Faith and Beggorah

To be sure…. to be sure….

I have held forth previously on the fact that as a Son of the Auld Sod (once removed) I will have little or nothing to do with singing songs about boys named Danny, women called Mrs Murphy who’s recipe for chowder includes underpants, or bleary eyes of any nationality accomplishing the near impossible feat for eyes of smiling.  I will partake of no beer that has been laced with spinach juice or worse to make my bodily fluids turn green.  And I will not kiss some stranger because they are wearing a green made-in-China sweatshirt proclaiming false citizenship*.   Nor will I celebrate some snotty nosed Briton who came over and drove all the little folk and fairies underground.  Mar sin ann!

And in the spirit of a true cráiteachán I offer the following as my tribute to the Blessed Mother-sweary wording Pádraig!

*Unless they happen to be ginger and built!

On this day in 1969: Golda Meir becomes the first female Prime Minister of Israel.

The Strength of the Mimosa

Traditionally on International Women’s Day I have presented the women in my life with a sprig of mimosa – real, when possible, or virtual through necessity.  It was a tradition I was introduced to during our time in Italy and one that I embraced willingly and enthusiastically.

And today I follow that tradition and present a feathery sprig of this small, seemingly fragile, yellow flower to all the women in my life.

I say “seemingly” because despite its delicate appearance the mimosa is known for its resilience and strength.  And to my mind it is the perfect flower to represent the many women in my life.  Thank you for being part of my life and allowing me to be a part of yours.  And with this sprig comes the wish that one day all women will be truly equal.

On this day in 1917: International Women’s Day protests in St. Petersburg mark the beginning of the February Revolution (February 23rd in the Julian calendar).

Mardis Gras 1892

This is dedicated to Cecilia – my own Southern Belle and NOLA’s newest resident.

In various cities – except Milan* – around the world today it is the last day of Carnival and the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.  It is a day that goes by many names:  Shrove Tuesday, Fastnachtsdienstag, Terça-feira Gorda, Sprengidagur** or, probably the best known, Mardi Gras.  And one of the most famous celebrations of the days leading up to Fat Tuesday takes place in New Orleans.

The official flag of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the surrounding counties in Southern Louisiana.

It is not known when the first celebration of the days of Shrovetide and Mardi Gras took place in New Orleans but festivities were recorded in the area as early as the second of March 1699 when Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, his brother Jean-Baptiste and their men marked the day before Ash Wednesday with a feast.   As Nouvelle Orleans became established there are accounts, in private correspondence and public notice, of balls, processions, masquerades and at times ensuing unruliness.  Often when the festivities got out of hand they were prohibited but the bans could cause as much trouble as the partying and were quickly lifted.

Parade costume for a Fox by Charles Briton – Mistick Krew of Comus Parade 1873: Missing Links
Louisiana Research Collection: Tulane University

In 1833 Bernard de Marigny, a fascinating Creole nobleman, playboy, planter, politician, duelist, writer, land developer, and gambler, raised the money to sponsor an official Mardi Gras celebration for the city.  Twenty-three years later a group of businessmen gathered to form a secret society with the purpose of observing Mardi Gras with a formal parade and ball.  With the formation of The Mistick Krewe of Comus, what had been largely a Catholic Creole celebration was taken over by Anglo-American Protestants.  But in true New Orleans fashion the two cultures mixed and melded and the pattern of parades, balls and masquerades was set.

By 1875 Mardi Gras was declared a legal state holiday in Louisiana and though sometimes in reduced forms because of war, weather or politics it has been celebrated in the streets of New Orleans and the surrounding parishes ever since.

Following the example of Comus krewes began to organize often based on socio-economic foundations: Knights of Momus (1872), Krewe of Proteus (1882) and Rex (1872) are amongst the oldest.  Rex was formed to organize the festivities surrounding the visit of the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich, the son of Tsar Alexander II, who was on a goodwill visit to the United States and took in the Carnival of 1872.  However the businessmen who formed the Krewe were also seeking to improve the tourist trade in the city in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Rex parade is perhaps the most celebrated of the many parades and holds a special place in the calendar of events as the major parade on Fat Tuesday. On Lunedi Gras Rex and his consort are greeted by the Mayor of New Orleans who offers the King of Carnival the key to the city. Rex – never King Rex as that would be redundant – has sent out a general proclamation (often designed by a well-known local artist) inviting one and all to view the Rex Parade on its traditional route.

The Meeting of the Courts – Rex and the Queen of Carnival pay their respects to Comus and his consort as Mardi Gras draws to a close for another year.
Rex Organization: Grevy Photography

However that evening’s masked ball is by invitation only and marks the beginning of the end of the season.  The Rex Ball and the Comus Ball are held in adjacent halls and at an appointed time Comus sends a herald to greet Rex, his consort and court and invites them to join in their festivities.  “The Meeting of the Courts” and the grand procession of the two courts that follow mark the last event of Mardi Gras.  After the royal parties have departed the Captain of Comus proclaims that carnival is over for another year.

Recently one of the neglected traditions of Mardi Gras has fortunately been revived:  the Parade Bulletin.  Beginning in 1874 New Orleans’ newspapers would print pictorial bulletins of the parades for that day.  It gave visitors and locals a tease of what was to come as well as a souvenir of what they had seen.  The practice was discontinued in 1941 and Bulletins became treasured and valuable souvenirs of the past.

Rex began publishing them for their parade in 2002.  The New Orleans Advocate revived the practice and began issuing Bulletins for many of the major parades and krewes in 2014.

The Rex Parade Bulletin from 1892 by the Picayune, a New Orleans daily founded in 1837 and still publishing as the Times-Picayune.
Rex Parade – Symbolism of Colours – Mardi Gras (March 1) 1892

Though previously pulled by horses the Rex floats are now mechanized but are still build on the frame work of old wooden wagons with wood-spoke wheels.  There was a misconception that the frames were pre-Civil War cotton wagons but in truth they are refuse collection wagons from the late 19th century.

Over the years the themes and subjects of parades have been varied.  In some cases they have been academic (Comus was know for it’s esoteric subjects), in others historical; sometimes literature and legend would be raided for ideas; other times it would be comical or political (or a combination of the two).  However whatever the theme several floats remain a constant:  The Boeuf Gras or Fatted Calf and Rex himself.  In the past few years the King’s Jester, the Butterfly King and A Streetcar Named Desire have become perennials.

In 1892 the theme of the Rex Parade was The Symbolism of Colors perhaps reflecting the very Victorian concept of assigning symbolism to everything from flowers to birds to … colours.  It may well be that the theme of this parade gave birth, erroneously, to the idea that the three colours of the Mardi Gras flag symbolize Justice (Purple), Power (Gold) and Faith (Green).

As this year’s crowd enjoy a parade celebrating Carnivals Fetes and Feasts let’s step back take up a spot at Charles and Poydras just passed Lee Circle on the traditional route and enjoy 1892’s passing parade.

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And once again Mardi Gras comes to an end and it’s time to say “Farewell to Flesh” (carne flesh + levare to remove).

* Carnevale Ambrosiano begins four days later and continues until “sabato grasso” (Fat Saturday.

** In Iceland it is aptly named “Bursting Day” and apparently people over stuff themselves on salted meat and peas???

On this day in 1784: John Wesley charters the Methodist Church.

Lantern Lights Festival

Originally posted on Inquietudes:
Scenes from the Miami Lantern Lights Festival, a delightful and whimsical exposition that sparked moments of magic and wonder along fairytale landscapes of light and color. Click on any of the images below to see them in a slideshow.

Walter over at Inquietudes tells us that sometimes 140 characters is not enough. In this case he’s given the characters a pass and spoken through his talented lens to share a bit of the Lantern Festival in Miami.

By tradition the Lantern Festival is the fifteenth day and last day of the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). In the Chinese calendar the night marks the return of spring and symbolizes the reunion of family. And it signals the end to the New Year’s taboos and all New Year’s decorations are taken down.

It is a festival that is said to trace it’s origins back almost 2000 years during the reign of the Emperor Hammingdi, an ardent follower of the Buddha. He was told that to show respect for Buddha that monks lit lanterns in the temples on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. He ordered that all temples, royal palaces and households should follow suit. This Buddhist custom gradually evolved into a grand public festival with games, feasting and, of course, lanterns.

Perhaps that origin history is the accurate one but I choose to believe the version I recounted last year about a trick played on the Jade Emperor.

Whatever the origins the celebration that Walter captured is a bright ray of much needed light in a darkened world

On this day in 1834: US President Andrew Jackson orders first use of federal soldiers to suppress a labor dispute.



Scenes from the Miami Lantern Lights Festival, a delightful and whimsical exposition that sparked moments of magic and wonder along fairytale landscapes of light and color.

Click on any of the images below to see them in a slideshow.

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A Time to Crow

Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai*

*Wishing You Prosperity

Today begins the celebration* of the New Year in many Asian cultures.  Though we here in the west we refer to it as “Chinese” New Year it is observed by many other Asian cultures: Vietnam,  Mongolia, Korea and Tibet all base their observation of the Festival on the Chinese lunisolor calendar64614572_s.  It was also observed in Japan until 1873 when the country adopted the Gregorian calendar and January 1st began the New Year.

The appearance of the moon last evening began Ding-Youg, the 33nd year in the 60 year lunisolor cycle; the 78th cycle since the invention of the Chinese Calendar over 4000 years ago.  Last year I wrote about the ancient method of combining the Celestial and Terrestrial Stem during the 60 year rotation employing variations of the five elements of Chinese thought and the twelve animals of the Zodiac.   This year the element is Artificial Fire and the animal the Rooster: the year of the Fire Roster.


Where You Born in the Year of the Rooster?

People born in the year of the Rooster (1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017) are observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous and talented.  They are always on the go which can prove tiring for less active friends and colleagues.  They also have a certain air of self-confidence which can often lead to them being vain and boastful.  They are outspoken, honest to a fault and loyal in their friendships. Their desire to be the centre of attention can be annoying to others around them and try the patience of even their closest friends.

What Does the Year Hold for Us?

**In General?

Conflicts, controversy and heated debate can be expected during the year of the Fire Rooster. Whether it is needed or wanted by the masses its cocky presence and fearless action will bring about change. The Rooster is always ready to take on any challenge with an arrogant strut of confidence and a progressive attitude.  It’s a difficult combination to beat.

This year is perfect for those who strive to reach the ultimate level of life mentally, physically and financially, but not so good for those who favour being lazy or living a life of indolence. Don’t expect much in the way of empathy or caring or you’ll be sadly disappointed.   This is a year of condemnation, fault-finding and pointing fingers at those who haven’t lived up to expectations and promises made. If you strive for perfection and accomplishment anything is possible however should you lack discipline you will be criticized and left behind.

**And for Canada?

roster-toyCanada will strengthen its relationships within the global network of countries fighting for freedom and peace on earth. The contributions made by this nation will set an example on the world platform that will inspire others to follow suit.

The 2017 Fire Rooster year will radiate authority and precision in order to bring about control, however not without plenty of drama to assure his presence is felt on a world level. This is a year where pressure and persuasion will be applied to vie for power, making it necessary to join forces with those who share the same values and environment concerns.

And as individuals?

A left click on the Zodiac will lead you to the predictions for your sign in this Year of the Fire Rooster.


And in the tradition of the hui chen or luck papers that are posted around homes and workplaces I will give each of you the following wish for the coming year:


May all your wishes come true.

* A 15 day event in China, 3 days in the other countries observing the Festival.

**These two entries have been adapted or taken from the Toronto Sun (yes I know that’s a first for me but….) which also includes predictions for the United States and the United Kingdom.

On this day in 1573: Articles of the Warsaw Confederation are signed, sanctioning freedom of religion in Poland.