MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
In the late 17th century the Le Moyne brothers were sent to North America by France’s King Louis XIV to defend France's claim on the territory of Louisiane, then-Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. During their stay in the region they brought a French Catholic tradition to America which has grown to become a celebration that resonates worldwide.
That tradition is the celebration of Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday for the final night of excessive dining before the fasting of the Lenten season.
Although Mardi Gras’ biggest celebration takes place in New Orleans, Marines, sailors and their families took part in a celebration of their own during the Mardi Gras Masquerade party at the Paradise Point Officers’ Club, Feb. 20.
Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Noel, nurse manager for the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune emergency center, explained how each month a different unit is given a theme to host a party for. “Since the (Naval Hospital) got the month of February, we decided to go with Mardi Gras,” said Noel.
Mirroring all the customs and traditions of a true Mardi Gras celebration, the club was transformed into the heart of New Orleans. The Lejeune and Carolina rooms become Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, covered in festive decorations with various musicians performing ‘street’ jazz.
“The décor is beautiful, the music is great and I love seeing all the different kinds of costumes and masks,” said Gina Ciarcia, a military spouse and attendant of the celebration. “It’s a great time to be outrageous for the night.”
Additional attractions included authentic Cajun-style food and traditional “hand grenade” drinks, caricature booth and a Voodoo Tarot Card reader.
Midway through the night, a procession of the street performers made their way onto the mock Bourbon Street followed by a decorated hospital gurney carrying the King of Mardi Gras, who threw beads, doubloons and masks to the crowd.
Once the King reached the center of the partiers and welcomed in the night of festivities, the band broke out into a wide variety of songs ranging from “When the Saints Go Marching In”, “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing)” to jazzed-up renditions of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
“One of the main complaints we get is that there are not enough theme parties in Jacksonville,” said Beth Roberts, catering operations manager with Marine Corps Community Services and the nights’ Tarot Card reader. “That’s the reason for the monthly theme parties. It’s all about fun, food, camaraderie and just having a good time.”