El Dorado News-Times

For a good time, where do you go? Louisiana, for Carnival


If Mardi Gras is so great, one might ask as another Fat Tuesday passes by, then why hasn’t it been copied across the land?

Maybe it’s because any effort to duplicate Mardi Gras beyond south Louisiana would surely lead to efforts to improve it, making it into something no one would recognize.

The charm of Mardi Gras — and its maddening complicati­on — is its monstrous inefficien­cy. The parades are longer than any prudent planner would make them. The distributi­on of beads and other trinkets is random, excessive, profligate — in short, a reveler’s rebuke to any student of logistics. As for the Mardi Gras diet — king cakes, cocktails, gumbo and goodness-knows-what-else — suffice it to say that it’s a running revolt against restraint.

One can only imagine how a prudent reformer might refine Mardi Gras if it were attempted in some saner city — like Portland, Oregon, say, or Peoria, Illinois. The parades would be shorter, no doubt, more punctual, with an eye toward keeping everyone on schedule. Transplant­ed to tamer places, a Mardi Gras menu might replace king cake with bran muffins, bourbon with herbal tea, gumbo with tofu. Departing from the decadence of Fat Tuesday fashion, the revelers in this morally rehabilita­ted Fat Tuesday would all wear something not too form-fitting, complement­ed by sensible shoes.

But the magic of Mardi Gras — the one we know and love — is that it transcends the mean arithmetic of means and ends, the arid geometry of the straight line, the grim insistence that hard fact is somehow invariably better than heady fantasy.

Yes, Mardi Gras is too much — too much noise, too much food, too much togetherne­ss. But like all holidays, it makes a meaning from its heedless plenitude.

Whether it’s the overthe-top feast of Thanksgivi­ng or the overdone celebratio­n of Christmas, most of our holidays indulge excess as a civic creed. It’s our way of affirming abundance — our simple faith that life’s fortune, even spent generously, bears the seeds of its own renewal.

Mardi Gras arrives at just the right time each year — after the merriment of yuletide has passed, and a weary world needs a bridge between the cheer of Christmas and the promise of Easter.

Much has happened since last year’s Mardi Gras. The country has been touched by violence, and anguished by politics that grow more divisive by the day.

A deadly pandemic took Mardi Gras into global disrepute as it was blamed for spreading coronaviru­s in the country in 2020. The comeback has been slow, but it is finally here.

Part of the joy is sharing the good times, and they are always good times, with our friends from around the world.

Absence, or parade route limits over two years, has definitely made our heart long for it.

We needed Mardi Gras now more than ever, and we welcomed its promise of a pause in life’s cares, a chance to party and play.

So let the good times roll, and Happy Mardi Gras to all.

— The Advocate, Feb. 21

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