I’m not saying that right now, as I type on the afternoon of Monday, Feb 13, there are not a large number of New Orleanians running to CVS to find a card and some flowers and/or chocolates, but Valentine’s Day in New Orleans almost always means something else as well: Carnival time.
Within the past six years, I have been to a ball twice on Valentine’s night; this year I will be at one the evening after. Though we love holidays, Mardi Gras trumps them all. In fact, I bet that there are as many couples postponing their celebrations until after Feb. 22 (everyone needs at least one day to recover) as there are couples saying "let’s make a big night out of it."
I know that there are some people who would rather shut their doors and pretend that there aren’t marching bands performing in the street and floats to see most afternoons and evenings for two weeks; I used to be one of them.
During my college years at Newcomb, I typically either went home or on a spring break trip during Carnival. I had seen Halloween and Southern Decadence; what could really be so much better than that? It took spending large amounts of time with born-and-bred locals to change my mind.
This year I have already ridden as a member one of the two krewes to which I belong, and am prepping for two balls. That is in addition to co-hosting open houses for our friends and acquaintances before and after each St. Charles Avenue route parade. Though these times are special, it’s the time spent standing on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street – feet and lower back aching, throat sore from yelling – that, were I to move, I would miss the most. I love the pomp and circumstance; oohing and ahhing like a child; yelling for and jumping to grab trinkets that I would never look twice at any other time; chatting with Mardi Gras neighbors (those people you never see except standing at parades) and watching their children grow (hi, Tigger!). And I love the conversations that happen between floats and parades; the ones that are always a little more emotionally charged, with a little more laughter than they would be if they happened somewhere else at a different time.
So while other people celebrate Valentine’s Day, let’s enjoy celebrating Valentines’ Day, Mardi Gras and living somewhere that takes a holiday and adds a little lagniappe.