Mardi Gras was celebrated on Feb. 28 this year, although for those in New Orleans, the celebration is weeks long. With Elon only a 12-hour drive from the festivities, it’s not uncommon for many students to make the drive for a weekend of celebration. For those not able to attend the celebrations in Louisiana, the Catholic Campus Ministry, in partnership with the Truitt Center and LEAF, held a feast on Mardi Gras at Numen Lumen Pavilion.
The on-campus event featured a live jazz band, festive decorations and plenty of authentic Louisiana-style food, from rice and beans to a jambalaya mix, and of course, a king cake, the type of cake many associate with pre-Lenten celebrations or the festival of the Epiphany.
For many on campus, having a place to celebrate religious events with other students is an invaluable part of college. The religious significance of Mardi Gras is tied to the Lenten season. It is the day before Lent officially begins, often called “Fat Tuesday” because Christians indulge before a season of penance and modesty in solidarity with Jesus’s path to death.
“To me it is a day before I reset my life for 40 days,” said Kristen Burke, president of Catholic Campus Ministry. “I am able to set Mardi Gras aside to eat good food before I fast on Ash Wednesday.”
Burke felt the event on Tuesday was the perfect way to bring people together and share a little bit about the religious significance of the holiday.
“The event was fabulous,” she said. “There was a great showing, perhaps about 60 individuals, student staff and faculty alike. We were able to feed a lot of people while educating them on the season of Lent and importance of Mardi Gras.”
Burke said CCM hosts a Mardi Gras event every year, but this one was special to her as it was her first year attending as CCM president. Recently, Burke said the organization has been trying to host more events with other on-campus organizations and the Truitt center to reach more people and make more connections campus wide.
While the holiday is a time to reflect and prepare for Lent for many people, many others seek out the celebratory nature of the holiday, donning in their wildest outfits for a weekend of parties and parades.
Holly Carlton drove down from Elon with her roommate on Thursday, spending the weekend at Tulane University with students and friends from Elon.
“We were out basically all day,” Carlton said. “It was nice because we got to go to the bars and the restaurants on the famous streets and dress in insane outfits which is fun for me because of my extensive costume closet.”
A typical outfit included a neon fanny pack, graphic t-shirt, metallic mermaid leggings, face glitter and jewels, layers of gold, purple and green beads, and a Rolling Rock beer. The competitive aspect of getting souvenirs from the experience was one of Carlton’s favorite parts of her time at Mardi Gras.
“The parades we went to were in the morning on the weekends and it was like a game,” she said. “They would whip things off the floats like beads or stuffed animals and you kind of had to fight the people around you to get them, but I ended up with over 100 strands of beads and so many stuffed animals.”
The social aspect was another part of the experience Carlton enjoyed. The event has no open-container policy, so those of legal drinking age can carry beer or other drinks in the streets openly. Carlton felt her senior year was the perfect time to go, as she had been looking forward to it since older girls in her sorority went when she was a sophomore.
“It was absolutely worth the drive and the few days of being very tired after,” she said. “It was also really nice because we went down with our friends who had graduated last year and I hadn’t seem them since Homecoming, so the experience was even better because we shared it with them.”
Carlton says there’s no doubt she’ll be back for next year’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but wants to stress one final point: that “It’s absolutely not a sprint, it is very much a marathon.”