New Orléans: Disney World For Adults
Mardi Gras is an event which must be experienced in order to be understood. It is a mixture of traditions and high-tech. It is a Disney World for Adults!
New Orléans has experienced disaster after disaster. Hurricanes, yellow fever, floods, wars, and just plain tough living are a few of the reasons it became something to celebrate to be a “Survivor”. Since New Orléans is an eclectic mix of cultures with a mix of those languages and traditions, their survival is a constant source of celebrations! There are all kinds of celebrations happening all through the year, not just Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras has it all, from madness and music, to parades and parties, to Creole food, to Dixieland music, to comical costumes, to grand private balls. It is a gaudy, gorgeous ridiculous, rowdy and regal celebration that all started in 1857. During the 12 days preceding Mardi Gras, there are more than 60 parades, and hundreds of private parties, dances and masked balls.
THE BIG EASY
In a contest to find a good nickname for New Orléans, “The Big Easy” was declared the winner. Hence, the nickname for New Orléans is “The Big Easy”. If you don’t know “The Big Easy” lingo when you go to New Orléans (as I’m sure you will), you may be scratching your head trying to figure out what is going on, or what people are “sayin’ Dahwlin!”.
Knowing this background helps one understand the magic of the Nawlins’ atmosphere! Basically, if it’s fun, tastes good, and sounds merry, then they’re going to celebrate it!
New Orléans is a totally unique city. They have their own language with its own tone, lilt, and slang. Although it is part of the deep south, you won’t find a typical southern drawl, and everyday language has a French influence. You’ll hear words and expressions that aren’t used anywhere else in the United States.
COMMON WORDS AND PHRASES in New Orléans and Louisiana
So here are a few of the more common phrases and words, so you feel just a bit more at ease in Nola:
The Big Easy: New Orléans
Nawlins’: New Orléans
City that Care Forgot: New Orléans
NOLA: New Orléans, Louisiana
Hi-rise: Anything above sea level! Like the elevated interstate roadway.
Hurricane Party: What some home-owners do after securing their houses for a hurricane: they throw a party! They get some snacks, drinks, friends, and hunker down to watch the TV hurricane updates! A Hurricane is also the name of a famous New Orleans cocktail, and they have some interesting cocktails.
Mardi Gras – The French word for “Fat Tuesday,” which is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for Catholics. Because the 40 days of Lent are considered a period of sacrifice, Fat Tuesday is seen by many as a last bash before Lent.
Carnival – The entire period of time leading up to Fat Tuesday.
Bacchus: A parade that happens the Sunday before Mardi Gras. It’s named after the Greek god of wine, often featuring grape-related throws. It’s considered a Super Krewe because of its size and celebrity guests.
The Mardi Gras royal theme song: “If Ever I Cease to Love” because it was played during the first Rex parade.
Mardi Gras Colors: Purple, green & gold for justice, faith and power, respectively.
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler: A Cajun French saying that means “let the good times roll.” It has become a mantra of Mardi Gras throughout the years.
“Throw Me Something Mister”: the battle cry of the million-plus people who line the parade routes.
Un Mardi Gras: a person who is really celebrating Mardi Gras
Boeuf Gras: the fatted bull, symbolizing the last meat eaten before fasting for Lent. It used to be a live bull, but now it is made of paper mache.
Rex: Latin for “King,” Rex is the King of Carnival. He is the “Monarch of Merriment,” and officially misrules over Mardi Gras after receiving the keys to city from the mayor. His identity is a closely guarded secret until Mardi Gras day, when the local papers flash photos of him and his queen across the front pages.
Tableau: A short mime enacted by masked krewe members at a Carnival ball. Staged before the dancing, it depicts the parade/ball’s theme.
Throws: Colourful beads, doubloons, plastic cups. Beads shorter than two feet long are unacceptable unless they are made of glass.
Doubloons: Large coins, usually made out of brightly-coloured aluminum. If you miss a doubloon thrown from a float, you must never reach down to pick it up. Just put your foot on it. If you reach down with your hand, you’ll get your fingers stepped on.
Go-Cup: Plastic or paper cup. It’s legal to drink alcohol in the streets as long as the cup isn’t breakable. If you’re leaving a bar, ask the bartender for a go-cup.
King Cake: A brioche pastry baked in a circle, suggesting a crown (for the 3 Kings) sprinkled with sugar crystals in the official Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. A plastic baby (for the Christ Child) is baked inside. The one who finds it must host the next King Cake Party. The cake was originally brought to New Orléans by French settlers and was a round pastry pie filled with almond crème and topped by a paper crown. You can find it in French pastry shops around the city.
Krewe: A variation of the word “crew”. It is the group of people who ride in, create, fund and execute parades. It is a carnival organization, all private, all non-profit.
Royal Court: This usually includes a king, queen, grand marshals, dukes, maids and more. Court members are often presented during the parade’s ball in an elaborate fashion. These coveted positions often have years-long waiting lists to become a king or queen.
Super Krewe: A large-scale parade that uses modern technology like fiber optic lights and animatronics, has celebrity guests and lavish throws.
The Captain of the Krewe: more important than the King
Ball or bal masque: A masked ball, where Old-line krewes throw decorous balls. Attendance is by invitation only and limited to krewe members and their guests.
Second Line Parades: Music-led funeral parades without the funeral (I know – strange)
Indians: Local African-Americans who dress up in very ornate, hand-beaded, sequined and feathered outfits to represent their street or gang during Mardi Gras.
The Zulu Parade, or Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, is a well-known, African-American Mardi Gras day parade traced back to the early 1900’s when it was a benevolent aid society. Their throws are hand-decorated coconuts.
Vieux Carre’: (Vooo ca ray’) French word for “Old Quarter,” or the French Quarter.
Gallery (galllll rreeeee) The balcony or walkway outside of homes on the second floor.
A way of speaking, like making the word ‘water’ sound like ‘Wahrter.’
“Hey, dahwlin’, wheah y’at?” or “Where yat?”: “Hello, how are you doing?”. It is also used to describe a native New Orleanist.
“Who Dat?: Who’s that?
“It don’ madda”: It doesn’t matter
Soc Au’ Lait (Sock-o-lay): “What the?” or “Ouch!” or “WOW!”
Uhp’ tawn: Uptown, the area “upriver” from the French Quarter.
Chop a two’ les: Tchoupitoulas Street
“Lagniappe” (lân-yâp): Something unexpected/extra
Praline: (Praw’ leen) An irresistable brown sugar pecan-filled fudge patty.
Snowball: Shaved ice (nearly powder) served with flavored syrups.
Gumbo Ya-Ya: Everybody talking all at once, like at a loud party.
*On the eve of Mardi Gras, the Lundi Gras (day before Mardi Gras) celebration at the Spanish Plaza features the riverboat arrival of Rex, the king, and a jazz concert, fireworks and masked ball.
* The majority of people on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter for Carnival are people from out-of-town. Local families go to St. Charles Av between Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle.
*To announce the official opening of the Carnival each year, on January 6, the Phunny Phorty Phellows (PPP), a group of about 50 costumed men and women, ride a decorated streetcar along the St. Charles Ave line accompanied by a Dixieland band, and eating and throwing King Cake to surprised by passers.
*Small parades pre-Mardi Gras have become more popular. Chewbacchus, a Star Wars-themed walking parade in the French Quarter, is a favourite, plus the dog parade, Barkus, with dozens of costumed pups to pet. Tit Rex is a micro-parade, with elaborately-decorated shoebox-sized floats rolling through the Bywater and Marigny districts.
*The national press has no clue about Mardi Gras.
If you haven’t seen a Mardi Gras parade, well, sorry, you haven’t really seen a parade! A New Orléans parade is something to behold, and spectators get a bonus thrill as float riders toss loads of colorful beads and coins into the crowd. Here is just one example of the unique parades at Mardi Gras. Reminds you of Disney World, doesn’t it?
Mardi Gras Parades in New Orléans are not just about sex. There are all kinds of other themes, including the Star Wars/Star Trek Parade called Chewbacchus. So for Trekkies and parade fans in general, this is for you. The photos pretty much say it all, but as for identifying each character, we are struggling. Help would be appreciated.
So Star Wars and Star Trek fans, what do you think? This is one of the newer parades at Mardi Gras, but it has become so popular, it is now a tradition.
Mardi Gras is an event that must be experienced to be understood. It is a delicious mixture of traditions and high-tech. Get your act together, and go. Simply put, New Orléans is a Disney World for Adults. Pure Magic.