HONOLULU (KHON2) — “Throw me some beads, mister,” is a common request that anyone who goes to Mardi Gras on the Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama Gulf Coast will hear.
Mardi Gras, quite simply, is French for Fat Tuesday. But, Fat Tuesday is only one day of a much longer season, referred to as Carnival season.
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This year, Carnival began on Jan. 6 and will end at 11:59 p.m. on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 21. Carnival is a Catholic tradition that has permeated entire cultures around the world. It is a period of time for decadence and debauchery before Lent begins.
It all begins 12 days after Christmas and runs through Fat Tuesday, and Fat Tuesday is always 47 days before Easter begins. So, that period of time is Carnival season.
During this time, families spend time together at parades, parties and gatherings. A popular item that is exchanged during the season is the king cake.
Originally known as twelfth night cake, those who observe Carnival will put a small, plastic baby inside the ring-shaped cake. And, whoever gets the baby when the cake is sliced is responsible for throwing the next party.
King cakes are a delicious brioche-based cinnamon roll like dessert that is coated in purple, green and gold royal icing and dusting sugars and stuffed with all sorts of deliciousness – such as cheesecakes, fruits or custards. Some people will also add doubloons and beads to help make the presentation more festive.
Fortunately for everyone living on O’ahu, Whole Foods located on Waialae Avenue in Kahala will be carrying king cakes this Carnival season, according to the store’s general manager.
Purple, green and gold are very important colors for Mardi Gras. Purple represents justice. Green represents faith. Gold represents power. Everything during this season is colored purple, green and gold.
Also, during this time are lots and lots of parades. Each parade is sponsored by what are known as Krewes. These Krewes are social clubs that come together to provide memorable celebrations.
Some of the really well known Krewes from New Orleans are Endymion, Zulu, Rex, Bacchus and Isis, only to name a few.
Now, for the statement about a mister throwing more beads. During these parades, the Krewes throw out all sorts of gifts to the revelers. Of course, you have probably heard of Mardi Gras beads. These range from really cheap, tiny, plastic beads to elaborate and decorative beads [i.e. a plastic necklace with rubber duckies attached]. The bigger your beads, the better you’ve done.
Zulu is known for throwing coconuts out to the crowds, and these coconuts have been known to go for hundreds of dollars on online auction sites.
Costumes are another part of Mardi Gras. Families will dress up, typically following the theme of the day’s parade.
Needless to say, children adore Carnival season. Keep in mind that Bourbon Street is really the only place where there are not family friendly Mardi Gras celebrations. Carnival is about decadence, but it is also family oriented.
Since Hurricane Katrina, there is a larger population that moved from New Orleans to Honolulu. But, bringing Carnival with them has been no easy task. There are no parades, and local schools do not have a Mardi Gras holiday.
But, Carnival is in the heart and soul. It is something that stays with you regardless of where you go.
The day following Mardi Gras is known as Ash Wednesday. It is the start of Lent when there is no decadence or debauchery.
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So, in the meantime, celebrate Carnival with a king cake party and laissez le bon temps rouler, y’all!