Mardi Gras revelry ends, Lenten season begins

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The merriment of Mardi Gras has ended and the solemn season of Lent has begun Wednesday.

New Orleans police swept through Bourbon Street at midnight in the city’s annual ritual of letting Carnival revelers know the party is over - until next year.

Jim Baker, of New Orleans, said he usually dresses in costume for the Mardi Gras holiday, but the weather deterred him this year.

Baker said he chose to celebrate a little differently - sipping cocktails under the cover of a friend’s French Quarter patio balcony while watching other costumed revelers brave the cold and rain.

Temperatures for most of the day in the New Orleans area were in the lower 40s and by early evening were at about 38 degrees. The wind chill made it feel even colder.

But there’s one tradition Baker said he won’t be straying from - rain or shine - and that’s attending Mass and receiving ashes the day after Mardi Gras on Ash Wednesday.

“That’s when I begin thinking about Easter,” said Baker, who is Catholic. “It’s about celebration and sacrifice before Easter, to show that you’re appreciative of being here.”

Baker said he planned to attend Mass at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. He also planned to make a sacrifice for Lent, which is the six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter, the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

“I’m giving up desserts,” he said. “I love desserts, but I’m diabetic. So it’s a sacrifice, but it will be good for me.”

Giving up the excessive behavior was far from most people’s minds as folks endured the wet and cold to celebrate Fat Tuesday.

“We’ll drink, drink, drink until it gets drier,” said Dean Cook of New Orleans as he walked Bourbon Street dressed as a pirate with vampire fangs.

“Mermaids love the water,” he said of his wife, Terrina Cook, who was dressed in a shiny blue mermaid costume, complete with a fin.

Ronnie Davis, a professor of economics at the University of New Orleans, decided to break his button-down image for at least one day. Clad in tutus, he and his wife, Arthurine, stood along the avenue watching the Krewe of Zulu’s floats roll by.

“All year I have to dress professionally. This is the one time I get to act like a fool,” Davis said.

But the Mardi Gras revelry wasn’t free of violence.

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