From the list of things I'll miss about living in Alabama, Mardi Gras makes the cut. Often credited to New Orleans, the birthplace of American Mardi Gras is actually Mobile, dating back to 1703. The holiday typically falls during February or March and serves as a celebratory precursor for the season of Lent. While the tradition has shifted from its religious origins to more of an excuse to party, cities that were formerly French settlements across the Gulf Coast, from Galveston, Texas to Pensacola, Florida, celebrate.
Two days (and sometimes a week, for many private, Catholic schools) of vacation for no real reason, countless parades and balls, the victory of claiming beads you fought hard for against all the snowbirds that seem to flock during the winter, biting into your piece of king cake and finding a plastic baby. But my favorite way to celebrate? All the free MoonPies you can catch (or snatch) in a month's worth of parades.
I've heard that the northern equivalent is the whoopie pie but I can only speak from my southern experience with the MoonPie. Think of a graham cracker-type cookie sandwiching marshmallow, dipped in chocolate, banana, vanilla, orange or caramel flavoring, and can even be double-decker. (If you heat them up in a microwave and add ice cream, they're even better.) They're free if you catch an especially generous float at a Mardi Gras parade (the best ones will just dump entire boxes on the crowd below), but they don't disappear with the holiday season. You can find them just about anywhere around here: Walmart, Sam's Club, every gas station convenience store. The MoonPie also makes a public comeback for New Year's Eve with Mobile's annual MoonPie Drop (sadly electric, but the world's largest edible one makes up for it). And this New Year's Eve will include the new soda fountain-style MoonPie General Store in downtown Mobile on the first floor of the RSA Trustmark building. I'm just glad I'll be home in time for that.
If you're in the area during the month of February, catch a parade or two. Eat some Cajun food. Wear a mask. But if you disregard everything else, try a MoonPie. You won't regret it. Laissez les bon temps rouler and bon appetit!