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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mardi Gras and the Sins of the South

Most of you know about Mardi Gras. You've heard the tales of debauchery and excess. But did you know that the original Mardi Gras started in Mobile, Alabama? Ok, there is a lot of southern speculation on this, but people in the state of Alabama swear by it. So travelling through, I had the opportunity to visit one of the many, many parades enjoyed by this state. Here are some well-known Wiki-pedia facts about Mardi Gras.

1. Mardi Gras in Mobile dates back to 1703, a full 15 years before New Orleans was founded. (1718)

2. It is the oldest annual Carnival celebration in America.

3. It began as a French Catholic tradition, celebrating until the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, until midnight on Mardi Gras day (French for "Fat Tuesday."

4.Mardi Gras in Mobile now has evolved into a mainstream multi-week celebration across the spectrum of cultures in Mobile and is a day off school for the final Monday and Tuesday of the festival regardless of religious affiliation.

5.Mobile has traditions of exclusive societies, with formal masked balls and elegant costumes, the celebration has evolved over the past three centuries to become typified by public parades where members of societies, often masked, on floats or horseback toss gifts to the general public, as throws, including plastic beads, doubloon coins, decorated plastic cups, candy, wrapped Moon Pies, stuffed animals,small toys, footballs, frisbees, and whistles.

6. At the masked balls, where non-masked men wear white tie and tails full dress or costumes and women wear full length evening gowns, garnishing an invitation is akin to winning an Oscar!

7. Beyond the public parades, Mardi Gras in Mobile involves many various mystic societies, some having begun in 1704, or ending with the Civil War, while new societies were formed every century. Some mystic societies are never seen in public parades, but rather hold invitation-only events for their secret members, with private balls beginning in November, each year.

8. For visitors who want a family-friendly experience, attending a nightly parade is the way to go! Just be sure and duck as I was clobered several times by hoards of beads and Moon pies! The last couple of days of Mardi Gras tend to be the more raucheous celebrations, so stay away if your not into that! Otherwise enjoy next year!

9. There are so many mysteries in the South. "Underground" societies, social mannerisms, histories that continually reveal dark secrets. And mint juleps! Don't forget mint julips!

Hankering for a book that explores some of these kinds of secrets? Vicki Allen and The Search for Shannon is southern a novel set in Mississippi, Alabama and southeast Georgia, and is the story of four women, brought together by the birth and subsequent adoption of one child. Amazing how the history of one can affect so many other lives. Read on!