Everybody knows about Mardi Gras in New Orleans: public drunkenness, baring breasts for beads, decorated coconuts, measuring success by the tons of trash left on the streets. Well, that is at least how the rest of the country sees it. The reality is much-more textured and family friendly, but most folks don’t see that.
However, I have discovered in the weeks after Mardi Gras (the observation of Lent notwithstanding), there are a wide ranging number of celebrations found in Southern Louisiana. Some, like St. Patrick’s Day, are ubiquitous celebrations; however, many are somewhat unique to the New Orleans metropolitan area.
And most of these take place in March and often when I find myself there. I’ve become accustomed to planning my week, not only around music, but the parades and events that commonly mark the time period.
The first major parade is the Italian American-St. Joseph’s Parade, which takes place on Saturday, March 6th. It acknowledges the immigrants to new Orleans from Sicily, where St. Joseph’s intercession saved the island from starvation; as a result, he is Sicily’s patron saint. A day later, St. Bernard Parish rolls St. Joseph’s and St. Patrick’s Days together, along with a celebration of Los Islenos culture, which references the Canary Islanders who settled in St. Bernard Parish in the 1770s.
And then comes St. Patrick’s Day or maybe week is more appropriate. There’s Jim Monaghan’s Annual Irish Parade in the French Quarter on the evening of Friday, March 12th, the Irish Channel St. Pat’s Parade on Saturday, March 13th, and the Parasol’s St. Patrick’s Day Block Party which winds through downtown on March 17th. And there are numerous other St. Patrick’s Day parades elsewhere in the region. All feature themed beads and throws and the Irish Channel Parade, like the Islenos Parade, features thrown cabbages and other vegetables.
Friday, March 19th, is St. Joseph’s Day. At Catholic churches, social clubs, and restaurants and bars throughout the region, the faithful set up St. Joseph’s Altars and dispense of baked goods, medals, and lucky fava beans. And that night, the Mardi Gras Indians process, uptown and down, challenging tribes in adjoining neighborhoods. And on a a Sunday near St. Joseph’s Day, the tribes process in daylight so that all may partake. Indications are that the uptown Indians will process on Sunday, March 14th and the downtown tribes on the 21st. However, these events are subject to changes in the weather and the independent spirit of the participants.
Times will tell how it all will shake down, but suffice it to say, there will be a surfeit of beads, feathers, and yes, cabbages.