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Pandemic Mardi Gras: No Crowds, Lots of Cake


Members of the Krewe of Oak toast Carnival as the Phunny Phorty Phellows start their 40th anniversary streetcar ride in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (David Grunfeld/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)
Pandemic Mardi Gras: No Crowds, Lots of Cake
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In the American city of New Orleans, the Carnival season began – as it always does - on January 6. But the coronavirus crisis has put an end to the huge celebrations that bring thousands of people to the city each year.

The Mardi Gras season runs until Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on February 16. The season is usually marked by colorful parties and large parades. Costumed riders throw small gifts, like plastic jewelry, to the massive crowds of people that walk along parade paths.

The coronavirus has halted those big events. But that has not stopped highly creative people in New Orleans from coming up with socially distant ways to celebrate.

A confetti canon is launched at the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc drive-thru parade in Behrman Memorial Park in Algiers for the start of Twelfth Night in New Orleans on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)
A confetti canon is launched at the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc drive-thru parade in Behrman Memorial Park in Algiers for the start of Twelfth Night in New Orleans on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

The Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc offers one example. It is a club that pays honor every Mardi Gras to the fallen French warrior hero. The group normally parades through the French Quarter neighborhood at the official start of the Carnival season.

But this year, the group held a “Tableaux de Jeanne d’Arc” event. The word “tableau” is a French term for “living picture.” A tableau is a costumed group of people who do poses. This year, members of the public drove by the many “living pictures” of the Jeanne d’Arc. These tableaux included stations where members dressed as warriors, sharpened their weapons and ate at a fireplace with a pig roasting nearby.

“Life as usual is gone, so we had to look for different ways of doing things this year,” said Antoinette de Alteriis. She is one of the club’s leaders.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows is another Mardi Gras krewe, or club. Members usually gather at the beginning of the season for a costumed party on a streetcar. Crowds of people gather at the place where the streetcar starts the club’s parading. But this year, people were asked to spread out along the streetcar’s path and watch from there instead.

Darryl Montana, left, the son of the late Big Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana, joins others at the blessing of the tambourines outside St. Augustine Catholic Church for the start of Twelfth Night in New Orleans on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Chris Granger)
Darryl Montana, left, the son of the late Big Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana, joins others at the blessing of the tambourines outside St. Augustine Catholic Church for the start of Twelfth Night in New Orleans on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Chris Granger)

However, people can still eat cake — king cake that is. The sweet cakes are a tradition that is more than 100 years old. They are decorated with the official Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold and eaten during the Carnival season.

In Mobile, Alabama, dozens of parades, balls and other events also have been canceled. The city, which sits in the Gulf of Mexico, calls itself the birthplace of Mardi Gras. That is because celebrations began there a few years earlier than in New Orleans.

Coastal Alabama usually begins its season later in January than New Orleans. So the current rise in coronavirus infections could be easing by the time events are set to start. But many organizations began announcing cancellations last month to protect the health of members and party-goers.

I’m Alice Bryant.

The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

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Words in This Story

costumed – adj. wearing clothes to try to look like a different person

club – n. a group of people who meet to participate in an activity (such as a sport or hobby)

pose – n. the position in which someone stands, sits, lies down, etc., especially as a model for a photograph, painting, etc.

streetcar – n. a vehicle that travels on streets on metal tracks and that is used for carrying passengers

cake – n. a sweet baked food made from a mixture of flour, sugar, and other ingredients, such as eggs and butter

decorate – v. to make (something) more attractive usually by putting something on it

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