“Throw Me Something, Mister!”

Maria D’Antonio

Nvate Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Throwbacks New Orleans king cakes King Olympia

The Queen of Eve parade took place in Mandevile, La., on Feb. 21.
Credit: Maria D’Antonio

In the southeastern parishes of Louisiana, the phrase “Throw me something, Mister,” signals a season of parades, king cakes, and cheap plastic beads. Despite its reputation as a holiday of debauchery, there are actually many religious elements tied to the holiday. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the holiday, without seeming like a tourist.

Mardi Gras and the Catholic Church

The date which Mardi Gras is celebrated is dictated by the Catholic Church. The Church celebrates Easter the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, according to Catholic.com, or the first full moon after the spring equinox.

From there, Lent and Ash Wednesday are calculated, and from Ash Wednesday, then Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This year, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB, Ash Wednesday falls on March 5, so Mardi Gras is March 4.

Mardi Gras is called Fat Tuesday because it occurs the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday signals the start of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and penance in preparation for Easter. This is why everyone parties on and before Mardi Gras. Catholicism has a heavy presence in New Orleans affecting many citizens, so Mardi Gras acts as a final revelry before the solemn season of Lent.

Despite this year’s late start, those who celebrate Mardi Gras tend to start getting ready after the Feast of the Epiphany, the feast day celebrated by the Catholic Church to remember the magi’s visit to baby Jesus. The day after the Feast of the Epiphany starts king cake season.

King Cake

Nvate Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Throwbacks New Orleans king cakes  King Olympia

Credit: Maria D’Antonio

King cake is a familiar, beloved part of Mardi Gras. King cake is made from twisted locks of cinnamon dough, occasionally adding filling such as cream cheese or strawberry in the middle. Shaped in an oval, these cakes are typically topped with icing and gold, green, and purple sprinkles. In most king cakes, a plastic baby is hidden inside one of the pieces.

Like the holiday itself, king cakes are also saturated with religious elements. According to neworleansshowcase.com, each Mardi Gras color that the cake is decorated with has its own symbolism. Green stands for faith, purple for justice, and gold for power. The plastic baby symbolizes Jesus. Hiding the plastic baby is meant to remember the magi’s search for Jesus.

Local tradition also states that if you get the piece with the baby, you’re the one bringing the next king cake.

Parade Season

Mardi Gras season can last a long time; this year it lasts almost a full two months. Parade season, the most notable part of Mardi Gras, only encompasses the two weeks prior to Mardi Gras day. It is during parade season that one can hear shouts of “Throw me something, Mister,” and the clinks of plastic beads.

As its name implies, parade season is the only part of Mardi Gras when parades are held. The city of New Orleans is not unique in hosting Mardi Gras parades. Many neighboring parishes and even other states along the Gulf Coast have their own parades. These parades tend be more family friendly with less alcohol and no crowds, making it much easier to catch Mardi Gras throws.

Nvate Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Throwbacks New Orleans king cakes  King Olympia

The Olympia parade included the king, knights and queen with the maids and squires. The St. Paul Marching Wolves performed along the parade. The parade took place in Covington, La., on Feb. 22.
Credit: Maria D’Antonio

New Orleans parades, by comparison, are bigger, longer, and depending on where you stand, an all day event and/or party. New Orleans parades include the Endymion, Bacchus, Rex, and Zulu. Each parade is different, with the Rex parade being the largest and the Zulu parade having the “most allure of any Mardi Gras parade because of its definitive costumes and float designs,” all according to Sally Tunmer on GoNOLA.com.

There are a few types of throws to expect when attending a Mardi Gras parade, that can be divided into three broad categories. The first is beads. Beads range from cheap plastic things to light-up souvenirs. These are also the most common types of throws. The second type is toys and accessories, which are mostly stuffed animals, plastic flowers, and boas. The last type of throw is food. Catching moon pies and pieces of candy is not unlikely during parades. Of course there are other throws as well, but these are the most common.

Nvate Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Throwbacks New Orleans king cakes King Olympia

A close-up of a float from the Olympia parade. The parade took place in Covington, La., on Feb. 22.
Credit: Maria D’Antonio

Because these throws are commonplace and usually cheap, they aren’t worth fighting over or risk getting your hand stepped on when you pick them up from the ground. It is best to try and catch them in the air or arrive early to the parade route to get a good spot to stand.

There are few new rules according to The Times-Picayune, including a restriction on throwbacks, throwing beads and other throws back at the floats, roping off sections of public property, and utilizing private portable toilets on public property. This year’s parade routes can also be found on The Times-Picayune website.

Mardi Gras is a surprisingly contradictory holiday. With its roots in religion that are still remembered today and its reputation for depravity, Mardi Gras is a beloved tradition still going strong.

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