Let the good times roll

Elizabeth Rund

For more than 200 years, Mardi Gras has offered one last chance to live it up before Lent

Mardi Gras, which literally translates to Fat Tuesday, draws more than 600,000 people to New Orleans’ French Quarter every year, and today should be no different.

The celebration in New Orleans begins on Jan. 6 with a series of masquerade balls and continues through Fat Tuesday, ending with a large celebration.

Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the religious season of Lent.

According to Louisiana’s East Jefferson Parish’s Web site, the French in New Orleans held private masked balls as early as 1718. When the Spanish took control of the area, the celebrations were banned. Although America gained control of New Orleans in the early 1800s, Mardi Gras was banned until 1827.

During the 1850s masked street parties became so out-of-control they were almost banned a second time. So, in 1857, a group of six men formed a secret society called the Mystick Krewe of Comus, which believed the tradition could be preserved with planning, organization and management.

Today there are several different Krewe groups that fund all the floats through private donations and are responsible for providing the beads and other trinkets that are thrown during parades.

Each of the parades in the two weeks leading up to and including Fat Tuesday have a king or a queen. The tradition of the Mardi Gras King began in 1872 when Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New Orleans during the festivities.

The Krewe of Rex used the Duke’s visit to draw attention away from the effects of the Civil War. The Krewe held a parade in the Duke’s honor and crowned him king for the day.

The three main colors representing Mardi Gras are purple, symbolizing justice; green, symbolizing faith; and gold, symbolizing power.

“Throws” or trinkets of these colors are thrown to parade watchers from floats. Many people spend months making outlandish costumes to get the attention of those who are throwing the beads.

Although colorful beads and coins are extremely sought after, the King Cake is a staple of the Mardi Gras celebration.

The King Cake is a circular, braided cinnamon coffee roll that is decorated in purple, green and gold icing.

A small, plastic baby is placed inside the cake, and the person who finds the baby in his or her piece of cake is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. They are also responsible for buying the next cake.

Bakeries in New Orleans can sell four to 5,000 King Cakes a day during the Carnival season.

Some Kent State students have already experienced the excitement of a Mardi Gras-like carnival in other parts of the world.

“My family is from Trinidad, and we have a carnival around the same time,” said Kassandra Smith, senior political science major.

For those students who want to experience Mardi Gras but don’t have the cash to get to New Orleans, worry not. Prentice Café and Pete’s Arena in the Rathskeller are serving up a New Orleans-inspired menu today, along with other festivities.

“We are going to be handing out beads and masks,” said Autumn Piller, marketing manager for Dining Services.

In addition to food and beads, there will also be live music in the Rathskeller.

“We had the jazz band last year, and I was hoping to have them again,” Piller said.

It’s time to celebrate.

Laissez les bons temps rouler! — Let the good times roll.

On the menu

Celebrate Mardi Gras on campus with cuisine available today from Dining Services.

Pete’s Arena (Rathskeller)

• Garlic Scampi Pizza

• Cajun Chicken Pizza

• Muffletta Panini

After 5 p.m.

• Buffalo Wings

• Cajun Popcorn

• Virgin Strawberry Daiquiris

Prentice Café

• Bourbon Street carved flank steak with sweet potato fries

• Aunt Dees bayou onion petals

• Mardi Gras seafood salad

• Jambalaya

• Andouolle sausage sandwich with peppers and onions

• Vegetarian creole macaroni

• Red beans and rice

• Turnip greens

• Creole spicy fried shrimp and twister fries

• Louisiana pecan pie

• Chicken gumbo soup

Contact features reporter Elizabeth Rund at [email protected].