On Fat Tuesday!
Having just returned from New Orleans (weighted down with parade loot) I just couldn't resist doing a Mardi Gras theme!
All of my groups love color and there was plenty of it on the table!
We talked about the history of masks, at Masquerade balls and the masked Krewe members on parade floats. But mostly, everyone just wanted to try on masks.
We could do a whole theme on music of New Orleans. We started with the music you hear at parades, but it was more fun talking about Louis Armstrong and Preservation Hall.
I played recordings of "Oh When the Saints..." and Cajun Zydeco and New Orleans jazz. No one could sit still. Ken even taught me a little something I never knew about Louis Armstrong! "Louis did not like to be called Louie!"
The best music was what we made ourselves. Everyone wanted a turn with the toy accordion.
It may be small and toylike, but we had to laugh at how it tested our patience and skills... like patting your head and rubbing your tummy. There's a lot of opening and closing and button pressing to do at once!
We spent a lot of time drooling over ideas of food. Martha and Ramona remembered beignets at Cafe du Monde and all the powdered sugar!
Martha said she missed crawfish pie and file gumbo! A few laughed about the liquid foods that are popular on Bourbon street!
We talked a lot about the bad reputation of Mardi Gras parades. I let them know that most parades are family friendly and safe. They were amazed at the silly stuff that gets thrown from floats. I made everyone earn their beads by at least catching them! Martha used a plastic sword (from the Cleopatra float) to catch her beads!
We laughed about the crazy parade traditions and how many refuse to pick up "ground beads" that hit the street before being caught. I showed a picture that I took of the streets being cleaned after a parade.
Putting Beads to Use
Besides wearing beads, we talked about other uses. I showed more pictures of how trees and fences in New Orleans are decorated.
We talked about other things that beads could be used for. Mary described, with great enthusiasm how she and her New Orleans friends used discarded beads as mosaic material and decorated clutch purses... "To hold our mad money!"
We didn't have time for art projects, but instead, we challenged ourselves to do some designing with strands of beads. It was fun to see all the colorful shapes that were created. Adele, made the most unique shape, a purple state of Texas!
The Louis Armstrong Room!
I broke "Lent Rules" and did a late Mardi Gras celebration (On Thursday) with my wonderful group at The Crescent.
Not only does the skilled nursing facility use New Orleans as a theme for every hall and room and piece of art, but I have a number of Louisiana residents who were excited to teach me more in our 2 hour gathering than I learned on my trip to NOLA!
Mary Led the Group!
Mary is a new resident at the facility, but she practically ran the program with her stories of growing up in New Orleans! We heard every detail from the floats she rode on, to bead tossing techniques!
She laughed about the parties she attended as a young girl and how her mother hoped she wouldn't get the baby in the King Cake. "That tiny trinket earned you too many responsibilities for the next year's celebrations!" Mary praised the police who made the parades as safe as they could be and she laughed about catching potatoes and cabbages at St. Pat's Day parades, as well.
It was amazing to see such a new resident, appear so at home. "When my daughter found this place, she knew I'd love it!" Mary laughed. (There aren't many nursing homes with hallways named Bourbon Street, I guess. ) She said she felt so comfortable at The Crescent, she hoped to live there until the day she died.
"When I die, they can cremate me and take my ashes to New Orleans and place 'em right on my husband's grave!" This was a woman who knew what she wanted and seemed mighty pleased about it. Wow! Is that the power New Orleans has over its people? I had to smile!
What Did I Learn?
I was surprised that so many folks had so much to offer about Mardi Gras.
I was worried some would think it was a bit "wild" for a theme and others would find the focus a bit limiting. But I was reminded once again, that everyone seems to love a party! Play some tunes with jazzy trumpet, trombone and clarinet and toss some beads around... and you've got a party!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.