It’s not something I was aware of when I lived in Paris about 30 years ago, nor over the last few years, which is odd considering Mardi Gras is a French phrase.
I did an online search for what Mardi Gras means for French people and according to www.france.fr (which calls itself the official website of France), pancakes are part of the celebrations. Which is even odder as I’ve not heard anyone talk about pancakes in France before Easter, but it is a huge event in the UK.
A couple of years ago a group of French ladies asked me what if one ate pancakes in the UK and I said we particularly did on Shrove Tuesday and explained the original tradition of it being to use up the leftovers in the fridge before Lent – this didn’t ring any sort of bells with any of them, in fact they commented on how it was a strange practice.
So I don’t know which is correct, but I suspect that most modern French are not aware of this tradition that they too used to have.
Apparently, Nice in the south of France has a major Mardi Gras carnival, although they seem to call it ‘Carnaval de Nice – Roi de la Musique‘ now, but I’ve not been aware of anything remotely significant near where we’ve lived.
Our previous home in a little town did have a small type of carnival. It was held on a Saturday rather than a Tuesday and involved the primary school age children dressed up in any costume they chose (tigers, supermen, princesses…), parading around the town, throwing confetti. The town police organised the security of it with an official car, fully kitted with flashing light, slowly leading the procession, followed by the local marching band, then the children and their parents.
This year’s procession was on a grey, cold, rainy day – the complete opposite of the Mardi Gras one imagines. But the children still traipsed around the town excitedly, dashing off quickly at the end, perhaps to a promise of a hot chocolate ‘goûter’.
The marching band blasted out pretty much the same tunes that they have for the last few years, which drove our dog wild who, in turn, drove me wild. He was running around the room and jumping at the windows. I wasn’t sure if he was excited and wanted to join in, or if he was trying distracting activities since he didn’t have anything to crawl under and cover his ears.
It’s not easy to march and play an instrument at the same time, so the band members really do a great job, come rain or shine. It’s just that sometimes it doesn’t sound so musical, and it’s always so very loud.
Anything happen near you for Mardi Gras?