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Dust off your boogie shoes for Mardi Gras

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A little spring cleaning never hurt anybody.

And what better time to smut yourself up some more before Ash Wednesday (Mar. 5) , than with a good old-fashioned Mardi Gras blow-out?

What you may not know is why Mardi Gras – Tues., Mar. 4 – is celebrated in the first place, or why people in Greater Jacksonville care.

If you’re Catholic, you learned about Lent in catechism classes.

Ash Wednesay is this coming Wednesday.

Do the math.

Give it up for Lent!

With so much spring cleaning already in progress, the prudent will pay some small attention to the nascent Lenten season.

For Catholics and those of the rest of us already in the Mardi Gras spirit, Lent means going without some of the more venal things you love so that you can be properly shriven for Easter by Holy Week.

Although penalties for not being conspicuously contrite are not as stiff as they were in the Middle Ages, one still risks a certain kind of social approbation for making promises that are not kept, particularly in public.

After such breeches, acquaintances and perhaps family members are owed.

It’s a much better policy for the 40 days and nights of Lent to give up some you know you shouldn’t do in the first place – smoking, drinking, pizza, chocolate, peanut butter, etc.

You’ll be a better person if you just make the effort.

Why we celebrate Mardi Gras?

With all of the Greater Jacksonvillager™ with French ancestry, why’d you ask?

This is precisely why there are so many Mardi Gras events in our area.

If you haven’t quite purged the holidays from your system, then you’re right in step with tradition.

The Mardi Gras season actually begins on the Twelfth Night of Christmas or on the next day, Epiphany, depending on how your family celebrates.

The big finish is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, your excuse to get in one last good debauch before you have to clean up to be ritually pure for Easter, whether you attend mass or not.

As during the Christmas holidays, it’s customary at Mardi Gras to eat very rich, fatty foods.

Pick your poison. It’s almost impossible to be too full or too drunk on Fat Tuesday.

Know your signs & symbols

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, one of the premier events of carnivale season, has been celebrated in the United States since 1743.

Although not uniquely American in origin, Mardi Gras parades pre-date the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.

Mardi Gras got its official colors in 1872 during a visit from Alexis Alexandrovitch Romanoff, who suggested the colors purple, gold and green.

There are also tropes associated with Mardi Gras. Some are:

  • Faces of Comedy & Drama – Reminders that fortune is mutable and change is inevitable
  • Feathered masks – Represent the lightness of being and the freedom of the soul
  • Fleur de Lis – A symbol of the French kings and a caution to hold masked strangers at arm’s length
  • Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! – Mardi Gras’ motto: Let the good times roll!
  • Throw me something, Mister! – A request for largesse. Mardi Gras beads now stand in place of alms.
  • Mardi Gras Mambo – Mardi Gras street dance
  • If Ever I Cease to Love – Reminder to live la vie bohème if at all possible in Truth, Beauty but above all in Love.

The daylight hours of Mardi Gras are ruled by the King and Queen, who serve New Orleans by due election, not by acclamation.

Comus the Jester Rules the night, when decent folk are not about unless they have their wits gathered surely about them.

Things that look familiar during the day are transformed by darkness into unfamiliar and tempting forms that lure unwary souls into peril, and even places and people well-known in full light are hard to spot after dark.

Be careful to enjoy all the beautiful parade floats and dizzingly colorful costumes during the day.

Local family-friendly Mardi Gras events

Of course and as per usual, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is all booked up and has been for at least a year.

Plan better now for next year.

If you’re a regular on events calendars like those on Jacksonville.com and StAugustine.com, you’ll know that there are several adult Mardi Gras celebrations, like Mardi Gras Jax, scheduled in Greater Jacksonville.

The trick is finding some that are kid friendly.

Here’s the thing – most Mardi Gras celebrations involve great big bared breasts – and the bigger and more splendidly adorned the better.

Folk with good manners throw beads in thanks.

Check with the county and city libraries and with kid-friendly venues like Jacksonville Landing.

But if you roll the dice and show up with your kids without checking first, you have only yourself to blame when the toddler gets an early education.

Aww-īght?

–GJE–

-30-

©2014 All rights reserved.

OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: kt.4examiner@yahoo.com

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