Carnival’s Confusing Anniversaries
The mysteries of marking time
Suppose you started a new job in February of a certain year. When then should you celebrate your first anniversary? A reasonable answer would be February a year later. That is, unless you use Carnival time. In that case you should have celebrated your first year on your first day on the job.
That is part of the confusion that Carnival faces in presenting its anniversaries. Do you measure something from the first time something happened? Or do you measure it from one year later as we do in celebrating birthdays and special occasions. A married couple, for example, celebrates its first anniversary a year after the wedding and not on the day of the ceremony.
In Carnival, depending on who is doing the celebrating, the calculations go both ways. The old-line organizations tend to favor the former method. Thus Rex, which first paraded in 1872 celebrated its centennial in 1971. That was its 99th year, but the 100th time it was scheduled to parade. Zulu, on the other hand, which bases its anniversary on the year that it was incorporated (1909) celebrated its anniversary in 2009. Had it done it the Rex way the centennial would have been a year earlier. I mention this because this year Muses, which first paraded in 2001 is calling this Carnival its 20th anniversary.
For mediation we call on higher authority, namely the Louisiana State Lottery, which in 2009 printed scratch-off tickets to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Al Johnson’s R & B song, “Carnival Time.” The state’s calculations were based on the recording being made in 1959 so, in a non- Rex manner, 2009 was the 50th anniversary.
Rex, however, in 2009, stuck to its method in celebrating the 50th anniversary of parade doubloons, which were first tossed from its floats in 1960. By some ways of counting 2010 would be 50th, but that’s not the Rex way.
King Sargon, the signature names of each year’s King of the Knights of Babylon, presented an opportunity for Solomon-like wisdom in determining the Knights’ 70th anniversary, which is also being celebrated in 2009. The anniversary could be based on 1939, the year when The Jester’s Club, Babylon’s parent organization, was founded or on 1940, the year of the first parade. Take your pick.
I propose standardization of the way anniversaries are determined although I am not sure who should do the standardizing. If I were Emperor, reigning over all these Kings, I would demand the year-later method. Under my dictum Zulu would have been 100 in 2009 and Rex’s bicentennial will be in 2072 not ’71. But then again the King of Carnival, I suppose, rules supreme.
(As an aside, March 3, 1699 was the first full day that Iberville and his group camped in Louisiana territory. By historical luck, the day also happened to be Mardi Gras on the calendar. So, 1999 was celebrated as being the tricentennial of the first Mardi Gras celebration in the new world even though conventional procedure would have favored 1998.)
Meanwhile, those of you who have read this far are invited back next year when the first anniversary of reading this is celebrated. Or should it be today?
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book web sites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7PM, REPEATED AT 11:30 PM.WYES-TV, CH. 12.