A

Ash Wednesday
The day after Fat Tuesday; the first day of Lent; seven Wednesdays before Easter.

B

Ball (bal masque, tableau ball)
A masked ball in which scenes representing a specific theme are enacted for the entertainment of the club members and their guests; krewe "royalty" is traditionally presented during the ball.

Barricades
Fencing that lines the entire parade routes of downtown Mobile. Barricades keep revelers a safe distance away from the extremely heavy parade floats. They also control the proximity of the crowds to the parade so that the flow and rhythm of the parade is not interrupted. Stiff fines are levied for those who climb over the barricades.

Bayou
A Cajun Term. The outlet of a lake or one of the delta streams of a river, usually sluggish and marshy. There are rare locales where Mardi Gras is celebrated in the Bayou's of Louisiana and Texas.

Beads
Necklaces, also known as throws, from floats or from balconies and worn by revelers and maskers alike. This practice gives the parades an interactive feel between parade rider and the attendee. Beads vary widely in color, size, style, length, and quality.

Bisque
A very thick soup made often with crawfish or crab. In crawfish bisque the crawfish heads have been known to be stuffed with dressing and served with the soup.

Boudin
Pronounced (boodan or boodeh) A staple snack in the southern regions of the Bayou State, boudin is made of varying amounts of pork meat, liver, rice, onions, parsley and dry seasonings like salt, red pepper, black pepper and garlic powder.

C

Captain
The real head of a carnival organization. The caption is the absolute ruler of the Krewe. Some Krewes however do not have this type of club leadership. Some elect a board and a president.

Cajun
Popular name given for the descendants of the Acadian Culture here. French Settlers who were forced out of Nova Scotia by the British and eventually re-settled in Louisiana's Mississippi basin region of the bayou.

Carnival
Internationally observed from Twelfth Night (January 6) through Fat Tuesday. Parades occur during the final two weeks before Fat Tuesday. Carnival is the term that describes the season or period which begins 12 days after Christmas on Jan. 6th and ends on Mardi Gras day which falls exactly 46 days before Easter.

Carnival Colors
The official colors of Carnival are purple, green and gold, designated in 1892 by the Rex organization. The colors represent justice (purple), faith (green) and power (gold).

Courtbouillon
Pronounced (coo-boo-yon) A rich, spicy soup, or stew, made with fish fillets, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes mixed vegetables.

Courir de Mardi Gras
Means "Mardi Gras run" in French. This Cajun tradition, dating back to medieval times in France, consists of costumed men on horseback galloping through the southwestern Louisiana countryside in search of ingredients for a communal gumbo. Usually, the ride is accompanied by music and is followed by a street dance where the gumbo is cooked. Today, courirs include children and women.

Court
The king, queen, maids and dukes of a Carnival organization.

Crawfish
Sometimes spelled "crayfish" but always pronounced crawfish. Resembling tiny lobsters, these little crustaceans are known locally as "mudbugs" because they live in the mud of freshwater bayous. They are served in a variety of different ways, including simply boiled.

Creole
Pronounced (Cree'-ole) Descendants of white French and/or Spanish settlers of Louisiana and the African or Indian slaves that were held by them. Mixed African descent.

D

Dirty Rice
A rice dish prepared similar to jambalaya, but without the herbs left in.

Doubloon
Coins tossed from the floats by riding maskers, as they passed through the streets of the city. At one time, some were made of wood, now they are made of aluminum. Most bear the Krewes emblem on one side and the current message, theme, etc on the other. Keepsakes of Carnival parades and year.

E

Easter
An annual Christian Holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mardi Gras is set exactly 46 days til Easter. Mardi Gras is in preparation for Easter, to an extent.

Epiphany
Christian Festival, observed on January 6th, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi. see also Twelfth Night

Etouffee
Pronounced (Ay-too-fay) A succulent, tangy tomato-based sauce. Crawfish etouffee and shrimp etouffee are delicious New Orleans specialties. The term literally means "smothered."

F

Fais do do
A Cajun party.

Fat Tuesday
The final day of the Carnival season celebrated with numerous parades and balls. Fat Tuesday is the English translation of Mardi Gras.

Favor
Gift or souvenirs, from a mystic society, or Krewe, usually given at a bal masque to honor or show appreciation, often related to the theme of the ball.

File'
Pronounced (fee-lay) Finely ground sassafras leaves used to season fish, gumbo, or soups. Should be used after the dish is cooked and just before eating.

First Flag
A character with the Mardi Gras Indians tribes. The first typically is the initial sign that the "main party", is arriving on scene.

Float
Parade unit designed to depict the emblem of the mystic society or carry out a single aspect of a parade theme. A platform vehicle built to bear a display, and riders, (also known as maskers) in a parade. Floats in are pulled by tractors or trucks.

G

Grand Marshal
An honorary role in a parade, often a local celebrity or noteworthy citizen from the community.

Gumbo
Traditional soup thickened with okra or filé. Made with a combination of seafood, chicken, turkey and sausage. The dish has had a varied number of ways introduced of late as to its making.

I

Invitation
Collectable and highly sought-after announcement to a bal masque given to guests by mystic society members.

J

Jambalaya
A Creole dish of Spanish fried rice, sautéed onions, tomatoes, and spices, with seafood. The ingredients are first placed in a pan to simmer then the rice is added last.

K

King cake
Ring shaped pastry, a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry, it is decorated with sugar that has been dyed green, purple and gold., often filled with one or more fillings. Traditionally the king cake makes its debut on January 6, or on Twelfth Night. Parties are held that involve the serving of king cake, where a small plastic baby hidden inside the pastry is sought by party guests. Tradition says that whoever finds the baby holds the next king cake party.

Krewe
The Carnival organizations which stage the parades and masked costumed balls every carnival season.

Krewe Crest
Graphic representation of a mystic society, often with symbolic and/or hidden meaning. Society emblems often appear on parade throws such as doubloons, cups, hats, can coolers, Frisbees, panties, posters, etc. Keep your eyes open for mystic emblems appearing on the seldom seen embroidered jackets of mysterious revelers appearing in parade crowds.

Krewe Float
Typically the first float in a parade, designed in the likeness of the society's emblem. These one-of-a-kind floats often carry society board members and sometimes feature the costumed persona of the mystic society itself.

L

Lagniappe
The term means "a little something extra at no cost". Something extra given for free, traditionally given to customers by merchants, as tokens of appreciation of patronage after several visits.

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler
Pronounced (lay-zay lay bon ton rule-ay) French for one of the most spoken phrases in the Cajun part of the land. It's almost risen to the level of a battle cry. The translation is, "Let the good times roll!"

Lent
Period of fasting and penitence, observed between Ash Wednesday and Easter. In many churches, Easter is preceded by a season of prayer, abstinence, and fasting called Lent. This is observed in memory of the 40 days' fast of Jesus in the desert. In Eastern Orthodox churches Lent is 50 days. In Western Christendom Lent is observed for six weeks and four days.

Lieutenant
A float official that rides in aide to the float captain. His duties when not having fun, is to aid the caption in the enforcement of city codes pertaining to floats rolling in Mardi Gras Parades. Also on the krewe level, the right hand aides to the captain. Mostly made up of elected board members, they are helpful in matters that directly affect the organization.

Lundi Gras
Translated as Fat Monday, the day before Fat Tuesday is also a day of festivities, parades and parties.

M

Mardi Gras
Translates to English as Fat Tuesday. The last day of Carnival celebrated with numerous parades and balls. Though a misnomer, the term Mardi Gras is often used to describe the days and weeks preceding Fat Tuesday. Always on a Tuesday, Mardi Gras falls 46 days before Easter or the day before Ash Wednesday when the 40 day penitential season of lent begins. It is the culmination of the Carnival Season.

Marshal
Costumed and masked mystic society member (or the spouse of a member) who rides on horseback in a parade. The job of a parade marshal is to keep the parade moving and prevent large gaps from forming between parade units. Parade Marshals toss throws from their saddle bags.

Masker
Refers to a mystic society member appearing in mask and costume on a parade float. Maskers are required by their organization bylaws to be masked when appearing in public. Fines can be levied for removing one's mask while riding on a float. Maskers captivate the revelers who line the parade route by tossing throws by the handful.

Muffuletta
Pronounced (muff-a-lotta) This huge sandwich is made up of thick layers of several different types of Italian meats, cheeses, and a layer of olive salad. Served on special seeded Muffuletta bread, one-half of this monster sandwich is enough to feed a grown man or woman.

P

Parade
Unlike any other, a Mardi Gras parade involves the participation of the crowd as much as that of the maskers riding on the floats. Mardi Gras parades in Lake Charles always have decorated floats, marching bands and krewe members throwing beads, doubloons and other trinkets. Each parade has its own theme with a dozen or more floats vividly conveying a single piece of the story. Bands rhythmically march or ride between floats to keep the excitement soaring. Parades follow predetermined, standardized parade routes.

Parade Unit
Any participant in a parade including floats, marching bands, dance teams, parade marshals, convertibles, revelers on foot, military drill/marching units, local celebrities, etc.

Parish
Louisiana is divided into parishes which would coincide with a "county" in other states. This system is a long outdated holdover from the French influence that once held this region.

Praline
Pronounced (prã-léén) The sweetest of sweets, this is a candy patty. The essential ingredients are sugar, water, cream, cinnamon and pecans. There are many variations on that theme in bakeries, gift shops and local grocery stores.

"Pass a Good Time"
Cajun expression meaning to have fun.

Poor boy
Pronounced (po-Boy) A large sandwich filled with a variety of meats ranging from shrimp, oyster, and sausage.

Q

Queen
A character of the Carnival Krewe. She serves besides the King, as the ruling mythical monarchs of the make believe Kingdom which is home to the namesake of the Krewe.

R

Reveler
Festive merrymaker who participates in the balls, or other events, including parades at Mardi Gras.

Roux
Pronounced (roo) Thickening base for most soups and sauces in many of the Creole dishes. It is made by first sauteing onions, spices, and seasoning meat, until the onions and other vegetables are clear. Then butter is melted and flour is added and browned with the mixture.

Royalty
Some krewes choose royalty each year, mostly members of their organization.

T

Theme
Unifying subject, story or idea portrayed by a parade via the floats and costumes appearing in it. Every parade has its own theme. Every mystic society reveals a new themed parade each year by tearing down and rebuilding its floats. Parade theme subject matter often comes from mythology, history, literature, geography, nature, and pop culture.

Throws
Small gifts tossed from parade floats by costumed maskers in the form of trinkets, candy, and stuffed animals; doubloons, cups, hats, can coolers, Frisbees, medallion necklaces and other emblem souvenirs; beads of all lengths, sizes, colors, and styles. Any item tossed from a float to the crowds of revelers below. An element that sets a Mardi Gras parade apart from all other parades.

"Throw Me Something, Mister"
The standard call for those on a parade route wanting to receive some throws.

Twelfth Day
The 12th day after Christmas, when the three Wise Men visited Jesus. Observed as Twelfth Day.

Twelfth Night
Evening before Epiphany. Marks end of the 12-day season of Christmas festivities. January 6th. Internationally recognized as the official first day of the Carnival, an extended celebration which lasts through Mardi Gras.

Z

Zydeco
Pronounced (zi-de-co) A relatively new kind of Cajun dance music that is a combination of traditional Cajun dance music, R&B, and African blues.