Mardi Gras Love
By Christopher Ard
Click aqui para español- >Amor de Mardi Gras
Most people come to New Orleans to “see the Mardi Gras” and anticipate an overabundance of drinks, color, flesh, music, and food. However, for those of us who are from here, we know it’s more than that. Family, for example, is a large part of carnival. If anything, spending time with family and friends is what we’ve been doing all winter throughout the Christmas holidays…so we’re just extending the holidays by a few weeks. Carnival also marks the beginning of spring—more daylight, warmer weather—and love.
Here in the United States, we are lucky enough to celebrate carnival AND Valentine’s Day—that day set aside for love, lovers, liking, lust, longing, and several other words beginning with the letter ‘L’. So, with carnival and Valentine’s Day happening at the same time, there must be a carnival love story—and there is! Keep in mind that I’m writing this the Tuesday before Valentine’s Day, so love is on my mind.
In 1871, the Russian Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov was on a tour of North America. At some point in his travels he met an actress named Lydia Thompson while she was in a play singing a funny song called “If Ever I Cease to Love.” Rumor has it that Alexei fell in love with Lydia. One of his last stops on his tour was New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Miraculously, Lydia showed up in town as well. There was a new daytime Mardi Gras krewe called “Rex” that year. The city was excited to know that the Grand Duke was in town and everyone had heard the rumors of their love affair. So, throughout the parade, every band would play the song “If Ever I Cease to Love,” to put a smile on the Duke’s face.
If ever I cease to love, If ever I cease to love, May the moon be turned to green cream cheese, If ever I cease to love.
Of course, Alexei was 21 years old, so the love affair didn’t last too long. Both he and Lydia went their separate ways, but the song remained. It became the official song of Mardi Gras and has been played during every carnival season since 1872, much to the confusion of most tourists today.
In my opinion, this story captures the essence of carnival in New Orleans—excess. Carnival is great already, but now I introduced some extra information, like a Russian Duke and an actress. It’s details that aren’t really needed to have a great carnival, but it just makes it that much MORE impressive.
And that’s carnival. There’s too much drinking, too much food, too many parades, too much music, too much dancing…all in celebration of life and love. I hope you all have a great carnival season and indulge in too much of everything because, if you’re anything like me, it’ll make for an extremely relaxing and peaceful Lent.