Tag Archives: Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Cake

CONTEXT: 

E is a junior at Bates University where she skies for their cross country team. She grew up with me in Sun Valley, Idaho.

TEXT: 

Me: “How does your family celebrate Mardi Gras?”

E: “Well there is this figurine, a little, small plastic, baby. 

They bake it into a cake

And when the figurine—or—when you’re cutting the cake, 

whoever gets the baby is supposed to pay for the cake next year.”

Me: “Did you ever get the baby and pay for the cake?” 

E: “No. They would just always tell me that I had to buy the cake next year—I was about 10 years old when I got the baby, 

but it was a very exciting moment to get the baby and I would keep it forever and ever.”

Me: “What does the tradition mean?”

E: “It’s from a biblical story. 

The three kings who brings gifts to Baby Jesus 

The baby represents Jesus

the cake was always the colors of Mardi Gras—

Purple, Yellow and green.”

ANALYSIS:

Receiving the baby (who represents Jesus) in your slice of cake, symbolizes luck and prosperity. In E’s family, the person who gets the baby has to pay for next year’s cake, however, traditionally receiving the baby means that the finder become the ‘king’ or ‘queen’ of the evening.

To read more about these cakes, and a different variation on the story you can click this link:

https://www.southernliving.com/holidays-occasions/mardi-gras/king-cake-meaning

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.

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.

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.