Holiday Time

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Celebrate 2017 Mardi Gras in the South (February 2017)

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Published: February 2012
It’s Mardi Gras Time in the South  

Mardi Gras.

Typically when many people hear the phrase, whether in passing or more detailed conversation, it immediately conjures up, well,um, interesting imagines; or for some, even more interesting memories.

However, this special celebration really isn't about throwing caution to the wind and getting wild, but more about immersing yourself, even for a day or weekend, into the experience.

From Galveston, Texas to Panama City Beach, Fla. and all points in between, let the spirit of Mardi Gras capture you with its customs, costumes, parades and overall revelry.

Throw Me Somethin’ Mister

With Fat Tuesday falling on February 21, this weekend is filled parades and festivals. If you have the opportunity, get out and experience one (or two.) You won’t be disappointed.

Laissez les bon temps roullez!

  • Did you know that Galveston, Texas is the nation’s third largest Mardi Gras celebration? Be a part of this weekend at one of the city’s many parades.

  • Louisiana knows how to throw a party, especially when it comes to celebrating Mardi Gras. The celebration isn’t just limited to New Orleans. Check out what is happening around the state this weekend as well as on Fat Tuesday.

  • Roll toward Mississippi Gulf Coast for some Mardi Gras fun. And bring the entire family, because there is something for everyone.

  • It’s Carnival time in Alabama’s oldest city, Mobile, which is also said to be the birthplace of American Mardi Gras celebration. Come one, come all to the parades for a memorable time. Need a little beach for your Mardi Gras experience? If so, check out all the parades happening along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

  • If you in or around the Florida Panhandle this weekend, you probably aren’t too far from some Mardi Gras festivities. Be sure the check out the parades in Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Nearby Navarre Beach hosts their 26th annual Mardi Gras parade on Saturday. In Destin, there’s the Destin Commons Mardi Gras Masquerade on Saturday as well. The 15 beach communities that make up South Walton are celebrating Mardi Gras in their own ways. In addition to the Sandestin Gumbo Festival, they are also hosting a Mardi Gras Dog parade on Saturday and a Fat Tuesday parade. In Seaside, there’s the Seaside Mardi Gras Celebration, and over at Gulf Place is a Mardi Gras Street Party, both on Saturday. It’s Mardi Gras weekend in Panama Beach City Beach as well, with a two-day festival and parade.

Know Your Mardi Gras

So, there's parades, balls and royalty. What about the other symbols related to Mardi Gras? How do they fit in?

What do the colors represent?

According to Camille Blake, with, purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.

What is a King Cake?

“Annual King Cake parties are one of the most beloved traditions,” comments Blake. “The 'King's Cake' is named after the Three Kings who took a twelve-day journey to Bethlehem. The cakes are annually baked and eaten twelve days after Christmas Day (Epiphany) until Mardi Gras Day/Fat Tuesday (the day after Fat Tuesday marks the beginning of Lent so no cakes are made after that point as many people give up sugar.)

“The plastic "baby" in each cake is said to represent baby Jesus. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby in it during the party will sometimes have the honor of hosting the next King Cake party at their house, or they will be the king or queen for the day.”

What are throws?

“Throws have been a part of Mardi Gras since the late 19th century. This custom is significant in that it is something that separate parades Mardi Gras parades from other parades around the world, also many objects thrown over the years, especially doubloons, are dated and have become collector's items,” comments Blake.

“Throws range from plastic beads and stuffed animals to doubloons stamped with the krewe's insignia and date. The most prized throw is a hand-painted Zulu coconut.”

Where do the Moon Pies come in?

According to Judi Gulledge, executive director, Mobile Carnival Museum, in the early '60s, krewes who could afford throws, threw out Cracker Jack boxes. However, the local government decided the boxes were dangerous to the crowds, so they started to look for alternatives. The Maids of Mirth discovered Moon Pies. The treats were soft and affordable, yet substantial to be thrown. In 1974, they began to toss them, with other krewes to follow and no one has looked back since.

“Moon pie throws took off like gangbusters,” says Gulledge.

photo credits: (top right) mardi gras float in bright colors, storyvillegirl, creative commons, flickr; (bottom right) mardi gras beads, Mark Gstohl, creative commons, flickr