Tag Archives: Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Cups

Main Piece:

SG has been to Mardi Gras almost every year since she was a little kid. Decorated plastic cups are a typical throw in every Mardi Gras Parade. Parades, known as Krewes to the locals, each have a unique name and theme to them. Riders in each parade have “throws”, which are items riders throw off of floats. These commonly include beads and doubloons, but what is solemnly talked about is cups. Cups are a collectible item during Mardi Gras as they have more value than most other throws. Not only can you keep it as a memorate of a parade, but you can use it for years to come. Families collect these and use them as normal drinking vessels in their homes and lives. Go in any cabinet and next to the glass cups you will find various Mardi Gras cups themed to each parade.

A Swig of History: The Mardi Gras Cup | Where Y'at
https://www.whereyat.com/a-swig-of-history-the-mardi-gras-cup

Context:

SG is my mother and has been to Mardi Gras with kids since I was born. She is from New Orleans and attends every year. This was taken during a conversation with her in our backyard while reminiscing Mardi Gras. She still collects cups and send me them each year.

Thoughts:

As a New Orleanian and a avid fan of Mardi Gras, as I have been many times before, I did not realize that this was not much of a practice outside of New Orleans, collecting cups to use throughout the years. For instance, after my first year at USC, I missed Mardi Gras for the first time in my life. As a response I got my parents to ship me a King Cake and some decorated cups. In the house I was living in, I used them frequently, and people always commented on the designs on the cups calling them unique. I was so used to using the cups that I never took a moment to think about the designs. Each design reflects the idea of that parade. Krewe D’etat, a parade devoted to a satirical take on the previous year, would have cups that mock events from the last year. Krewe of Muses, an all female parade, would have cups with feminine symbols such as the iconic red lips symbol of the krewe. Each design is unique and can only be gotten if one attended that parade in that year.

New Orleans King Cake

Main Piece:

EG, a resident of New Orleans, if very fond of the Mardi Gras season and the treats that come during it. One of these is King Cake. King Cakes originate in France as a cake to eat during Carnival season. It is a sweetcake covered in sugar and icing. A tradition for carnival season. They begin selling them on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and stop on Mardi Gras day. Some stores sell them any time of the year but not as a true “king cake”. A Baby is inside of the king cake. In many traditions if you get the baby you must buy the next king cake. In school every Friday one person would bring a king cake and the next week another person would have to get the king cake. 

Context:

EG is a college aged resident of New Orleans. She was born there and has lived there her entire life. This was collected in a conversation at my home. She has been to Mardi Gras every year since her birth and considers it to be a central part of her life.

Thoughts:

I enjoy the history and idea of king cake not just as a New Orleanian who likes the food, but as a tradition. The whole idea to me is that we eat this super unhealthy food so much during this carnival season as last hurrah before Lent begins right after Fat Tuesday. The baby being inside of the cake as a reward is very interesting. I like the tradition of having the recipient of the baby bring the king cake the next week. The wide variety of them in New Orleans also would mean that different people would bring in different king cakes which would give everyone in her class a different experience each time they eat it.

Mardi Gras Ladders

Main Piece:

Mardi Gras ladders are used during Mardi Gras each year. They are used to put children higher up in the air to see the parade and to keep them safe from going in the street. Usually decorated in purple, green, and gold with a family’s name. They are on a ladder so that kids can see a float. Wheels are on the sides to help them roll easier from the car to parade route. On top of the ladders are seats which children sit in and they usually have a bar on the front to keep the kids from falling. Cup holders are put on the side for a parents’s drinks. They are put 6 feet away from the curb on the sidewalk or neutral ground, all painted differently. Families tend to put their ladders in certain spots next to each other forming a long row of ladders.

Context:

SG is my mother and has been to Mardi Gras with kids since I was born. She is from New Orleans and attends every year. This was taken during a conversation with her in our backyard while reminiscing Mardi Gras. She still brings ladders out each year for her younger children.

Thoughts:

I like this piece of folklore a lot as it brings me back to when I was much younger attending Mardi Gras. When I only went with my parents and not friends, my mom would put me in a ladder with my twin sister as we shouted at the float riders to throw us beads and other items. The uniqueness of these ladders is very important to me as I had the opportunity to decorate the newest ladder that we use for my little brothers. We painted it purple, green, and gold, while also putting our hand prints on it. This is something I had grown up with and realized how specific a ladder with a seat on it like this is to New Orleans and that you rarely see it elsewhere.

Muses Decorated Heels

Main Piece:

According to EG, a resident of New Orleans, Muses is one of the first all female parades in Mardi Gras. To set it apart from the other parades they started throwing decorated heels. Each rider decorates their own shoes and put their spin on them, with glitter, writing, and designs. It turns into a pretty sculpture of a shoe. Each rider decorates 10-12 shoes and throws them off of their float during the parade. She has caught 3 shoes in her time at Mardi Gras and she considers it a symbol of New Orleans Mardi Gras. Because of muses other parades have started to throw other items like it. Other parades like the Krewe of Tucks and the Krewe of Nyx throw decorated toilet plungers and purses respectively.

Context:

EG is a college aged resident of New Orleans. She was born there and has lived there her entire life. This was collected in a conversation at my home. She has been to Mardi Gras every year since her birth and considers it to be a central part of her life.

Thoughts:

I, also being a resident from New Orleans, understand this piece of folklore very well. The heels thrown from the float are a sub-genre of what is know as throws, or things float riders throw off a float during a parade. Beads and Doubloons are what people mainly consider as Mardi Gras throws, but there are many more. Cups, spears, and as EG mentioned, heels and other decorated items are all throws that separate one parade from another. I think the main reason for these throws is that each has a distinct item that not only tells a story of the rider and the parade, but something you can only get if you participate in or go to the parade during the season.

King Cake

King Cake

            “We in Louisiana have a big celebration right before lent which we call Mardi Gras. A big part of the celebration is to eat king cake. The king cake is in the shape of a crown and it has a little plastic baby which essentially represents baby Jesus. The cool thing about it is that back in school, if you got the baby Jesus, you were celebrity for the day. In lunch everyone would hover around you. Back at home though, who ever got the baby Jesus, was in charge of bringing the next king cake, but it also mean that they would gain good luck… I don’t really know how this originated I just remember that we celebrated this all the time back at home. Everyone in the city celebrated this, in schools, at home, and even on the streets. I just know that I grew up with this tradition and that’s why I had king cake when Mardi Gras was happening back at home. I guess I’ve just grown accustomed to it.”

My informant was born and raised in Louisiana, New Orleans. She recently moved to Los Angeles, California to attend USC. Therefore, since tis move was fairly recent, she still shows signs of high attachment to her former place of birth. Most of the traditions she is accustomed to have not necessarily been directly taught, but more so been a part of her daily life that she considers them as something normal in an everyday situation. Furthermore, she does not really know about the exact root of the traditions she’s been brought up onto, all she knows is that they are there, they have been there for quite some time now and they will continue to be practiced.

I found this tradition quite interesting especially when analyzing it with my own recollections. This is because my culture also practices this tradition but during different times. In other words, the same king cake used in Louisiana, is also used in Mexico, except it’s called a rosca; in Louisiana, this is celebrated right before lent and in Mexico, this is celebrated in the first week of January. The concept is all the same; there are a couple of plastic babies put into the bread which represent baby Jesus, and in both traditions, whoever gets the piece of bread with the baby Jesus is in charge of bringing then next bread to the gathering. Also, in both traditions, the person who gets the baby Jesus is then said to gain good luck. This similarity is interesting because it serves to explain how there is multiplicity for certain traditions who one may think are very original to one specific location when in actuality, many cultures practice the same thing but perhaps at different times as was in this case. Overall, knowing this can bring people of different backgrounds together. Personally speaking I now feel like I have more in common with my informant than I did before.

King Cake

One of my co-workers lived near New Orleans, so she told me about a food tradition in New Orleans during Mardi Gras known as a King Cake.

“It’s called a King Cake and it’s Mardi Gras and they bake it and you can get them everywhere. It’s like a pastry that has cinnamon in it, it’s like a big cinnamon roll, it’s in the shape of an oval, like a ring, and there’s icing on it and all these sprinkles, like green, yellow, and purple sprinkles for Mardi Gras. You bake the cake and once you get it there’s a little figurine, like a baby, about the size of your thumb and you stick it somewhere in the cake and then you cover it up and as you eat it, whoever gets the baby in their piece of bread has good luck for a year.

Q: Can you buy a cake that has a baby in it or do you have to make it?

“That’s the thing, it’s actually kind of a problem, because some people swallow the baby if you eat it too fast. So, when you buy the cake you can get them in there already, but most of the time if you get them at a Rouses, it’s like a chain grocery store, they’ll have them taped on the top of the box and they’ll give you the figurine and the person who buys it sticks it in there, so they know not to give that piece to a little kid…You frost it so you can’t see the hole, so I would stick it in and then mess the frosting around so you couldn’t tell where it was. And then you get good luck for a year.”

According to my informant, because the cakes are meant for Mardi Gras, you probably wouldn’t see those types of cakes during the rest of the year unless they were specially ordered. Also, it would be considered strange to eat a King Cake that didn’t have a baby inside, since the type of cake and the folklore surrounding the baby figuring go hand in hand.

For more information on this topic see:  Barclay, Eliza. “Is That A Plastic Baby Jesus In My Cake?” The Salt: What’s On Your Plate. NPR, 17 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 May 2014.

Festival de Amancaes

Informant is a Peruvian friend who was visiting me this week. She first heard of the Amancaes festival from her grandmother. The Fiesta de San Juan was a festival that took place in the hills of the Amancaes located in the seaside Rimac district of Lima. The Amancaes are bright yellow flowers that grew on these hills during the months of June and July.
The Festival of Amancaes evolved from the pilgrimage site because of the beautiful Amancay flowers that blossomed during the months of June and July and covered the hills in their entirety. In these celebrations, limeñans of all classes and races came down to the hills for unlimited food, music and dance. This celebration went on until 1952 when it was discontinued because the hills of Amancaes were invaded by squatters coming from the outskirts in search of better opportunities in the capital.
This festival was meaningful because Limeñan society has always been very stratified and segregated by class and race. Limeñans of European descent always looked down upon the indigenous and African populations, but on this one day (like Mardi Gras and the Ancient Roman’s Saturnalia) all of these social mores are forgotten and people of all races and classes would party together and share food and drink. Now, there is a festival that was started two years ago called Mistura, this is a gastronomic festival organized every year in Lima and it has become so popular that tickets are sold out almost immediately after they go on sale. This festival is doing the same purpose that the Festival de Amancaes used to do which was to bring society together by providing them with something that people of all ages, races and social classes enjoy: good food.

King Cake

My informant moved around quite a bit when he was younger; he spent a couple years in Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi. In his adolescence, his family moved to Louisiana. Because that is where he went to high school and is therefore the last place he lived before coming to college, it is the place he considers his home. He is proud of being “from” the area near New Orleans. Here is his description of a traditional cake he ate around Mardi Gras:

“A King Cake is a circular cinnamon-roll like cake with green, purple, and yellow icing, the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. It’s named after the three kings from the Bible. Growing up, I consumed King Cake at school with my classmates as well as at home with my family. The cake is consumed during the season of Lent and contains a small plastic baby, which represents baby Jesus. The person who gets the baby in their slice of cake is obligated to bring the King Cake for the following week. So we had King Cake every Friday at school during Lent, since on Fridays you’re allowed some reprieves from the strict Lent rules. The King Cake is very symbolic of one of the most festive times for Louisianans, and it brings all of the community together in celebration of the season. However, while delicious, the cake also serves as a reminder of the obligations one has during the season of Lent.”

This cake became such a significant tradition for my informant that when he went away to college, his grandma mailed him one. Mardi Gras is not nearly as big of a deal in Los Angeles—where my informant attends university—as it is in New Orleans, so he greatly appreciated the gesture. It reminded him of his home and the traditions he spent years celebrating, so it does make sense for him to be sentimental about a cake. What may seem like a simple dessert to an outsider actually has quite a bit of symbolism. As my informant said, even the colors of the frosting have meaning: they are the festive Mardi Gras colors. Food is often intrinsic to special celebrations, and Mardi Gras is the biggest celebration of the region my informant lives in. It is comparable to a birthday cake in that it is a cake eaten at a special time with family and friends, but the King Cake has an added community-building element. The fact the person who eats the piece with the little plastic baby in it has to bring the next cake means that the King Cake itself perpetuates the gatherings of those people. It provides a kind of assurance that they will all come together again in a short time to share the same food and celebrate the season. Therefore, one of the functions of this folklore is the guarantee that those people will meet again.