According to my favorite online encyclopedia, Mardi Gras is an annual festival marking the final day before the Christian fast of Lent, a 40-day period of self-denial and abstinence from merrymaking. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday or Carnival. Mardi Gras is the last opportunity for revelry and indulgence in food and drink before the Lent. The word Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in the French word.
The date of Mardi Gras changes from year to year, but it is always falling between February 3 and March 9. The Carnival season is marked by spectacular parades featuring elaborate floats, beauty pageants, elaborate costumes, masked balls, and dancing in the streets. The most famous of these kinds of festivals are those found in Brazil and in New Orleans.
Ah, so this is where our city got our very own festival. During the 1980s our city was a rich city because of the sugar industry. Sugar barons strut around like kings and own vast tracts of land like the old medieval feudal system. However, the crash of the sugar industry brought about widespread unemployment and poverty. It was a very painful wake-up call for everyone who thinks the days of plenty will never end. The local government, in response, decided to hold a Mardi Gras like street party where the people wore smiling masks and dance in the streets. It was a successful festival. The people for a moment forgot their misery and it even proved as manna from heaven when tourists began arriving to witness the event thus giving money to the city because of tourism.
The city then provided different gimmicks to keep the visitors coming. Popular bands and artists were invited to perform during the week-long event. Then there were mask making contests and dress up games for children. The dress up games go hand in hand with mask wearing and during the festival one can always see children in costumes and masks. Winners of these contests usually earn a modest amount enough to compensate for the effort in joining this mask making contests and dress up games.
As a youngster, I enjoy these dress up games. I would go with my family watching the street dance competition and taking in the sights. It was a sort of a family tradition for us to join the celebration until nighttime, eat out in one of those outdoor barbecue places (our city is famous for its barbecue chicken) and then try the various kiddie rides in the carnival for a cheap price.
My fondest memories of attending these festivals are not the dress up games and mask making contests or the street dancing that I witnessed but this singular scene wherein my father would raise me up and put me in his shoulder so that I could see what was going on around me despite the throngs of people in the streets. Since then I always make sure to join in the celebration, I am anticipating what surprises have the local government in store for next year.