Everyone occupied the rear pews…no one sat in the first several pews. In fact, those in the “front” were still halfway to the back of the vast, echoey sanctuary. She was in good company; no one wanted to appear overly zealous to be repentant today, Ash Wednesday.

Making the sign of the cross as she genuflected, she quietly pulled the kneeler closer and obediently dropped down for brief prayer. As she caught her breath, she never got around to praying because the bell tower loudly proclaimed it was 12:00 noon. This proclamation took longer than she had time for prayer, and as soon as the twelfth bell bonged, the officiant appeared from nowhere and everyone abruptly stood. Rats, inadvertent noncompliance again. She quickly rose with the masses.

She noticed that the graceful trusses several stories high overhead sported a design of the Star of David. The stained glass at the front and around the sides looked ashy like the day outside, gloomy and humid. Warm, but dismal. Her eye was not drawn to the detailed pictures on the stained glass, but rather to the things that had nothing to do with why she was there: the creaky old hardwood floors, the sad reality that not enough bulletins had been printed for today because they didn’t expect as many as might should attend, and the discrepant accents of the officiants (one was notably Yankee with nasal tendencies in reciting the NeeCeene Creeeeed, the other drawled through the service with perfect Southern dialect, complete with a multisyllabic AH-may-yen).

They exhorted her to put away her thoughts and memories of days now behind.

They can make the entire float rock when they rock together in rhythm with the music...

It was a freak cold that night, but the next day was in the 70s. They keep the Christmas lights on the trees downtown through Mardi Gras.

Parades rolled night and day for the past month.

Dig the beer can on this dolphin's nose...

And don't forget the TaTas...

Secrets to catching the good stuff include holding an upside-down umbrella or hat, standing 2-3 deep (the maskers always tend to be looking into the crowd, not directly below in the front row of people), and having a handicapped child in tow.

Mardi Gras Booty (from ONE parade)

It was a drive-by service, to be sure – in and out in 25 minutes flat. There was even a monk-like sung Psalm – she at first thought it was piped in while they strode forth to the altar to receive a cross-shaped smudge of ash on their foreheads. But after she had been dutifully ashed and turned the corner to make her orderly way down the outer aisle to return to her pew, she saw it was an actual dude in a black robe up in the balcony holding the Book of Common Prayer, singing Psalm 51, just like the Psalms were meant to have been sung. Cool!

The hypocrisy did not evade her: she was painfully aware that the slap-quick service included, as is customary, an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading…which included the verses about Jesus teaching that we are not to appear as though we are openly fasting or suffering or giving alms or whatever it is we should do in secret to the Father…and the irony of receiving an ashen cross on the forehead, being sent forth for the rest of the day to bear this mark in public. LOOK AT ME! I WENT TO CHURCH MID-WEEK AND ENGAGED IN A HOLY ACTIVITY! DID YOU?! And yet, she has seen each denomination do some of the same thing in different ways, and each denomination find scorn in the other (smug one-upmanship). Or find comfort in the one that challenges them least, then they get stuck but think they are secure.

She thought, too, about how some denominations pooh-pooh the ritual in some churches, and likewise, how the ritualized churches pooh-pooh the loosely-structured, more casual worship of non-denominational churches. But they all do the same thing…basically. One cannot say that a ritual like, say, communion, is more meaningful when it is done less often, or that those who take communion each week have fallen into a meaningless routine. Meaningless routine can sneak upon us like a thief in the night, in whatever way we (WE!) think is best to worship Him.

She then thought of her spiritual journey which brought her from this very church at birth, to other denominations and churches through various phases of her life, and remembered that He hasn’t changed, His word remains as is. Man can create their variations of worship, but it all boils down to our relationship with God, from our hearts, and man is not to judge. There is no way he possibly can. God gives us His Word to go by…and in that we can know what He expects – and it is okay to worship this way or that way – it is our heart He sees, our intent. An ages-old ritual can be tired or fresh, depending on the participant…just as can the more modern, less-structured formats can incite zealous fire yielding to years of unhealthy comfort.

To her, it was old ritual seen anew, with refreshed meaning in the act of repentance…an exercise in evaluation the journey past, the current state of the heart, and the intentions for the future. The message was the same whether coming from an evangelical bent or a formalized, old-church ritual.

What’s old is new. And vice versa.

Man is naturally a hypocrite (Paul summed it up nicely in his exposition of doing what he willed not to do and not doing what he willed to do). As long as men and women worship Him in any fashion, there will be hypocrisy. It is the curse of human nature…unavoidable, and certainly no excuse to avoid Him.

She knew God was looking at her heart, though, and there was nowhere to hide. She had to take inventory of the ways she had erred to excess in worldliness, in sin, in indulgence, in thoughts and feelings and actions…and it was high time to turn the steering wheel back over to Him, to apologize and sacrifice. Those who don’t believe in God, surely find themselves in positions to do the same with those whom they’ve disappointed. It is only human to humble ourselves when we reach a point of over-indulgence in folly, and folly is never known until hindsight. It is how we little children grow and develop, and is quite natural, and good. He rejoices in our growth process.  It is how we draw nearer to Him. It is how even our stumblings are occasion to celebrate.

So what did she give up for Lent?

That shall remain between her and Him!

What she wants to know is, what in blazes (no pun intended) was burned to create the sticky ashes glued to her forehead?!

All she knows is it is Her privilege to sacrifice so little for what He sacrificed so greatly, for us all.

Are you stuck? Change! Move! Vamoose! You may move, but He won’t, so don’t be afraid.

He will be wherever you land, waiting for you, as always.

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Mandatory Fun

“Sorry,” the ferry captain shook his head. “The two cars at the very front of the line will be lucky if they get on…capacity is 170 people. Everybody from the other side parked over there, bought round-trip tickets to come over here for the parade and will be getting back on for the 2:00 eastbound. We won’t be able to add any cars. You’ll either have to wait for the 3:30 (if there’s even room then) or join the bumper-to-bumper crowd over the bridge. Have fun, y’all,” he winked.

Stranded in Paradise.

Again.

My only option was to hang loose and have fun. Mandatory fun. No way out of it.

“I have to stay for the parade…I can’t get off the island. Sorry, sweetie…” (said with semi-sincere furrowed brow).

My shift ended at 12:30; here I thought I had concocted a brilliant escape off the island to get to watch the parade from the ferry line AND get off the island first, avoiding the traffic and crowds. But, oh well…I should have known there would be 170 others seeking a designated driver this time of year, here. So the auto-ferry was transformed into a party-boat.

Fact: Southerners know how to party. In fact, I think we invented the word, since I don’t recall hearing of any or many notorious celebrations north of the Mason-Dixon line which have endured for so many centuries in our nation.

Mardi Gras preceded them all, beginning in 1699. There exists a certain obligation to maintain traditions in the South which is always steeped in deep pride and unrivaled enthusiasm. Such  is the phenomenon of Mardi Gras, and one which must only be experienced firsthand, since many of the facets of Mardi Gras can seem to an outsider trivial, frivolous, wasteful, or any number of such judgments.

And what is so wrong with a tradition of relaxed fun? Or a month of it, for that matter? After all, life is hard and all too short. It really is a win-win, especially when old and young alike have a week off – no, 10 days – to look forward to (you know, Lundi (Monday) Gras, Fat Tuesday, a day thrown in to tip hats to President’s day and a couple of (*snort*) “teacher’s work days…”). Even local federal offices are ghost towns on Fat Tuesday; there is no business conducted to speak of on the biggest parade days, where all along the Gulf Coast, most cities have multiple parades throughout the day. This is about the only business being done:

Vendors are a pre-parade event in and of themselves.

So we backed out of the ferry line, made our way down the boulevard lined 10 people deep waiting for the parade, and managed to find a parking space next to a Sheriff’s car – no one dared park on the grass by him until Mrs. Brash here pulled up in front of him, but by then it was so crowded, he was happy for us just to get the heck off the street, and smiled/nodded his blessing upon us as we pulled the beach chairs out of the trunk (yes, they remain in the trunk at all times – you never know when you’ll need them around here).

Y'all come on down and find a spot...

Prime parking spot headed toward the bridge headed off the island, prime spot lining the parade route to sit/stand/enjoy, all we had to do was wait. And have fun. No choice in the matter. Sealed fate, more or less.

Southerners love their hats for every occasion...

Mardi Gras appeals to all 5 senses. Missing from this post would be the smells and the feel. Smells of multiple barbecues in progress up and down the roadside mixed with the sea air, with a wisp of a molecule or two every few breezes, of various beverages being consumed somewhere deep in the crowd. Fresh cotton candy and funnel cakes. Shrimp boils and gumbo. We saw them setting up shop at 8 am, already claiming their spot on the parade route, coolers unloaded, tailgates open.

Southerners love any excuse to have a tailgate party!

And the feel…of catching beads and moon pies, the warm sunshine beaming on your smiling face.

Throw me something, mister!

Oh, and the sounds…of the endlessly festive cacophony of music, some coming from truck stereos, some coming from the parade itself. The sound of children chanting for beads as the floats roll past – “Hey, mister, throw me something!” and when mounted police or other police-type parade participants roll by, children jokingly calling to them to throw them some handcuffs instead. Alas, no handcuffs, but always plenty of beads, moon pies, stuffed animals, trinkets and treasures.

Some parades are  better than others, but all parades have something to offer, something to send you away feeling glad that you came.

Mardi Gras parades are not spectator sports...they are interactive social events.

This wise guy drove a "Hardly-Dangerous."

This float-puller felt the need to have an open box of Cheez-Its on his dash for the drive. It ain't a party without food of some sort...

While everybody else was reaching for beads, I was analyzing the car and driver. Boar's head with borrowed horns, crap all over the dash (air horn, cd out of case, roll of electric tape, etc.). Come as you are!

Why do we celebrate? Because of Jesus, although He seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, not unlike Christmas. Mardi Gras is the last hurrah before Lent, when we straighten up our spiritual posture and assume a more reverent regard for Him as we await the celebration of His resurrection.

Death gave way to life...okay, so it's a stretch to pair a skeleton dude and the Easter bunny together and make something meaningful about Jesus out of it, but...traditions water down into representations over time. At least we are reminded - our choices hence are up to us.

Hey, God – thank you for good times, for reminding us daily of You (in ways we choose or do not choose to notice), and, of course, for the fun You afford us along The Way.

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