Mardi Gras – More Than Just a Party

Mardi Gras is a celebration that occurs once a year. Everyone knows the name Mardi Gras, but most do not truly understand the history and true meaning behind the celebration.  Believe it or not, Mardi Gras originates from France. The celebrations can be traced back to the 18th century in the French House of the Bourbons.
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived just south of New Orleans, and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras” when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday. In 1703, the tiny settlement celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras.I decided to ask Cape Henry students if they understood what Mardi Gras was.

Junior Emma Lowenstein knew that “Mardi Gras is the celebration in New Orleans that is also celebrated by the French the day before lent starts on Ash Wednesday. It means Fat Tuesday. I don’t have any traditions, but we celebrate it every year in French class with the king cake and beads.”

Not many other people understood the true meaning and/or background of Mardi Gras. Seniors Owen Campbell and Hope Wheeler understood that Mardi Gras was a holiday celebrated each year and that Mardi Gras translates to “Fat Tuesday,” but they did not truly understand the meaning behind the holiday.

Allie Benedetto “knew it stands for Fat Tuesday and it is a celebration that I think has to do with the independence in France. This is so embarrassing because I should totally know this since I’m going to Tulane and in NOLA. I haven’t had any traditions for Mardi Gras since middle school when we used to do the king cake.”

Now you may be wondering, what is the king cake? The king cake is a circular cake that consists of a cakey bread dough that is twisted into a ring and decorated with different colored icing and sprinkles. Each cake can be a different shape, but traditionally the appearance mimic’s a king’s crown. Inside of each cake is a small plastic baby, which represents the celebration and beginning of lent. Most people give up things for lent and some either stick or give up.

On February 28, our very own community had a small celebration in the foyer. The group of seniors going to NOLA were celebrating by selling bagels and donuts as the jazz band played music while students flooded in through the doors.

Mrs. Judge has been the chaperone for the senior trip to New Orleans for 15 years. To her, “Mardi Gras is more than a religious holiday in New Orleans; it’s actually a way to bring a community together. The festivities begin well in advance of Mardi Gras because people belong to certain crews and they gather together to talk about the community itself. On the actual day of the celebration, everyone gathers together and moves through the streets in one celebratory group divided my neighborhoods and crews. It’s a sense of bringing the community together which is the center of what New Orleans is all about.”