Wednesday, March 01, 2006
The best day of Mardi Gras
My favorite part of Mardi Gras? Ash Wednesday -- when it's over! (I'm only partly serious.)

Living in New Orleans, I always tell out-of-town friends that unlike the let down you get after Christmas in any other city, there is no let down in New Orleans. As soon as you put away the Christmas decorations, out come the purple, green and gold Mardi Gras decorations. Then come the parties, and the sticky-sweet "king cakes" in every office, and lots of afternoons when you duck out of work early to meet friends at the parades.

But after two full weeks of throwing my arms in the air to beg for plastic beads, I'm ready for Ash Wednesday. In this rather Catholic city, the day after Fat Tuesday is truly a time to repent. The faithful gather at St. Louis Cathedral to have ashes rubbed on their foreheads -- a reminder of "dust to dust" -- and the city is quiet...calm..peaceful. It is our city again -- the one we reclaim from the tourists on Bourbon Street.

And in the branches of the old oak trees along St. Charles Avenue you'll see those brightly colored beads -- hundreds of strands of beads that were thrown from the floats but never made it to those outstretched arms.

A reminder of our wild side -- until the next big rain brings them all down.
Posted By Susan Roesgen, CNN Correspondent: 3:12 PM ET
Your reporting on Mardi Gras made me leave my desk and get a Popeye's biscuit. Re-New Orleans!
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Baton Rouge, LA : 4:23 PM ET
After dragging through the past couple of months suffering from the "after Christmas let down" as you called it, your blog today has given me hope for next year. I intend to adopt your Mardi Gras traditions (except for the flashing - not built for it_ and tooo shy) and maybe next year I'll avoid the letdown. Thanks for the picture of the tree strewn with beads, it kinda looks like a Christmas tree! Bringing 360 and Mardi Gras together was a great idea.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 5:17 PM ET
Watching the Mardi Gras the last few days gave me two completely different emotions. The street party was happy with the floats and parades. And then the mention of the deseased still buried in the rubble and the hardships of the homeless made me sad. I'm not from New Orleans and it's my last choice for a vacation destination.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Winfield Quincy, IL : 5:18 PM ET
To Susan Roesgen- I agree with you. Your blog was very nicely written. rock on
Posted By Anonymous lidia rochesterny : 6:13 PM ET
I thought the concept of ashes on the forehead was to demonstrate "humility" rather than simply as a reminder of the "dust to dust" concept. Uh... I COUD be wrong....
Posted By Anonymous Mike R., Reynoldsburg, OH : 6:42 PM ET
Great perspective except that the "Catholic" label should be understood as used loosely. The city bears little evidence of any impact from the gospel.
Posted By Anonymous Tom - Dallas, TX : 6:57 PM ET
It was a wonderful time here again in New Orleans! Being stuck here during Hurricane Katrina, I feel some normalcy coming back to this city because of Carnival 2006!
Posted By Anonymous Brad Caldwell, NOLA : 7:47 PM ET
Those words ring so true....and it is such a pleasure to see you, Susan, still in New Orleans. We watched you for years on WDSU, and it's good to "hear" your voice once again, even if it's in cyber-print. Thank you!
Posted By Anonymous Mike Melancon, Slidell, Louisiana : 9:12 PM ET
Wow its Ash Wednesday!

Mardis Gras is over maybe just maybe that means CNN actually may start doing news. Real news does not include Mardi Gras coverage!
Posted By Anonymous john beard houston, tx : 9:32 PM ET
That's a fantastic snapshot, Susan. I never gave much thought to Mardi Gras in previous years... this year, with all the coverage, I made a promise to myself that I WILL go down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, sooner or later. It's an experience that I now know I must have.
Posted By Anonymous Molly, Richmond, VA : 9:53 PM ET
The problem with mardi gras is the city itself through taxes adn the hotels are the only people that are going to benifit from the money spent there. That money will never tricle down to the people that need it. If Nagan would ask the governer to mobilize the national guard to get the mess cleaned up, and get the infrastructure up and running it would get done pretty quick. They do it over seas thy can do it here too. Never mind the Mardi gras its time to get soometing done adn the heck with the rules and red tape...
Posted By Anonymous Randall P. Krause rpkenterprises, lampe, mo. : 10:32 PM ET
"The city bears little evidence of any impact from the gospel." That is a broad and sweeping statement, which isn't true of any city, much less New Orleans. We are a Catholic and very devout city. We are a city full of good people trying to do the right thing. We are warm, kind, and we take our religion seriously. Sure, there are thugs. But what city doesn't have any? I won't presume to speak for Dallas as a whole. But as for you, I would say that you bear little evidence of any impact from the gospel.
Posted By Anonymous Lauren, New Orleans, LA : 12:33 AM ET
I agree with this article to some extent. However, in a way it is a let down. Maybe I'm a rarity, but those two weeks are the best of my life. Getting up early in the morning to set up for the first parades, watching the marching bands go by as each passing band tries to out-do the one before, and staying up on into the night with your friends and family. Mardi Gras is an incredible time to "sin" with your closest ties, and, staying true to New Orleans' attitude, sin all you want, because come Wednesday you will be in church. I'm glad to see Mardi Gras was a success this year. Please don't stop the continuing story of how New Orleans is trying to rebuild. Public attention keeps the old 'machines' at bay. Thanks!
Posted By Anonymous Andrew, New Orleans, LA : 7:47 AM ET
If New Orleans doesn't like "boozing tourists" maybe visitors need to go elsewhere to spend their money. Mobile would welcome them I'm sure.
Posted By Anonymous R andy Waites, Birmingham, Al. : 9:03 AM ET
I visited Mardi Gras for the first time this year. I will remember for the rest of my days. New Orleans has a soul that will never be broken.
Posted By Anonymous Cal Youngblood, Starkville, MS : 10:01 AM ET
I would just like to respond to what someone wrote:

Great perspective except that the "Catholic" label should be understood as used loosely. The city bears little evidence of any impact from the gospel.

Posted By Tom - Dallas, TX

I think that Tom from Dallas has misunderstood the meaning of the Gospel. The people of New Orleans exemplify Catholic morals by helping their neighbors in a time of need and showing steadfast faith in God while they are going through an extremely difficult time in their lives.
So please, Tom, do not judge these people. It is not your place.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle, Boston MA : 10:20 AM ET
Susan, I am delighted that Mardi Gras was on! I studied in New Orleans and I always loved (still do) Mardi Gras because I could see how the event brings magic to people, young and old, adults and children, local or tourits. There is something beyond words in Mardi Gras to me that the term "fun" is pretty much understated. I miss this year's Mardi Gras but I know it has given a positive signal to the outside world that the spirit of New Orleans people is much bolder than the destructions caused by Katrina and Rita. May the Mardi Gras Force be with the people, always!
Posted By Anonymous V.A. Churchill, Houston, TX : 10:20 AM ET
I am so sad by some of the comments that I see here. First of all, New Orleans is a Catholic city. The term does not need to be used lightly. The RESIDENTS there are truly spiritual. It's the tourists who turn it into the spectacle that the media and movies have made so popular. Mardi Gras itself is a tradition to the people of New Orleans just like Christmas or birthdays are traditions to other. Mardi Gras is NOT about boobs, beads and beer. It's about families gathering on street corners to watch the parades togeter, days filled with laughter and togetherness, family pride and tradition. I'm saddened that more people are not familiar with the REAL Mardi Gras and that we are stuck, as a country, with the perception that Bourbon Street is a true representation of the Mardi Gras Spirit. May the City of New Orleans rise once again like the Phoenix.
Posted By Anonymous Ilona C, Grand Blanc, MI : 10:33 AM ET
To Tom in Dallas - I am not Catholic, but being from this area, New Orleans and the surrounding area is very Catholic. I don't think you read the blog very closely. It said it is a time for New Orleans to take the city back from the tourist. New Orleans is very spiritual and "gospel" as you call it. Heck, our football team is called the Saints. (Good Blog)
Posted By Anonymous Doug, Baton Rouge, LA : 10:39 AM ET
I live 45 minutes from New Orleans, I just couldn't make myself go knowing what kind of horrible conditions people had to live in. Too soon for me to go back! I'm glad Mardi Gras is over, so the dead can be found and the clean up can start, if the government would do something!
Posted By Anonymous Gonzales, La : 5:25 PM ET
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