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Mardi Gras Dictionary

Ball - A masked dance and party held by a krewe to celebrate Mardi Gras and introduce their royalty for the season. Some krewes have short variety performances based on that year's theme.

Boeuf Gras - Literally "fat bull" in French. Since Fat Tuesday is the day before the beginning of Lent (when Catholics traditionally did not eat meat), this beast represents the last hurrah before plunging into asparagus, rice, and fish on Fridays. Up until 1909, the Rex parade walked a live bull through the streets. A paper mache version first appeared in 1959.

Captain - The leader of each Carnival group or organization.

Carnival - The season immediately before Lent, when people enjoy the sensual pleasures of life. Eating, drinking, dancing...the whole bit. The word is derived from Latin: Carne levare, levamen (Farewell to flesh).

Court -The king, queen, maids and dukes of the krewe.

Den - A secret location where floats are built and stored when it's not Mardi Gras.

Doubloons - Fake coins with the krewe's logo or motto on the front (heads) and theme on the back (tails). Doubloons were first introduced by the Krewe of Rex in 1960.

Favor - A token of appreciation given by krewe members to friends attending the ball. This souvenir usually has the krewe's insignia, name, and a date of issue. The item is a ring, pin, doubloon, or something similar.

Flambeaux Carriers - Men who carry the torches for the parades. Traditionally, carriers were black and they lit the early parades. Nowadays streetlights illuminate routes, and gas-powered flambeaux carriers carry mostly tradition on their shoulders. It's a tradition to throw coins to them for their efforts.

Float - The big things in between the bands and horses. People ride on them and throw beads. (C'mon, keep up with everyone else.) The first float probably rolled in the 1830s. For more information, see our history of Mardi Gras.

Indians - Mardi Gras Indians are mixed-race blacks and Native Americans around New Orleans. The roots of the group goes back the common struggle of these groups against European and American settlers. Mardi Gras Indians wear hand-stitched costumes with thousands of feathers.

Invitation - Hand-written invitations get you into the ball. I've never seen one, but if someone is feeling generous, please send one to:
Joe Rawley
1 Galleria Blvd
Ste 850
Metairie, LA

King Cake - A circular cake that is purple, green, and gold. Despite the colors, people do actually eat them. They can be infused with cinnamon, berries, or cream, and most have a tiny plastic baby inside. Whoever gets the baby is supposed to buy the cake the next day.

Krewe - Carnival organizations that a organize Mardi Gras parade, hold a ball, and have Mardi Gras celebrations as their central purpose. The Mistick Krewe of Comus coined the word in 1857.

Lundi Gras - Fat Monday, the day before Fat Tuesday.

Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday. Also known as hours 72 to 96 of that day's party.

Samedi Gras - Fat Saturday, the Saturday prior to Fat Teusday.

Second Line - Second line is a tradition in brass band parades in New Orleans.

Processions with music include the periodic parades of benevolent societies, social aid & pleasure clubs, such as Zulu, other Carnival krewes, and of course the famous funerals with music, often called "jazz funerals".

The "first line" of a funeral consisted of the people who were an integral part of the ceremony, such as the members of the club or krewe, or family and friends of the deceased. The "second line" originally referred to people who were attracted to the music. Traditionally such people would follow behind the "first line."

To follow such processions because one enjoyed the music came to be known as to "second line" or to be "second lining." Uninhibited dancing at processions also came to be called second lining.

Today, "second line" types of dances are held independently of funerals.

Throws - Anything thrown from a float, including beads, trinkets, toys, aluminum doubloons, plastic cups, necklaces, and dolls.

Throw me something, Mister! - What you will find yourself yelling just before you knock over your 6-year old niece to get a strand of beads worth 30 cents.

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