By Clare Duignan, editorial specialist, University Marketing and Communications
Glutting myself on ice cream, cake and baked goodies is the activity that comes to my mind when I think of Mardi Gras. It is “Fat Tuesday,” after all. Mardi Gras marks the end of Carnival season, which starts on Jan. 6. As Mardi Gras is always the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the Lenten season for many Christian religions, it is the last day for one’s vices before the 40-day abstinence.
Although it is considered a Christian holiday, having been declared such by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, Mardi Gras has its roots in pagan spring festivals. It is believed that the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia greatly influenced many of the traditions used in the Mardi Gras celebrations, such as masquerades and feasting. Massive celebrations are held worldwide as a final hurrah to fatty foods, drinks and sweets. The most well-known Mardi Gras celebrations are in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.
Lucky for you, the University of Utah hosts one of the best Mardi Gras parties in town. Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 28 this year, and students are encouraged to “get crazy” with dining services from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Peterson Heritage Center dining hall. Past years’ menus have included authentic Cajun staples such as jambalaya, hush puppies, crawfish etouffee, frog legs, alligator, shrimp po’ boys, king cake and more. Be sure to join in on the fun of Mardi Gras and celebrate good food, friends and cake.
5 FACTS ABOUT MARDI GRAS
- Mardi Gras became a legal holiday in Louisiana in 1875.
- Official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, gold and green, which stand for justice, power and faith, respectively.
- Riders on Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans are required by law to wear masks.
- King cake, a Mardi Gras staple, varies from area to area, but is basically hollow circle cake topped with glaze and sugar, with a plastic baby figurine baked into it. Whomever gets the figurine in his or her slice is said to have good luck all year.
- Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans are planned by organizations called Krewes.