New Orleans Carnival Krewes:: The History, Spirit and Secrets of Mardi Gras
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New Orleans is practically synonymous with Mardi Gras. Both evoke the parades, the beads, the costumes, the food--the pomp and circumstance. The carnival krewes are the backbone of this Big Easy tradition. Every year, different krewes put on extravagant parties and celebrations to commemorate the beginning of the Lenten season. Historic krewes like Comus, Rex and Zulu that date back generations are intertwined with the greater history of New Orleans itself. Today, new krewes are inaugurated and widen a once exclusive part of New Orleans society. Through careful and detailed research of over three hundred sources, including fifty interviews with members of these organizations, author and New Orleans native Rosary O'Neill explores this storied institution, its antebellum roots and its effects in the twenty-first century..
for other clauses was not anticipated since only men known to have good morals were admitted. Costumed parades were an early source of amusement for both the Klan and carnival clubs. The Ku Kluxers had white masks, tall cardboard hats, full-length robes and, when they went mounted, covers for their horses’ bodies. Carnival organization members wore curtain masks, cardboard hats and satin robes in vibrant colors. The dukes and captain had satin-trimmed ermine capes and high boots. The Klan’s
Initiates—white men eighteen years or older—promised to be secret, obedient and “to maintain and defend the social and political superiority of the white race on this continent.” The White League, which grew out of a social club, the Crescent City Club, was founded before the war and was not organized until 1874. Its openly avowed political purpose was freeing Louisiana by force. White Leaguers (many of whom were also Knights of the White Camellia) collected arms and drilled in halls and cotton
have functioned as the guardians of the opportunistic ideal by emphasizing meritocracy rather than ancestry. However, many New Orleans youths sequester themselves in nearby universities, where the psychology of their parents remains dominant. Because of the demands placed on them from being in balls and making a debut, most daughters spend at least two college years at home. Sons venture away to college but return for graduate school. Moreover, many boys who go away to boarding schools come home
elaborate costumes covered with feathers and beads in styles combining Native American, African and New Orleanian influences. With names like “Creole Wild West,” “Yellow Pocahontas,” “Geronimo Hunters” and “Flaming Arrows,” the Indian men and families work for months to sew bead-and-feather “suits” with six-foot headdresses based (very) loosely on American Indian powwow regalia. Few of those who “mask Indian” actually wear masks, though many paint their faces and wear long, braided wigs. Parade
on heritage and good breeding than on material possessions. By the 1850s, the balls and receptions of the Garden District had surpassed the Creoles’ festivities in grandeur. Americans proclaimed their uniqueness as New Orleanians of a tripartite heritage: Spanish-French-American. The Civil War cemented New Orleanians together. They revered their city as a citadel that, had it not been for the Yankees, would have equaled New York. The city itself wasn’t destroyed, but Federal forces occupied it.