With the final part of this semester starting up, the last place any of us have time to be is at a party. Lucky for us one of the world’s largest parties was underway this week. Yep, Mardi Gras (also known as Fat Tuesday) came late this year, best known for people wearing elaborate outfits, drinking, and getting some beads.
It would be a crime to suggest that’s all that Mardi Gras is though. In fact, the boobs are merely an effect of what Mardi Gras is all about: overindulgence, and more specifically, overindulgence before Lent.
Around the world there are many different traditions surrounding Mardi Gras, and not all of them in the same over-the-top vein. For example, in Belgium Mardi Gras is instead called Carnival Binche, where people wear wax masks, play drums to ward off spirits, and carry oranges that are both thrown to and at people watching — the latter of which sounds super fun (and Vitamin C-filled).
Italy, Venice in particular, has an extremely famous Mardi Gras event that is otherwise known as the Carnival of Venice. This one festival is what fuels the mask sales in Venice all year around; simply put, it’s like being transported into a world filled with masked people who are a cross between a Tim Burton creation and haute couture. The elaborate costumes are actually rather pretty, if not a little freaky.
No one is as over the top as the Mardi Gras carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Their samba parade in particular is the biggest event, and instead of being a chaotic mess of drunken people, it is a samba contest where people compete with judging categories like spirit, costumes, and floats. The floats and costumes are ridiculously over the top and teetering on the line of gaudy and beautiful. Feathers, huge headpieces, and lots of skin fill this huge contest.
Finally, the most familiar Mardi Gras belongs to our neighbour in the south, New Orleans. This is the Mardi Gras that gets the raunchiest reputation, especially along Bourbon Street where it’s pretty common to catch a glimpse of skin in exchange for beads. People usually dress up, and people from the floats all throw trinkets and beads at the onlookers.
This isn’t to say the crowded, chaotic, amazing mess that is New Orleans’ Mardi Gras doesn’t come with its share of culture. King cakes — braided cinnamon cake topped with icing and coloured sugar — are eaten throughout this season.
No matter where you are in the world next year though, whether it be Rio or Waterloo, be sure to crack open one extra beer and sure, eat that extra handful of fries, because this time of year is all about indulging.