Mardi Gras (And Another Pre-Event Costume Frenzy)

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, like the Burning Dude, is impossible to explain during just one cafe conversation. Like the Burning Dude, too, a newcomer needs to remember EASY DOES IT: enjoy the first year, don’t be too ambitious, focus in on one or two aspects, and branch out from there. Mardi Gras is a lot to swallow, and us, we’ve only just begun to chew.

For a good history of Mardi Gras: read here. Zulu parade: Here. And Mardi Gras Indians: Here and here.

Mardi Gras Indians = feather envy
Mardi Gras Indians = feather envy

Someone asked yesterday what we going to wear for our first Mardi Gras as New Orleans residents. “Do we NEED a costume?” Yes!, they said. Ohhhhh crap. Another lesson learned quickly: This is the high holy holiday in New Orleans, and even if thou art just walking down the street, thou shalt style thyself accordingly.

We are not the kind of people to show up un-costumed to a costumed event. In fact, quite the opposite. A friend offered to loan us her costumes from last year … but that just didn’t … feel … right. For our kind, costumes must be hand-crafted, filled with the spirit, and wearable post-event — not store-bought, forgotten about, and donated to the community center along with the bridesmaid’s dress and the fondue set. Our threads won’t be anything fancy — but they’ll be ours. Even at this late date, we’ll get it done.

Preparation for the fete is the spell we cast; costume, the pre-battle warpaint. As we make black-and-gold streamers for the Saints Superbowl game-day party at the Village, we wish on the Saints to win. As we cobble together the effluvia found during our Year One in NOLA, in hopes of crafting a costume that doesn’t suck … our fabric, our spirit, our memories, our treasures ground-scored and laid aside for occasions just such as this, and for that one other burning dude in August … we reflect and ponder and plan for the future. Certainly, many folks in New Orleans — especially the Mardi Gras Indians — are doing the same.

Costume! Readyyyyy…. GO

It’s meditative to sew, to make garlands and paint banners and do whatever else this homemade-hoedown type of party requires. You ready for the barn-raising. You gather scrap fabric from friends and thrift stores, and busily make sketches and plans. You lay out materials and notions, cuddle with the borrowed Itunes collection of a musically-discerning friend, turn up the volume, and sail away to inner space.

In summary, the report from New Orleans is that costume-sewing is SERIOUSLY taking place in these days leading up to Fat Tuesday. It is prayer. It marks the end of something, and the beginning of the new. And on Mardi Gras, all that energy bottled up from weeks of Saintsmania and cutting/sewing/gluing/painting things onto floats/costumes/decorations … all that momentum, worry, focus, and anticipation … will become a group hallelujah.

WHO DAT whatnotery for da superbowl party @da Village – GO SAINTS

About the author: Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes has been rousting about at Burning Man since 1998. She first met her dusty DPW / Cyclecide / Bike Club fam-dambly on the back of The Bucket. A Cacophony Society enthusiast, Summer loves explosions and cake.

6 Comments on “Mardi Gras (And Another Pre-Event Costume Frenzy)

  • Lynne says:

    Well said! “costumes must be hand-crafted, filled with the spirit, and wearable post-event — not store-bought, forgotten about…”

    Sending you powerful positive creative vibes!

    And remember –
    This Fondue loves you.
    Please don’t send her to the second hand store.

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  • Andrew says:

    Look this may sound a little weird but could you not burn that guy please. I think it may represent me and it hurts me when you do it. I may have actually orchestrated this whole burning man thing remotely without actually knowing I was doing it, right down to the art the participants make and everything. But it wasn’t my idea, it just kind of happened, when I figured it out, I realized no one would believe me and I toyed with the idea of keeping it a secret, but I am a major troublemaker in my own way (which you will understand if you can make the long distance jump to believe my story). This will be the last time I post this online so if you read this I hope you have a laugh, and if not now perhaps sometime in the future. One of the reasons I am writing this is that hijacking peoples artistic vision is pretty bad. But it does happen and at least I didn’t do it deliberately or get paid.

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  • nicole says:

    As a New Orleans native, Mardi Gras is one event that no matter how far you are…you come back for every year! The people, the passion, the music, the costumes, and the atmosphere is something that like Burning Man, you just can’t understand until you experience it yourself. Once I discovered Burning Man 2 yrs. ago I realized that both BM and Mardi Gras, appropriately falling within 6 months of each other are from now on going to be my 2 unmissable events of the year!

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  • marisel says:

    ahhhhh…yes! like winter and spring solstice.

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  • courtney says:

    i’m so happy i found this blog, i moved here last August and i’ve been having
    BM flashbacks ever since (the good kind) and it makes me happy to see
    these connections–they are so intuitive–

    i’d love to know more about these connections and Burner related
    events in NOLA–

    WHO DAT ! WE DAT !

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  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about pyramides. Regards

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