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Halloween vs. Mardi Gras


Ah, Halloween. My favorite holiday. Or is my favorite holiday Mardi Gras? This is a struggle I have had my whole life. I love them both, but do I love one more than the other? Both involve costumes (yes you're supposed to wear costumes for Mardi Gras), partying, drinking, time with family, friends, food, and treats. So what's the problem you ask? Well, Mardi Gras and Halloween are both a single day. Carnival leads up to Mardi Gras and in New Orleans, Voodoo Fest leads up to Halloween. Voodoo Fest is only 3 days, where as Carnival can be between four to six weeks depending on when Easter falls. Mardi Gras is a celebration of our own gluttony before Ash Wednesday. It's a chance to get all your vices out of your system so that you can coast through Lent and into Easter spiritually and morally pure. Well at least you people can. I never make it. Are you going to hell too? I'm driving the bus cocksuckers so I'll save you a window seat!

One of the things that draws me constantly to the Vieux Carre (French Quarter) is the dark history of it. Vampires, cemeteries, the Lalaurie Mansion, the shady characters and scoundrels that walked the streets for the last 299 years. The mystery of it all, the atmosphere, and the architecture can make you feel as if you've gone back in time. It's magical, sort of a scoundrel's Disneyland. Too think of the things that have happened here is mind boggling. I love history and read it daily and I'll never know all there is to know about this place.

So does Halloween win this contest? I'm still not sure. Mardi Gras is historic as well. But it's a happier, brightly lit, history. There's some mystery and tradition to it, but for the most part it's a family holiday that at least to me, doesn't conjure up images of Victorian era Vampires lurking around the dark streets of the French Quarter in search of their next victim.

So perhaps the answer here is that neither can be more important than the other. They are the Yin and Yang of my year. Halloween satisfies the dark, evil side, and Mardi Gras is the shiny happy side of the coin. If I missed one or the other I would not feel complete. They are very similar, yet very different and I need both. Halloween may seem a little more special, but only because it's a shorter period. You have to cram more celebrating into a much smaller time frame. During Carnival and Mardi Gras you can pace yourself. Well...you can. I refuse too.

So today when you're trick or treating, wherever that may be, be mindful of the Werewolves, witches, vampires, mummies, and other spirits lurking in the shadows. Oh there out there, so stay safe and keep the kiddies close. And realize that 12th Night is only 67 days away and then Carnival season starts. Maybe that's why I like Halloween so much. To me it feels like the start of Carnival. There's Halloween, into Thanksgiving, into Christmas, then New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, 12th Night, then Mardi Gras.

So in my mindless ramblings here I think I have finally figured it out. One is not more important than the other. One needs the other. Halloween is the unofficial start to carnival in my eyes and Mardi Gras is the finish. It begins dark and mysterious and as the time, and holidays pass, it gets brighter, more jubilant, until we're all standing on Canal St. pushing through the crowd, trying to catch some 10 cent trinket, made in China, and nearly breaking our necks doing so!

Happy Halloween & Laissez les bons temps rouler ~ Gus


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