Celebrate Mardi Gras 2023 with a crafting event on campus
Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
Students on campus have a chance to celebrate this year’s Mardi Gras by making beaded necklaces and masks. This crafting event will take place in the Donovan Dining Center from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Mardi Gras, which is Tuesday.
Mardi Gras, or in English, “Fat Tuesday,” is a Christian holiday with pagan roots that is believed to date back to Medieval Europe, possibly even earlier. In some parts of the world, it is also known as “Carnival,” or “Carnaval,” and is celebrated most famously in New Orleans, Brazil and Venice. Mardi Gras marks the beginning of the Roman Catholic season of Lent, with the following day being known in the Church as Ash Wednesday.
The “gras” of Mardi Gras is from tradition. During the days that lead to Lent, those who chose to celebrate would feast on the fatty foods they had in their home in preparation for fasting. This meant that milk, eggs, meats, lards and cheeses were eaten – all foods that are high in fat content – in order to admonish the temptation while fasting for several weeks.
The other name, “Carnival,” comes from the Latin word “carnelevarium,” which means “to take away or remove meat,” the Latin word for meat being “carnem.”
The first American celebration of Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when two French explorers, Pierre Le Moyne D’lberville and Sieur de Beinville, landed near what is now known as New Orleans, Louisiana. They chose to name the spot they landed on “Point du Mardi Gras,” which in English is “point of Fat Tuesday,” and they held a celebration there. As French settlements began popping up, more lavish celebrations, street parties and even masquerades began taking place. During the Spanish control of New Orleans, all of these celebrations were abolished and the bans were in place until Louisiana became a state in 1812.
The first Mardi Gras “parade” took place in 1827, when a group of students who had recently returned from Paris decided to imitate the colorful costumes they saw while traveling, and promenade in the street. About 10 years later, the first true, and first recorded, Mardi Gras parade took place.
To add to the mystery of this celebration, in 1857, a secret society of businessmen, now known as the Mistick Krewe of Comus, organized a procession with marching bands and floats, which set the tone for the future of this parade. The Krewe remains an active part of the celebrations today, usually taking part in the parade, wearing masks and throwing beads and other trinkets into the crowd. The Rex band of the Krewe, having been a part of the parade since 1872 and are credited with establishing purple, gold and green as the “official” colors.
Another delicious tradition is the baking and eating of King Cakes. A nod to the feast of the Epiphany and to the three wise men of the Bible, King Cakes are brioche dough based cakes, colored with the traditional Mardi Gras colors. It can be filled with a number of fillings, including cream cheese and chocolate. Even the colors have meaning: Purple symbolizes justice, gold stands for power and green represents faith.
Traditionally, there is a little trinket baked into the cake, usually a small plastic baby or a ring. Originally, finding the trinket in a piece of cake meant that the person was crowned the King or Queen of Mardi Gras. As celebrations expanded and multiple households consumed King Cakes, the trinket came to symbolize good luck.
In keeping with the tradition of celebration, students are encouraged to stop by the Donovan Dining Center to join in the festivities.