Celebrating in the land of Mardi Gras


Many predominantly Catholic places around the world celebrate the day before Ash Wednesday, commonly known as Mardi Gras. Celebrations in Brazil, New Orleans, and Venice attract many tourists each year. The Academy of the Sacred Heart (ASH) in New Orleans, a sister school in the Sacred Heart network, takes part in the unique Mardi Gras traditions.

The Academy seniors throwing necklaces during the parade.
Courtesy of ASH Staff Photographers

Mardi Gras originated in medieval Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and translates to Fat Tuesday in English, according to marigrasneworleans.com. In France, the tradition of boeuf gras, or “fat bull”  in English, symbolizes the last meat eaten before the start of Lent. This day marked a time to feast on large amounts of food before the Lenten dietary restrictions commenced.
In Rome, religious leaders encouraged the festival, hoping the new traditions would be incorporated with Lent, according to history.com. Many would feast on foods such as meat, eggs, milk and cheese, as fish was left as the fasting food. The feast would mark the beginning of the 40 days of penance.
Students in a “Television Show” themed parade.
Courtesy of ASH Staff Photographers

Historians believe that Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, a French-Canadian explorer, landed 60 miles south of New Orleans and named this plot of land Pointe du Mardi Gras. In 1702 he established Fort Louis de la Louisiane, where he and the villagers celebrated the first Mardi Gras, according to marigrasneworleans.com.
In many French settlements in the 18th century, including New Orleans, the holiday included festivals in the streets, masked balls, and luxurious dinners. In contrast to today’s lavish floats, the tradition of a parade originated from villagers pushing a large bull’s head on wheels down crowded streets.
Preschool students dressed up as ladybugs.
Courtesy of ASH Staff Photographers

This holiday celebration became an annual tradition by the 1730s, and Governor Marquis de Vaudreuil instituted yearly masked balls. By the late 1800s, Louisiana newspapers started announcing this growing event, and printed Carnival Editions that discussed the town’s carnival floats and themes. One man primarily responsible for creating beautiful floats and outfits was Georges Soulie who was a talented Parisian paper-maché artist, according to history.com
In 1872, the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia attended a daytime parade in New Orleans. A group of business men promoted the colors purple, green and gold which were the House of Romanov’s family colors. Purple represents justice, gold represents power, and green represents faith, according to mardigrasneworleans.com. These colors became the staple colors of the celebration and visitors can now see them all around town.
Middle school students float with the “queen.”
Courtesy of ASH Staff Photographers

The carnival also developed an anthem, “If Ever I Cease to Love,” as this was one of the Duke’s favorite songs. In 1875, Governor Henry Warmoth signed the Mardi Gras Act, making Mardi Gras a legal holiday in Louisiana. To this date, Louisiana is the only state that has legalized this holiday.
In New Orleans, the entire ASH community celebrates this holiday. Ranging from preschool to twelfth grade, each school division follows its yearly traditions.
“I love taking part in the variety of traditions that my school celebrates and experiencing first hand the spectacular atmosphere of Mardi Gras,” ASH junior Jenna O’Dwyer said.
The Academy seniors introducing their “Howdy Gras” theme.
Courtesy of ASH Staff Photographers

The preschool celebrates Krewe de Smocks, where the children dress up according to one theme. The Middle School takes part in Krewe de Coeur, which is a parade the eighth graders lead. Each year, they vote on a queen to help lead the parade. The High School participates in Krewe de Fluff, where the senior class picks a theme, and the students parade around throwing mementos to the crowd in the front of the school. This year, the seniors chose Western as the theme.
Mardi Gras contains many unique origins and traditions. As a member of the Sacred Heart Network, ASH puts its own original touch on this widely celebrated holiday.
-Maggy Wolanske, Staff Writer