Here's my stash of beads and colorful mask. Just when did people begin wearing masks during Mardi Gras?
I read that when the French held control of New Orleans in the 1700's, masks were common at balls and celebrations throughout the city. When the flag of The United States flew over New Orleans in 1803, masks were prohibited.
It wasn't until 1827 that celebrants were permitted to shroud themselves in mystery once again by wearing masks. Unfortunately, Mardi Gras came under attack in the mid-1800's again when those hiding behind masks caused all sorts of mayhem.
Several years later, six residents of New Orleans formed the Comus organization and turned Mardi Gras into a safe, yet merry event. The Comus first began referring to themselves as "krewe" to describe their group and was the first to name themselves after a mythological character.
For more info. on Mardi Gras, see website below.
UPDATE: The Diamond Bessie Trial was certainly a novel account of history. My husband and I had tickets for a Saturday evening performance, which included a cast of colorful characters...many who have been in this production for over 20-30 years!
The death of a seemingly well-heeled woman in January 1877 caused quite a stir in Jefferson. Especially since this woman had been seen in the company of a man who people had assumed was her husband.
They had arrived a few days earlier with smart looking luggage and a jewel strewn Bessie. Some folks said they had heard this couple arguing all over town, where they had booked hotels during their stay.
One afternoon the couple was seen carrying a picnic basket on their way to Marshall, Texas, but the man returned by himself that evening...with Bessie's rings on his fingers. He took a train to the East with all of the luggage.
Several days later, a woman discovered the body of Bessie, laying as though asleep surrounded by remants of a picnic, with a bullet hole in her head. Eventually, the man's name was discovered at one of the hotel's he had frequented--this time he did not use an assumed name. He was captured and taken to trial.
Unfortunately, after three years of appeal and the guidance of ten lawyers, Abraham Rothchild (a distant black sheep of the European Rothchild family) saw his verdict overturned. He disappeared soon after this.
The town presents an annual Diamond Bessie trial during Pilgrimage House Tour in May. Will Bessie finally get justice? Five performances are scheduled for the trial: Thursday, May 1-Sunday, May 4. Tickets are $20 and will be on sale beginning in January. Call(903)665-6075 for tickets or see www.theexcelsiorhouse.com.
I've often wondered how beads became associated with Mardi Gras.
I read that the first beads (1920's) used during the Mardi Gras celebration were made of glass or ceramics. Eventually, plastic beads were substituted. I saw big Christmas ball sized beads strung as a necklace, as well as, smaller beads in many colors.
The official colors of Mardi Gras are Gold (power), Green (faith) and Purple (justice). These colors were chosen in 1872 by the Krewe of Rex in New Orleans at the occasion of a visit by the Grand Duke of Russia.
The beads I collected from the celebration were the colors mentioned above, plus silver and red. It was so much fun snatching the necklaces as they were tossed in the air!
As we watched the parade wind past our balcony, a chatty lady next to me pointed out this float on which the King and Queen of Mardi Gras were riding.
She said the tradition of choosing a King and Queen is determined by who receives a random slice of cake containing a small plastic "baby", meant to depict the Christ Child. This also guarantees a year of good luck for those recipients.
Perhaps this event is carried out at the masked ball, which precedes each Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras was borrowed from the ancient celebration of Lupercalia. Church hierarchy became concerned about the pagan aspects of this event, so determined to change it for the better rather than stop it altogether.
They decided to use parts of the celebration and unite them with elements of the Christian faith. Now Mardi Gras precedes the Lenten season.
Mardi Gras was first brought to America by French Explorer, Iberville in 1699, who camped about 60 miles from New Orleans on the day it was celebrated in France. The location was named Point du Mardi Gras.
Besides the shiny beads, revelers tossed dubloons from the floats, too. Pictured are those I gathered from Mardi Gras.
One side of the coin shows a Riverboat and the caption, Jefferson Texas. The opposite side of the dubloon gives the name of King Jacques XIX, one of the 'royals' of Mardi Gras.
The King was an amiable individual with whom we enjoyed life entertainment at the Bull Durham Playhouse on Saturday evening. During lulls in the performance, he'd strut to the front in his royal robe and throw the dubloons and necklaces into the audience.
The coins have no value, except as mementos of our trip.
Annual events that attract heavy tourism include the Jefferson Pilgrimage (the first weekend in May); the Christmas Candlelight Tour (December); and Mardi Gras Upriver (spring). June – Jefferson Jazz Festival.