New Orleans

Mardi Gras

Origin of the Creole Carnivals

History tells us that on New Year's Eve of 1831, a number of pleasure-seeking men spent the entire night in a Creole restaurant at Mobile arranging for the first mystic order in that city, and from this beginning the long line of Creole comedies sprang up. In 1857, the Mystic Krewe of Comus made its first appearance upon the streets of New Orleans. "Paradise Lost" was the subject selected for illustration. Year after year the revelry was repeated on Shrove Tuesday, but the outbreak of the war naturally put a stop to the annual rejoicing. Southern enthusiasm is, however, hard to down, and directly the war was over, Comus reappeared in all his glory. A few years later the Knights of Momus were created, and in 1876 the Krewe of Proteus had its first carnival. Many other orders have followed, but these are the more magnificent and important.

    It is difficult to convey an adequate idea of the feeling which prevails in regard to these comedies. The mystery which surrounds the orders is extraordinary, and the secret has been well kept, a fact which cynics attribute to the exclusion of ladies from the secret circle. It is well known that on many occasions men have pretended to leave the city on the eve of the comedy, and to have returned to their homes a day or two later, not even their own families knowing that they took a leading part in the procession. The Carnival Kings issue royal edicts prior to their arrival, commanding all business to cease on the occasion of the rejoicings. The command is obeyed literally. Banks, courts of justice and business houses generally suspend operations, and old and young alike turn out to do homage to the monarch of the day.

Let us imagine for a moment we are privileged to see a Creole carnival. Every inch of available space has been taken up. Every balcony overlooking the royal route is crowded with pleasure parties, including richly dressed ladies, all the flower and beauty of the Sunny South being represented. The course is illuminated in the most attractive manner, and every one is waiting anxiously for the procession. Bands of music, playing sprightly tunes, finally reward the patience of the watchers. Then come heralds, bodyguards and marshals, all gorgeously arrayed for the occasion. Their horses, like themselves, are richly adorned for the occasion, and the banners and flags are conspicuous for the artistic blending of colors.

Then riding in state comes the Lord High Chamberlain, bearing the golden key of the city, delivered over to him in state twenty-four hours previously by the Mayor. Next comes the hero of the parade, the King himself. All eyes are riveted upon him. Thoroughly disguised himself, he is able to recognize on the balconies and among the crowds his personal friends and most devoted admirers. To these he bows with great solemnity. Mystified to a degree, and often disputing among themselves as to the probable identity of the monarch, the richly dressed young ladies and their cavaliers bow in return, and look as though they would fain hold the monarch among them much longer than the necessity of keeping order makes it possible. Following the King are the bodyguards and crowds of holiday makers.

The United States: its Wonders, its Beauties, and its People; with Descriptive Notes, Character Sketches, Folk Lore, Traditions, Legends and History, for the Amusement of the Old and the Instruction of the Young.

BY JAMES COX, Author of "Our Own Country," "Missouri at the World's Fair," "Old and New St. Louis," "An Arkansas Eden," "Oklahoma Revisited," Etc., 1903
"Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself has said,
This is my own,my native land."
Project Gutenberg


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