Friday, January 07, 2022

Yesterday was Twelfth Night 2020, the Beginning of Mardi Gras

 Melinda Palacio

While the date of January 6 is currently tarnished with the anniversar last year’s insurrection at the State Capitol, in New Orleans and for most of the places that celebrate Christmas, January 6 is the 12th day of Christmas. It is also the beginning of carnival, where people indulge in king cake or pan de rosca. If you're not Catholic, you can get a jump start on your new year's resolutions. While those of us who have not been so good at practicing moderation or abstinence of sugar and white flour since Thanksgiving, we will be plenty fat come Mardi Gras. 

However, with the pandemic raging, I won't be indulging in king cake for the rest of carnival. I'll be lucky if I have one slice of cake this season. Last year, Mardi Gras was cancelled. This year, the Mayor of New Orleans has shortened, altered, and canceled many parade routes. What does this mean? If you plan on going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, chances are more likely that you will catch the virus. I hope I'm wrong. Perhaps, all of carnival will be once again cancelled. Perhaps, yesterday's twelfth-night parade for the Krewe of Joan of Arc in the French quarter might be it for Mardi Gras. 

Before Omicron, things looked hopeful. Across the country, we gathered for Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends and family we hadn't seen in forever; There was a short respite of feeling the isolation of pandemic lockdowns. It was such a nice feeling to see friends and to hug them. And then, almost overnight, the freedom we came to enjoy gave way to unprecedented illness and death. Many of the flights that had helped pent up people escape to parts unknown were canceled. Restaurants were closed as staff regrouped and tested. We begin 2022, in much the same way as 2020 and 2021, only people don't seem to be worried about dying from the virus. The apathy is just that until you or someone you love is infected and on a ventilator. 

As someone who is vaccinated and boosted, I hope I am not one of the breakthrough cases. I love showing my vaccination card in order to dine with friends and family indoors. But Omicron is so contagious, restaurants started to shutter because everyone was getting sick after the holidays ended. Who knows how the world writes itself out of this fix? Do we throw caution to the wind, as some have suggested and some have done, and hope for heard immunity? Is it too late to reinstate lockdowns? Can we force vaccines on everyone? I hope there is a safe way forward. 

Last year's life on zoom took its toll on everyone. But the more important note is that we follow CDC guidelines, mask, and social distance and show a little kindness. With two layers of mask, I kicked off Carnival with the Joan of Arc parade, the Mardi Gras Krewe celebrates the 610th birthday of Joan of Arc this year. We’ll see what the world looks like on Mardi Gras, March 1st and whether the rest of the carnival season is cancelled. New Orleans will always find a way to let the good times roll. Last year, with all of Mardi Gras cancelled, little by little the city found a way to celebrate in the form of Yardi Gras. I’m hopeful that won’t be necessary this year. Happy Epiphany. 

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