Five Reasons Mardi Gras Is Great

  1. Everything slows down during Carnival season. New Orleans never moves at a New York City pace ­– thank God; if we wanted that, we’d live in New York City – but during Carnival, it is entirely acceptable to take three-hour lunches on a weekday and then wander, half-drunk, through the French Quarter. It also becomes acceptable to write bulleted lists like this so that you can hurry out to catch a parade rather than taking the time to write an actual narrative piece with thoughtful transitions.
  2. There are some people I only see during Carnival. In other cities, people come home for Christmas. Here, they come back for Fat Tuesday. And that makes perfect sense to me: Christmas is very much the same everywhere, but you’re not celebrating Mardi Gras unless you’re here. There are some locals I only see at Carnival, too: the family friends who have watched me grow up, one Bacchus at a time; the friends of friends who live along the Thoth route and let me use their bathroom even though we don’t know each other’s names.
  3. The music. The marching bands have long been my favorite part of the parades. Now that I have a kid, I like them even more because it’s the part of the parade when my arms get a rest. And much like Christmas carols, I can listen to “Carnival Time” or “Go to the Mardi Gras” or “Mardi Gras Mambo” repeatedly during Carnival season without getting tired of them.
  4. The food. Again with the Christmas parallels, but King Cake is analogous to eggnog to me. It’s not something I enjoy year-round, but I love King Cake any time between Jan. 6 and Fat Tuesday. And Popeyes, gumbo and jambalaya are delicious at any time, true, but somehow Carnival makes them taste better.
  5.  OK, I give up: Carnival is like Christmas. Because my favorite thing about Carnival, just like my favorite thing about Christmas, is experiencing it through the eyes of my daughter. Yes, I get frustrated by many of the same things about both holidays – crowds, traffic, obnoxious behavior, too many social obligations, too much extra stuff  in my house  – but ultimately, I love it because my daughter loves it. I know the national press doesn’t give much coverage to Mardi Gras as a family-friendly holiday, but to me, that’s the whole point of it. Last weekend, I held Ruby on my hip, our necks heavy with beads, as she caught a stuffed animal from a passing float. And she kissed the stuffed animal and then threw back her head and yelled at the rider who had bestowed it upon her: “Thank you, mister! I love living in New Orleans!” And just as seeing Ruby delight in her presents Christmas morning made me instantly forget the sleepless night before spent assembling and wrapping them, watching her take such obvious joy in the whole thing made me wish that Carnival season was even longer than it is. And it made me very glad, as always, that I live here.

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

Be sure to check out Alex Gecan's feeble attempt to prove that Mardi Gras is awful.