|Nu'uanu Street in Downtown|
Do we celebrate Mardis Gras in Hawaii? Absolutely! Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday," referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. As I have written about before, the Hawaiians take any excuse they can to get drunk and party in the streets. Mardis Gras is no different. The "festivities" start first thing in the morning with a tradition I can completely get behind: Malasada Tuesday! At Leonard's Bakery, sales for malasadas are five times greater on Fat Tuesday than any other time of year. A malasada is a Portuguese confection. They were first made by inhabitants of Madeira Island (off the coast of Portugal). Malasadas are made of egg-sized balls of yeast dough that are deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar. A popular variation is where they are hand dropped into the oil and people have to guess what they look like. Traditional malasadas contain neither holes nor fillings, but some varieties of malasadas are filled with flavored cream or other fillings.
Later on, Chinatown shuts down the streets, barricades everyone in, and the party begins. From 5:30pm to 10:30pm, the Arts District Merchants Association presented “Mardi Gras Carnival 2011." The event, billed as “An International Celebration of Indulgence,” showcases authentic Mardi Gras - Carnival culture with unique and exciting food, music and dance from New Orleans, Brazil, Cuba. Live music went from 6pm to 10pm with bands featured on four performance stages spread out along Nu'uanu Avenue, Pauahi Street and Hotel Street. Last year more than 10,000 people attended downtown Honolulu's Fat Tuesday celebration.
All in all it was a cool event. Everyone was running around in Mardis Gras masks and lots of women were running around in Burlesque outfits. I would definitely not be surprised if there were more than 10,000 people this year. It was packed. I was surprised by the lack of alcohol. I'm not suggesting that people weren't drunk. They were. I'm not suggesting alcohol wasn't served. It was. Compared to Octoberfest and Halloween, however, this was relatively tame. At the other events it seemed like there was a beer or wine tent every few feet. At Mardis Gras they just didn't have as many vendors.