Mardi Gras Celebrated in True Southern California Style
Tuesday, Feb. 16 marked the end of the Los Angeles Farmer's Market's celebration of Mardi Gras. Festivities raged on between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and included Cajun Zydeco music by Eddie Baytos and the Nervis Brothers, a booth selling handmade Mardi Gras-themed crafts and Cajun food prepared by The Gumbo Pot restaurant.?
The faint sound of horns and saxophones accompanied an audience chant of "I got my red beans cookin.'" Bright lights, plates of fresh fried catfish and dancing crowds seduced many passerby.?
The Los Angeles Farmer's Market had a unique set of party-goers this year. Donning beads and a feather mask Linda Thomas said, "This is the best [party] they have in LA! The food at La Lousiana is better, but the people aren't as multicultural."
People had different reasons for participating in Mardi Gras. "It's just another excuse for a party," says bystander Frank Infante. "If you're Catholic, if you're not, it's all good."?
The last day of the Mardi Gras celebration is called Fat Tuesday, a time of over-indulgence marking the day before the beginning of Catholic Lent. Lent is a liturgical season of fasting and repentance, motivating many people to get down and dirty on Fat Tuesday for one last hurrah.
Although many people do spend the night of Fat Tuesday out on the town for cheap thrills, many others look at the celebration in a different light, especially those originally from Louisiana. "There it's about getting your sins out before Lent," said native Louisianian Shantel Marie James. "[Mardi Gras] is not something you can go to, it's something in the air." Mardi Gras is more than just a party, said James. "Whether you're at your home or in the French Quarter, it's about food, fun and family."
?The Mardi Gras Act was signed in 1875, making Mardi Gras a legal holiday in Louisiana. The history of Mardi Gras has evolved into modern ritual. Gold coins called doubloons were tossed in the 1700-1800s, similar to the way beads are thrown today. A parade in 1711 consisted of a large bull statue on wheels pushed by sixteen men.
?The Nervis Brothers' trumpeter, Lee Thornburg, remarked that the Los Angeles celebration "doesn't even hold a candle" to those that take place in New Orleans. The band has performed for Mardi Gras in Los Angeles for the past twenty-two years.
"It's a gig," says Nervis Brothers' trombonist Nick Lane. When asked if he was participating based on a Catholic background Lane replied, "Tomorrow I'm giving up Cajun music for forty days."?
The Farmer's Market's Fat Tuesday celebration held positive vibes, great music and mouth-watering food. The participants left with beer-soaked shoes, an adornment of plastic beads and a memory of debauchery to get them through the next forty days and forty nights of Lent.