Today is Monday, the date before Mardi Gras day, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. My premise to this column, if there is one, is maybe the world would be a better place if more countries used a “Lundi Gras” approach to having their heads of state meet and celebrate together, at least for a day.
The following is some background information to very generally describe Mardi Gras and Lundi Gras to illustrate my previous thought. Please forgive any missing or slightly incorrect information.
Mardi Gras generally refers to the period of time (at least in South Louisiana) beginning after the Twelfth Night (the last night of Christmas which begins Epiphany (or Three Kings Day) and that ends on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is otherwise also known as Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", which many understand to reflect the practice of the last night (i.e., on Fat Tuesday) of eating rich, fatty foods before certain fasting practices during the Lenten season.
Lundi Gras is the name used to generally refer to a series of events on the Monday prior to Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras day. One of the traditional events includes the tradition of Rex, referred to as king of the New Orleans carnival, and the Zulu King arriving by boat and landing along the Mississippi River adjacent to the City of New Orleans. Both Kings use the opportunity to come together and embrace each other in celebration.
The Krewe of Rex is one of the oldest participating groups in Mardi Gras and was founded in 1872 while New Orleans was still recovering from the Civil War. The initial purpose was to entice tourists to the city and businesses to put down roots in the community. Every year, a member of the Krewe of Rex is selected to be Rex, the monarch of the Krewe for that year. King Rex's identity has traditionally been kept secret until Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras. One big exception is that the New Orleans newspaper, the Times Picayune, usually in recent times has published the Traditionally, the mayor of New Orleans handed Rex a symbolic key to the city.
The Krewe of Zulu was formed in early 1909 when a group in a club named “The Tramps” went to the Pythian Theater to see a musical comedy that included a skit entitled, “There Never Was and Never Will Be a King Like Me” about the Zulu Tribe. According to various internet sources, after seeing the skit, the group retired to their meeting place (a room in the rear of a restaurant) and emerged as Zulus. However, many believe that Zulu’s beginning is much more complicated than that. One of the most famous kings of the Krewe of Zulu was Louis Armstrong who reigned in 1949.
On Monday, February 28th, or Lundi Gras, it will be the 35th anniversary of when Rex and King Zulu appear before the crowds at Spanish Plaza along the Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans.
Les Bon Temp Rouler!