Mardi Gras partying 101

Natalie Moses

The beads, the masks, the glitter — we all know what Mardi Gras is all about. Or do we? When images of crazy parades, wild parties and women dressed like Ke$ha come to mind, it is easy to forget that Mardi Gras is a religious event. In French, the word “Mardi” translates to “Tuesday” and “gras” means “fat.” Fat Tuesday is the last day before the Catholic season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It is a day to indulge in tasty, “fatty” foods before the fasting of Lent starts.

So how does a day with Catholic roots turn into a full-blown free-for-all bash? The French settlers who celebrated “Carnival” the entire week before Lent can be thanked for bringing this tradition with them. The last night of “Carnival” is Fat Tuesday, the biggest celebration of all. The name Mardi Gras refers to the last night of “Carnival” but Mardi Gras, in the modern sense, refers to the entire week of celebration.

Though this day is celebrated throughout the nation, all of these parties are simply imitations of the real shebang. New Orleans is the birthplace and notorious destination for die-hard Mardi Gras partygoers. So rather than making the trip to Louisiana, the Daily Kent Stater got in touch with the next best thing — a New Orleans native.

Randy Rue, junior exercise science major, knows all there is about Mardi Gras. There are a few things he clarified about the holiday. For instance, Mardi Gras is a huge street party all over Louisiana, not just New Orleans.

“Contrary to people’s beliefs, it’s actually a huge family event everywhere except downtown New Orleans, where pretty much anything goes,” Rue said.

However, he added that the major thing that is not acceptable is urinating in the streets. To explain the celebration to an outsider, Rue has only one phrase.

“As a local, the best way to explain Mardi Gras is through the quote ‘laissez les bons temps rouler.’ It means ‘let the good times roll’ in our local language, Cajun,” Rue said.

Not everybody is fortunate enough to experience the celebration firsthand, but Kent State has its own mini New Orleans. Since today is Fat Tuesday, Prentice Cafe is hosting a Mardi Gras celebration today from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Lindsay Hardwick, senior human development and family studies major, works at Prentice Cafe and said the night should be a hit. The menu includes Cajun-style food like shrimp, flank steak, sausage and peppers and twisted fries. Hardwick was there for the party in previous years and had plenty of good things to say about it.

“It’s a good time,” Hardwick said. “There’s music and fun decorations. It really seems like Mardi Gras. It’s a celebration.”

If you can’t make it over to Prentice, or if you just can’t get enough Mardi Gras, then throw your own party.

Include lively brass band jazz music, traditional beads and masks and plenty of purple, green and gold. As far as beverages go, you could serve hurricanes to get the party started, but please be responsible and make sure to also have some traditional Mardi Gras food. Serve Cajun dishes or bake a king cake, which is decorated in Mardi Gras colors and has a token baked into it. Whoever finds the token gets a whole year of good luck.

Whether you’re looking for food with a spicy kick or a reason to dress up and party, make the best of your Mardi Gras. Just remember to be safe and take a lesson from New Orleans and laissez les bons temps rouler!

Contact Natalie Moses at [email protected].