In the 22 years I have lived in the south I have discovered Southerns love 3 things. They love the beach, SEC football and Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is a carnival celebration for the two weeks before and through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French), which is the day before Ash Wednesday. In my pre-southern exposure, I thought Mardi Gras was a parade in New Orleans….period. How was I to know, without the invention of the internet and YouTube, that throws were involved. Or that moon pies weren’t just a lunchbox dessert.
So, in 22 years this is what I have learned about Mardi Gras…………
New Orleans isn’t the only place it happens! The debate over “who had it first” is as long as “who should win the SEC”. Mobile, Alabama claims the first one in the United States and so does New Orleans. I think it’s safe to say though, that New Orleans has a longer history of making it a tourist destination.
People go to the parades to get the “throws” (and maybe see the beautiful floats). I never knew there was such a thing as throws until one of my K4 students wanted to do a Mardi Gras parade for our class. She brought her little red wagon and while her mother pulled her around the church courtyard she threw moon pies and beads at us! I have since learned that the Krewe (New Orleans) or the Mystic Society (Mobile) member buys the throws, which can be quite an investment.
If you want to be an active participant at the parade you must yell, “Hey Mister, throw me something!” The favorites are beads and moon pies. Not a fan of moon pies, but I understand that every year the Chattanooga Bakery, home of the moon pie, introduces a new flavor. The flavor for 2011 is coconut. Last year it was mint. The year before that…..well, let’s just say it is the only moon pie I dream of….peanut butter. The creamy, peanut butter center is just so much better than the marshmallow one. Oh, and by the way, attracting attention of float riders does not require lifting your shirt!
Every year I send our pen pal class a little Mardi Gras celebration of their own. A box full of the important stuff, beads and moon pies. The first year I did this the classroom teacher had to ask her coworker, a southern native, about the moon pies. She was told to zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds…can you now say “smores”?
There are many opportunities to attend a Mardi Gras celebration in our area so I don’t normally have a classroom celebration. This year I ended up with extra beads. I didn’t want to just hand them out. That wouldn’t be in keeping with the carnival spirit. So I threw them. Got the correct answer? Woo-hoo, Mardi Gras, catch this! You’re on task? Yea! Catch the beads! We did this off and on all day making sure everyone was recognized and caught a throw. With an increase in listening, working and following directions, we had a very productive day and we had fun!
I hope I haven’t given you the idea that I have actually been to Mardi Gras, because I haven’t. I don’t know why, but I never have. I just have a lot of friends that go either as throwers or catchers. They bring me beads, they introduce me to peanut butter moon pies, and share their Mardi Gras wisdom. It’s almost like being there…minus the crowds.