Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mardi Gras Events Let the Good Times Roll across North Jersey

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mardi Gras Events Let the Good Times Roll across North Jersey

Article excerpt

Father Time gave us Yankees a raw deal.

We get a barren calendar in January and February, with only Presidents Day (the car dealers' Christmas) and Valentine's Day (Russell Stover caramels, anyone?) to get us through the long winter months. Whereas down in New Orleans, they get ... Mardi Gras.

Not just Mardi Gras day -- this year, Tuesday of next week -- but a whole month of revelry leading up to it, from Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, to Fat Tuesday itself. In New Orleans, Mobile, Ala., and some other Southern cities that partake of the "carnival" tradition, that means parades, masks, costumes, floats, bands, beads, king cakes (get the slice with the little baby, you're the king or queen of Mardi Gras), hurricanes and a whole lot of not-quite-sober fun.

But Mardi Gras creep, like mission creep, is hard to control. In recent decades, the holiday has been moving inexorably north. In our area, you can find several places to kick back and enjoy the last big blowout celebration before Lent. They range from family events in libraries that are suitable for kids to slightly less innocent merrymaking for the grown-ups.

Of course, if you're going to venture into Mardi Gras country, it's best to speak the language. Here is a beginner's dictionary:

BEIGNET: A New Orleans doughnut, similar to zeppole.

GUMBO: A spicy okra stew featuring rice, seafood and whatever else the cook has around (from the Bantu word for okra).

HURRICANE: A deceptively sweet, very potent rum-and-fruit-juice drink.

JAMBALAYA: A mixed French-African word that means, literally, "ham, everything and rice." In practice, a rice dish that may contain chicken, spicy andouille sausage, seafood and more, plus lots of cayenne pepper.

KING CAKE: Iced tricolor coffeecake, with a tiny doll baked inside; served at parties throughout the Mardi Gras season.

KREWES: The more than 50 social clubs that vie each year to create the most dazzling costumes and floats for Mardi Gras parades.

LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULER: Bad French for "let the good times roll."

MARDI GRAS: Literally, "Fat Tuesday." The climactic day of the carnival season, on the last Tuesday before Lent, accompanied by wild holiday-making, masked balls and (since 1827) massive parades that take over the city of New Orleans. …

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