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THE COUNTDOWN to the big celebration is on!  Mardi Gras – from the French, meaning Fat Tuesday — this year lands on February 24th, although the celebration (or “carnival”) period starts a lot earlier.  Often referred to as the last day of feasting before the austere fasts of the Christian Lenten season begin with Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras is a time of often wild celebration, masked revelers, and colorful parades. 


In New Orleans, Louisiana, where Mardi Gras is celebrated on a grand scale,  fantastic balls are lavishly held and brilliantly costumed revelers wend their way through the streets as jazz music plays and a festival atmosphere pervades everything. This is a time of spectacular sights and sounds, fun and fantasy! 


                                      Feathers and Sequins


MASKS ARE PERHAPS the most visible signs of Mardi Gras. And what masks they are!  Worn with vividly colorful costumes, Mardi Gras masks combine fabulous beauty and artistry with visual expressions of entertaining secretiveness, transforming the revelers appearance into something at once unknown, yet magnetically desirable.  


  • What could be more intriguing and better suited to Mardi Gras than a fabulously rich looking ornate pink marabou feather mask embellished with sequins and decorated with gold lurex for a glamorous metallic shine. This is secretive seduction at its best!




  • Equally splendorous and individualistic is a speckled pheasant feather mask with ostrich and pheasant tails in black, white and grey. Wild and spectacular!


—A fascinating note on masked secrecy: Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans since the early 1700s, when French settlers first arrived.  Masked costumes were long all the rage. As time passed, however, more and more revelers behaved so badly (their identities safely hidden by the masks) that, in the early 1900s, masks were outlawed in New Orleans and stayed illegal for decades.


MARDI GRAS CELEBRATIONS are rampant in South America and Europe, particularly in Germany, France and Belgium. Rivaling the New Orleans exhibition is the exuberant Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro where the festivities carry traces of sensual excess suggesting that Mardi Gras does, indeed, date from the ancient orgies of pagan Europe, as many say…


                                            Raucous Carnival


Back in New Orleans, where good food, wine, and music are overflowing, an atmosphere of wanton excess fills the air. The Mardi Gras parades are phenomenal, raucous, marvelous. A cross-dressing beauty contest is a highlight of the day. A lusty carnivale mood often dizzies the senses as millions of people converge on this remarkable southern city and its famed French Quarter.   


  • Completing a vivid costume and mask outfit is special Mardi Gras jewelry. Necklace sets, pendants and earrings, as well as handsome feather jewelry, come in the intense Mardi Gras colors of green, gold, and purple, and double as attractive accessory pieces as well as lifelong collectibles.



  • Stretch bracelets are perfect choices for Mardi Gras, too, especially with carnival charms hanging off, such as flags, dangle jesters, and feather masks.





                                            Secret Societies


UNLESS YOU ARE A RESIDENT of New Orleans, you probably don’t know about the Krewes, the secret societies (sometimes called private clubs) that plan the spectacular events, balls and parades of Mardi Gras. There are about 60 Krewes in existence, with membership numbers in the thousands. You can’t go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras without hearing about the Krewes, so remember them!


It’s also a good idea to bone up on some New Orleans history. For example, when the Russian grand duke Alexis Romanoff came to New Orleans in 1872 to join in the Mardi Gras revelry, he was graciously appointed “King for the Day,” and given a royal reception.


It was a marvelous time, and New Orleans fell in love with Gallic royalty, so much so that to this day, the city or, more particularly, the Krewes appoint an annual Mardi Gras Rex, or King, to oversee the festivities and to reign over the Parade. One of the major delights of the Rex is the throwing of coins, or doubloons, as they are called in New Orleans.


  • There are so many special items to sell for Mardi Gras, but none more important than beads.  Consider Mardi Gras beads with traditional gold fleur de lis emblems representing the City of New Orleans. 
  • Americana Mardi Gras beads come in red, blue, and silver and are ideal souvenirs for any national holiday as well as Mardi Gras. 



  • Inexpensive disco ball beads in brilliant metallic Mardi Gras colors are terrific representations of the fun beads “thrown” to spectators again and again during Mardi Gras parades.


The Romanoff colors have also been made the official colors of Mardi Gras:  purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith. 


                                     …..to be continued….

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Thursday, January 29th, 2009

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