Mardi like a rockstar

DKS Staff

Allison Smith

Daily Kent Stater

Mardi Gras, the traditional day of celebration before Ash Wednesday, may have pagan roots. French Professor Sharon Bell says she believes the holiday may have started when Catholicism acquired pagan celebrations in order to ease the transition to the religion.

“In the Catholic Church, instead of uprooting previous beliefs of people, what they would try to do is change them into Christian beliefs,” Bell said. “And it’s very possible that Mardi Gras falls at some time when there would have been a pagan celebration.”

Later on, the holiday represented a day of feasting before Lent, the time of abstinence before Easter. She said Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, was also a holiday for using up all of the foods that would spoil while celebrating Lent so people wouldn’t have to throw their food away.

“During Lent, people couldn’t have things like butter, meat, fat and stuff like that, so that Tuesday was the last time people had all of those things,” Bell said. “I was listening to a Lutheran pastor last night, and he said it’s called Shrove Tuesday and shrove comes from the word shrive, which means to get rid of things. So on Shrove Tuesday you had to get rid of all the things you couldn’t have during Lent.”

Bell teaches a class focusing on the Caribbean and said a lot of the Caribbean countries celebrate Mardi Gras because of their French background.

“I know for the French Caribbean, those are all Catholic countries,” Bell said. “And so French traditions took root in the French colonies, it became part of the culture of the colonies, too.”

She said she wasn’t sure how Haiti was going to celebrate Mardi Gras this year because of the earthquake that occurred last month. Usually they have a carnival celebration in Jacmel, Haiti, about an hour south of Port Au Prince.

“Jacmel was hit very heavily by the earthquake,” Bell said. “This summer when I was in Haiti, they took us to where they make the carnival masks. These are huge paper mach’e masks of anything you can imagine. But we haven’t heard a word about carnival and Mardi Gras in Haiti this year.”

Other countries that have large celebrations are France and Brazil. Bell said the Brazilians have a famous carnival celebrating the day before Ash Wednesday. She said they have elaborate parades and beautiful costumes. In Nice, France, there is a large carnival on the French Riviera.

New Orleans is the most commonly known celebrator of Mardi Gras. This holiday celebration is known as one of the wildest and largest in the world. The streets are lined with tourists and locals alike, watching parades, begging for beads and feasting on traditional Mardi Gras delicacies like paczki.

Bell said she attended a Mardi Gras parade in the Creole city and said the floats were the best part of the celebration.

Each float is run by a krewe (pronounced crew) that chooses themes for floats and host balls in the city. The themes of the parades are usually kept secret until each parade begins.

The official Web site for the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans says it is required by law for float riders to wear a mask.

Typically the float riders throw items into the crowd including beads, stuffed animals, doubloons and cups. Doubloons are aluminum coins depicting the parade theme. But the Web site warns not to bend down and pick one up if it falls, or your fingers could be stomped on.

Contact features reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].


It’s Fat Tuesday in Kent

Nicole Stempak

Daily Kent Stater

Some bars are looking forward to a midweek boost in customers tonight thanks to Mardi Gras celebrations.

Tom Creech, manager at Ray’s Place, expects business to boom as it does on weekends. The restaurant and bar is planning accordingly. Ray’s, on 135 Franklin Ave., will be staffed with bartenders on the first and second floor. The second floor is normally closed from 10 p.m. to close Tuesdays.

“Mardi Gras is just a good excuse to have a little fun in the middle of winter,” Creech said. “The whole theme of Mardi Gras is to have fun and blow it out before the seriousness of Lent.”

Lunch and dinner specials are advertised on the front door. The wooden walls are decorated with gold, green and purple thespian masks.

Water Street Tavern, on 132 S. Water St., and Pufferbelly LTD. Restaurant, on 152 Franklin Ave., will both be offering menu specials.

The Zephyr Pub, on 106 W. Main St., also expects to be busy. Bartender Katy Tribuzzo said the bar usually hosts live music Tuesday nights. This week’s musician is Pat Sweany, who is popular at the Zephyr.

Tribuzzo said she doesn’t know how much, if any, difference there will be because of Mardi Gras.

Lt. Paul Canfield of the Kent Police Department said some people may not want to brave the cold to go to bars.

According to the National Weather Service, tonight is expected to be cloudy with a 60 percent chance of scattered snow showers. Temperature will be in the low 20s.

Canfield said Mardi Gras hasn’t been a big safety issue in Kent, and there are no plans for extra patrol. He advised partygoers to use common sense if heading downtown, in light of recent assaults.

“Go with friends or a group of people, drink in moderation and if you’ve had too much, call a friend or cab company to pick you up,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].


Ever had a paczki (pronounced poonch-kee)? It’s Polish for donut, a traditional Mardi Gras snack.  Here, try some!

12 egg yolks

1 teaspoon salt ?

2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast ?

1/4 cup warm water ?

1/3 cup room temperature butter ?

1/2 cup sugar ?

4-1/2 cups flour ?

1/3 cup rum or brandy ?

1 cup scalded whipping cream ?

1-1/2 cups preserves or cooked prunes or apples or canned poppy seed filling ?oil (for deep frying, the old-timers used lard, but vegetable oil will work.)

Beat egg yolks with the salt in the small bowl of an electric mixer at high speed until the mixture is thick and piles softly, about seven minutes.

Soften yeast in warm water. Cream butter, add sugar to it gradually, beating until fluffy. Slowly beat in the softened yeast.

Stir one-fourth of the flour into the yeast mix. Add rum/brandy and half of the cream. Beat in another fourth of the flour and stir in remaining cream.

Beat in half of the remaining flour and then the egg yolk mixture; beat for two minutes. Gradually beat in the remaining flour until the dough blisters. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise.

When it has doubled in bulk, punch it down. Cover and let rise again until doubled and punch it down again.

Roll dough on a floured surface to about 3/4 inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch rounds using a cookie cutter or glass.

Put 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of half the circles. Brush the edges with water. Top with the remaining rounds and seal the edges very well.

Cover the paczki on a floured surface, let rise about 20 minutes.

Deep fry in the hot fat until paczkis are golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey.

visit for the recipe.