From fasting to flashing: the evolution of Mardi Gras

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus.


Photo courtesy of MCT Campus.

Rachel Jones

Despite how it’s celebrated today, Mardi Gras did not begin as a chance to get drunk on a week night or flash a crowd of people for plastic beads.

It actually has both religious and French roots.

Matthew Kemp, assistant professor of French at Kent State, said Mardi Gras can be traced back to Roman times around the second century.

“(It) was originally a pagan tradition until the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the official religion of the empire,” Kemp said. “The festival was then incorporated into Christian tradition and came to mark the period preceding Lent.”

Lent is the 40 days before Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday. Once Lent begins, people are supposed to sacrifice something until Easter. This also involves not eating meat or fasting on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays throughout Lent.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the last night to overindulge in food and drink before the sacrifices of Lent take place.

Kemp said French explorer Sieur d’Iberville, who settled near present-day New Orleans, brought Mardi Gras to America in 1699.

“Inspired by the festivals and parades in Paris, Mardi Gras truly took root in the U.S. in the 1820s and grew from there,” Kemp said. “I also gather that in ancient pagan tradition, a fat ox would be paraded through the streets, hence the origin of the term ‘Fat Tuesday.’”

Kemp said the French celebrate Mardi Gras today by drinking, attending parades and eating some form of pancake.

“In the UK, we don’t use the term Mardi Gras,” Kemp said. “We call it ‘Pancake Day’ or ‘Shrove Tuesday.’”

Today, Americans celebrate with similar parades, over-indulging and throwing plastic beads.

While it’s nothing like New Orleans this time of year, Kent has plenty of its own Mardi Gras celebrations on and off campus.

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].

  1. Prentice Café

    • Time: February 29 4:30 – 8 p.m.


    • Crab Cakes
    • Creole-fried chicken breast
    • Breaded okra
    • Cajun-roasted vegetables
    • Vegetable creole jambalaya
    • Shrimp étouffeé
    • Blackened flank steak
    • Dirty rice
    • Red beans and rice
    • Chicken gumbo


    • King cake
    • Praline cheesecake
    • Chocolate pecan pie
    • Beignets

    *Prices for food were undetermined as of Monday.

    Drinks: “Mocktail” bar featuring five Mardi Gras-themed drinks, including hurricanes and mint juleps

    Giveaways: Mardi Gras cup

  2. The Kent Stage

    Time: Doors open at 7 p.m., and music starts at 8 p.m.

    • *Admission is $10

    Entertainment: Mojo, a Cajun band from Akron, will be performing.

    Food: Authentic creole and Cajun dishes served from a food truck outside.

    Drinks: Hurricanes – $4

    • Variety of beer from New Orleans

    Give-aways: Free hats and beads

  3. Mike’s Place

    Drinks: Discounted hurricanes and margaritas

    • *Prices undetermined as of Monday
  4. Ray’s Place


    • Shrimp creole and rice – $10.95
    • Chicken jambalaya – $9.75
    • Red beans and rice – $7.95
    • Chicken gumbo – $2.95/cup, $3.25/bowl


    • Hurricane – $4.95
    • Fother Mucker – $3.50
    • Long Island iced teas – $3.50
    • LaBatt Blue – $2.50/pint, $2.95/tall
  5. The Loft

    Drinks: Usual monthly specials

    Giveaways: Free beads and leis

  6. Water Street Tavern

    Entertainment: Bud Light promotion crew from 11 p.m.-12 a.m.

    Drinks: Miller Lite – $2 from 4-9 p.m.

    • Usual happy hour specials from 4-9 p.m.

    Giveaways: Free beads

    • Note: Ladies’ Night discounts will not be in effect.
  7. The Brewhouse Pub


    • 16 oz Miller Lite tall boys – $1.99
    • Long Island iced teas – $0.99
  8. 157 Lounge


    • Complimentary drinks for all ladies from 10-11:30 p.m. with Kent State ID
    • Miller Lite – $2
    • Well drinks – $2
  9. Zephyr Pub

    Drinks: Usual monthly specials, including discounts on:

    • Bud Light
    • Cherry bombs
    • Jack Daniel’s shots
  10. Mugs Brew Pub

    Food: Free pizza every Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. with purchase of a drink

    Drinks: Usual monthly specials, including:

    • Bud Light – $2/pint, $3/tall
    • Keystone Light – $1.75/pint, $2.50/tall
    • UV bombs – $2.75