Monday, February 15, 2021

No Mardi Gras, hard winter weather and here comes Lent; reflecting on a Monday morning

 In any other year, down here in the southeast and southwest parts of Louisiana, especially in and around New Orleans, we would be all geared up for tomorrow, Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras.  By now the whole season of Carnival and it's signature parades would be 2-3 weeks old, pointing to the culmination on Mardi Gras Day.  Today is called Lundi Gras and many folks, locals and tourists alike, would be recovering from the previous weekend's onslaught of parades, several of which are called super-krewes, because of the sheer size and number of the parade floats.  And still the ultimate climax would still be a full day away.  Mardi Gras Day, especially in New Orleans, is marked by families out on the parade routes before dawn, setting up tents and cooking delicious foods while the early morning marching groups walk by.  Then the parades begin, depending where you are set up first Zulu, followed by Rex, known as the King of Carnival, then the seemingly never ending truck floats of Elks and Crescent City.  Once over, families pack up, return home, although some flock to the French Quarter for the more adult version of Fat Tuesday which ends at midnight with the ceremonial clearing of the streets by the police department and the sanitation crews.  Not far away the grand masquerade balls of Rex and Comus also end the season with the grand meeting of the courts.  The end of a great day and a long season that makes us uniquely Louisiana and uniquely New Orleans.  Sadly, not this year, not yesterday, not today and not tomorrow.

The horrible pandemic, this deadly virus put a halt to the Carnival season and Mardi Gras with it.  No balls, no parties, no parades.  In fact most of the historic French Quarter is closed, bars can't serve alcohol and crowds cannot congregate.  Covid19 did what only world wars and a police strike could do; stop the parades.  And as I write this on Lundi Gras, who knew that the Monday - Tuesday celebration would be threatened even without Covid19 by a freak weather event.  We are suffering with brutal cold, like most of the country, but we don't handle this well.  Some areas are currently getting ice, sleet, some snow and a very hard freeze, by New Orleans standards is moving in.  In fact tomorrow, which would see people crowded all over the place, will dawn with temps in the teens and wind chills colder than that.  Possibly ok for someone from the Midwest or New England, but dangerous and not fun for us southerners.

I cringe when it gets this cold.  Yes, I'm the guy that posts all summer long that I need the colder weather because I'm sick and tired of all the heat.  Yep, that's me; but I do not advocate for this.  I've only experienced 2, maybe 3 hard freezes and the last one left me without water for a time.  I literally was camped out near my water pump with a blow dryer trying to defrost a iced line; by the way, it worked.  

So all we can do today and tomorrow is hunker down and ride it out, praying for the power to hold and the water to flow.  And we all look forward to a more normal and usual Carnival time in 2022, even me, who does not venture out to the parades even in the best of weather.  But one thing we hope will go on, as adjusted for the virus, is Lent, beginning on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.  It will still be cold for us but the nasty weather and hard freezes will be gone.  For us, at my parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we will change the normal way we distribute ashes.  Instead of the usual cross applied to the foreheads of the faithful we will instead sprinkle a pinch of dry ashes on the crown of the head, you know, the way they do it at the Vatican.  Masks will be required by both the ministers distributing the ashes and the faithful receiving the ashes.  Then on Friday we begin our Stations of the Cross.  Fridays in Lent also bring forth the KC Lenten Fish Fry dinners, take-out only this year also due to the pandemic.

So hopefully we all endure the brutal winter weather well and we all reminisce about Mardi Gras past, hopeful for the future.  And hopefully, we are all preparing worthily and well for a season of Lent which prepares us for the joys of Easter.

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