Miss Kitty Does Mardi Gras

Miss Kitty knows that cool cats don’t read about Mardi Gras. They do Mardi Gras. Beginning with beads. Lots of beads.

Contrary to common belief, however, Miss Kitty believes that less is more. You’ll never see her draped with so many baubles that she can barely meow. She models her style on that of feline fashion icon Coco Cat Chanel, who said that before leaving the house, a feline should remove at least one accessory.

That’s why she sticks to a few strands of traditional Mardi Gras colors—purple, for justice; green, faith; and gold, power. She’s also a stickler for terminology. People often conflate Mardi Gras and Carnival.

Carnival comes from the Latin for flesh. It refers to the party and parade season that traditionally begins on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 and extends until Mardi Gras, which literally means Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, the Christian holy day that initiates the 40-day season of Lent that precedes Easter.

This year it is February 21.

The beads, cakes, and celebrations of Mardi Gras date back centuries to pagan rites of fertility. It grew out of the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. Observed in the dead of winter, it was an orgy-like festival of wine-induced madness that celebrated chaos, death, and rebirth.  

And it all began with a humble bean. An archetype of resurrection and reincarnation, the bean comes from a dead plant and grows into a new one.

For Lupercalia, a man was chosen to be a ceremonial king by being the one who got a bean that had been placed in a cake. (Sounds a bit like a contemporary king cake, doesn’t it?) For several days, he would enjoy as much sex, wine, and food as he could abide. Meanwhile, the peasants imbued in him all their failures and shortcomings. On the last day, he would be sacrificed to atone for their sins and his blood returned to the soil to ensure that the harvest would be successful.


Not coincidentally, it parallels the story of Jesus Christ. Knowing they could not destroy pagan conventions, the early Christians adopted the tradition—minus the orgies—as a prelude to the penitential season of Lent. That’s when the faithful traditionally give up sensual pleasures in preparation for the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of the Christ on Easter.

Speaking of Easter, Miss Kitty also reminded us that the precise date of Mardi Gras each year varies because it is determined by the complex calculations that determine the lunar feast: Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. Mardi Gras falls 47 days before Easter.

This year it is February 21.

Whew. That’s a lot to take in, Miss Kitty tells us. That’s why she keeps it simple. Like her Mardi Gras attire.

“Dress shabbily and they remember the fur,” she said, paraphrasing Ms. Chanel. “Dress impeccably and they remember the feline.”

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