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Where Even The Protestants Are Catholic

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Can your 5th grade teacher do this?

Just got back from the Mardi Gras parade and ceremony at Bains Elementary, where my niece Rebekah goes to school. That’s her teacher, Sarah Fudge, above. Rebekah was on the Mardi Gras court:

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Here’s the Mardi Gras king, rocking out to Professor Longhair:

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There was even a second line:

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I love this. Mind you, most of the people in West Feliciana Parish are Protestants, but in south Louisiana, even the Protestants are to a significant degree culturally Catholic. Julie and I are thinking of taking the kids on Mardi Gras day over to Eunice, for a real Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras, which is not the same thing as Carnival in New Orleans. It involves, for example, chasing chickens. Look. [5]

I remember a few years ago, when we were in Dallas, my sister Ruthie was shocked to learn that public schools in Dallas didn’t let out for Carnival, which is a state holiday in Louisiana. I’m not sure what things are like in north Louisiana, which is culturally Protestant (Baptist, in particular), but in the south, Mardi Gras is a fact of life. It’s almost as hard to imagine not having Mardi Gras as it is to imagine not having Easter and Christmas. Even if you’re Protestant.

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19 Comments To "Where Even The Protestants Are Catholic"

#1 Comment By Turmarion On February 8, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

I made the same point in a different context [6]!

#2 Comment By William Burns On February 8, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

An interesting inversion of the rest of America, where even the Catholics are Protestant.

Also, cute kids!

#3 Comment By Dommerdog On February 8, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

Our company has a field office in Covington. We’ve accepted that our Louisiana employees and consultants/contractors) get a holiday the rest of us don’t.

#4 Comment By Joe Mc.. .Faul On February 8, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish either:

Krewe du Jieux (my relatives’ Krewe)

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#5 Comment By Mary Russell On February 8, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

A little OT, but the other region that loves its small holidays is New England. In the rest of the country, Columbus Day and President’s Day are when you have to scratch your head for a minute wondering why the mail wasn’t delivered. But not in NE, where everybody gets these days off from work, along with Patriot’s Day in April.

#6 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On February 8, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

But not in NE, where everybody gets these days off from work, along with Patriot’s Day in April.

I agree that New England like these holidays, but not everyone gets them off. I’m usually at work hearing about the festivities. One Columbus day I was getting on the commuter rail and the conductor said to me “I know who I’ll see on the train the day after Thanks Giving!” Ouch!

#7 Comment By Mike On February 8, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

I think this holds true for American society as a whole, in a cultural context we are Christian but fewer & fewer of us are practicing ones. Most people celebrate or at least acknowledge Christmas,Easter,etc but don’t go to church except on those holidays or for weddings, funerals,etc. There is certainly regard for these things & their symbolism but mostly they’re viewed as an opportunity to dress up & have a good time. This comes from my perspective of living in Philly,NY and now in CA. I know that church going is still big in the south but I can’t help but think that is due to social pressure to conform than genuine desire. My mother’s family are southerners & I know they place immense value on conforming to the prevailing social & cultural norms of their community. Some of them are true believers but many of them go along to get along and in some cases keep their wives & mothers happy. I’m curious if others have the same experience….

#8 Comment By rebecca On February 8, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

“An interesting inversion of the rest of America, where even the Catholics are Protestant.”

And here in Eastern Tennessee, us Catholics have to especially be careful! One of my choir mates Cliff, who is from New Orleans, always jokingly refers to the neighboring Baptist Church (called Silverdale) as those who are literally trying to invade our church. They have actually come into the sanctuary in a hostile fashion during our choir practice, telling us we were going to Hell, etc. Cliff will make endless jokes about the “Silverdale people” that we have to be paranoid of. LOL!

It was a real culture shock for his wife (also from NOLA) and he to move here, starting with the food of course, but not ending there.

[Note from Rod: That seriously shocks me! Then again, I was often surprised by certain aspects of Baptist/Evangelical church culture in north Texas when we lived there. I thought I was from the South and understood it, but south Louisiana is kind of its own thing. — RD]

#9 Comment By TWylite On February 8, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

The Dallas area has State Fair day off for the kids. I’ve not been to Mardi Gras, but I’ll bet there are a lot of similarities with the State Fair. I know both have lots of unhealthy substances consumed.

#10 Comment By David J. White On February 8, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

When I was in school, every year the teachers would go to a day-long workshop sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Teachers’ Association (NEOTA). The day of the workshop was referred to as NEOTA Day, and it was an annual day off from school. Since we were in Catholic school, we used to call it Saint Neota Day. đŸ˜‰

#11 Comment By Kris D On February 8, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

When I was growing up, Nevada Day (Nevada’s admission day) was celebrated on the actual day, October 31st. It was great to be the only state in the nation to get Halloween off. Several years ago, Nevada Day was changed to the last Friday in October. I miss the old days.

#12 Comment By rebecca On February 8, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

Rod, Eastern Tennessee has especially militant evangelicals, making most of those in the rest of the South look like milk-toast.

I overheard a woman in the local Starbucks asking another woman from the same evangelical church she attended if she had “witnessed to the Pope” when she had recently visited Rome. And she was serious! These folks have to be seen to be believed.

#13 Comment By Benjamin P. Glaser On February 8, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

Well Southern Baptists have ceased to be culturally Protestant for a long time.

#14 Comment By Neildsmith On February 8, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

I don’t know, Mr. Dreher, those pictures look suspiciously like those from the Safe Sex Ball you wrote about the other day…. a bunch of people dressing up in costumes having a good time and dancing.

It is possible, I think, to have moments of unrestrained revelry without becoming corrupt to the point of evil.

#15 Comment By M.B. On February 8, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

Hmm. For us here in California, it is mainly a good excuse to have crepes or cake on Tuesday. When I think of Mardi Gras I always think of those awful plastic beads and drunk people flashing their chests. Your photos are sweet and refreshing.

For my husband’s kin Derby week is the big big deal. People fly or drive in from all over, and the parents host a bunch of parties. Apparently the race itself isn’t as exciting as some of the preceding local festivities. We hope to make it out there one of these years.

#16 Comment By Rosie Land On February 8, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

Hi Benjamin, if the Southern Baptists are no longer Protestant, what are they now? (I’m Roman Catholic myself, and have trouble keeping up with the doings of my. church, much less all the others.)

#17 Comment By DWS On February 9, 2013 @ 10:32 am

It is obvious to me from all the comparisions to Mardi Gras that most of these people really have no idea of the Mardi Gras experience. It is unlike ANYTHING you have ever seen or heard of, expecially in New Orleans, or Houma, or Gaines, or Eunice, or Gueydan, or Lafayette, or Morgan City, or New Roads, or other south Louisiana towns. I don’t go to Carnival in New Orleans anymore (can’t handle the fun), but everyone should experience it at least once in their life.

#18 Comment By El Mono Liso On February 9, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

I live on the Northshore and work in Metairie, and I used to live in the city up until last year. It certainly is true that Catholicism frames the culture of this area of the world. Mardi Gras seems to be the biggest thing, but there are many restaurants that actively advertise “seafood for Lent”, that show that cultural Catholicism at least in this area of the world doesn’t stop at Mardi Gras. I can also think of St. Joseph’s altars on March 19th (I once went to one at the famous Rock N’ Bowl in the city) as well as All Saints’ Day, which is the traditional day to wash the graves. Also, there is the rather cute custom throughout south Louisiana of putting up a small grotto to the Virgin Mary in the front yard. You can literally drive through suburban Metairie snapping pictures of all of them in all of their variations. There is even one in a tree on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.

#19 Comment By JonF On February 10, 2013 @ 6:44 am

Hope you and your friends and family have fun, Rod. I’ve never been to a Louisiana Mardi Gras, and the occasional Mardi Gras party elsewhere is pretty weak tea. I have to imagine southern Louisiana is a very unique place in regards to all this.