Thursday, January 6, 2011

12th Night arrives and so do the Phunny Phorty Phellows

The Phunny Phorty Phellows streetcar

Okay, it's that special time again in "the city that care forgot." January 6, known around the world as Twelfth Night, is the official kickoff for Mardi Gras. While the big day (March 8) is still a full two months away, the events leading up to the final celebrations begin in earnest as of tonight. The Phunny Phorty Phellows, considered the official heralds of the Carnival season kicked things off with their traditional streetcar party along historic St. Charles and Carrollton Avenues. A party band playing traditional jazz and Mardi Gras pieces accompanied the group of revelers who were masked and in costumes. The history of the Phunny Phorty Phellows dates back to 1878, only six years after the Krewe of Rex and 21 years after the Krewe of Comus had been formed. The Phunny Phorty Phellows was composed of civic and business leaders who led the Rex parade for a number of years and the organization also presented formal balls. Late in the Nineteenth Century the group disbanded, but it did not stay on the trash heap of Carnival lore. In 1981 a group of Canrival-loving New Orleanians spearheaded by Erroll Laborde, a local editor, author and Carnival historian, re-instituted the practice of having the Phunny Phorty Phellows announce the start of the Carnival season and to highlight their glorious past. The group's symbol is still an owl and the head of their organization is called simply "The Boss" (sorry, Bruce). In addition the group has two mottoes, one in French - "Honi soit qui mal y pense," which translates into "Evil to them who think evil" - and the other more easily understood "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men." It's all in fun and over the past three decades has become one of the more eagerly anticipated events each year. This year marks the second-longest period of time between Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras, just like a few years back the second shortest period of time was when Mardi Gras was on February 5. Just keep in mind that no matter the date of Mardi Gras, the balls and parades can't be that far off.

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