Mardi Gras Traditions: Students customize Carnival season
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The floats are ready to roll, the tutus and fanny packs emerge from under-the-bed storage, and every store within 10 miles of campus has already sold out of peach Andre. America’s greatest street party has begun.
Mardi Gras runs from the Twelfth Night, the night before the Feast of the Epiphany, through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten season.
Parade-goers often sport purple, green and gold attire in traditional Mardi Gras fashion. These colors were not chosen for how well they match — or clash — but instead have a deeper meaning. The purple stands for justice, the green for faith and the gold for power. Starting in the 1870s, these colors are a Mardi Gras necessity.
While the religious connotation of the festivities is not as pervasive as before, the celebration rolls on.
With each year, students’ own traditions begin to take root. It is no longer simply going to parades and catching beads. It becomes an individual experience. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate, and that is the beauty of Mardi Gras.
Some students use the Carnival season to dress in ridiculous outfits, from space leggings to purple wigs, without judgment.
After junior Reyna Fa-Kaji searched for Mardi Gras costumes and found cheap banana suits last year, a new tradition began for the ultimate frisbee girls. Twenty-five of them wore the costumes, and plan to keep that tradition alive.
“I love wearing [the banana suits] because it embodies the spirit of the team,” junior Madeline Rafkin said. “[We are] one large group coming together and doing something silly just to laugh.”
Some traditions are new while others date back several years, like the group of students who parade themselves down St. Charles Avenue painted head to toe in gold.
“It was probably [started] a little bit after [Hurricane] Katrina,” senior Jonathan Tattoni said. “… It was just a group of guys that got together one day and thought to do something fun for Mardi Gras … and walk down St. Charles in front of the parades … [as] times progressed more and more people got involved, and now it’s really open to anyone who wants to as long as they contact whoever is running it … It’s a fun opportunity for different people to come together and have a little fun during Mardi Gras.”
Traditions are not just within friend groups but the community as a whole.
“As a freshman, you get relegated to being the runt of the group, so it was a nice opportunity to make new friends, talk to people I hadn’t talked to before and experience New Orleans in a different light,” Tattoni said. “As I’m older, I want to give others the chance to experience that as well, especially if it’s their first time away from home or are shy. It’s an opportunity to meet other students and people in the New Orleans area.”
While the main events of Mardi Gras for Tulane span from Krewe of Muses on Thursday night to Krewe of Rex on Tuesday morning, attending every parade proves difficult. Even after years of trying, some have found it impossible to “Boot and rally” the entire week.
“[My friends and I] always try to make it to Zulu after ‘Tequila Sunrise’ [at The Boot Bar and Grill], but it’s always been rainy, and we’ve never actually made it,” senior Zoe Miller said. “… Missing it has become a tradition in itself …”
While dressing as the universally-loved banana, turning yourself into a living Oscar award or elbowing your way to the front at a parade to catch beads may not be the go-to for everyone, many students find alternative ways to let the good times roll.
“Every year during Mardi Gras, I make it my mission to track down the King Cake Burger,” senior and former Hullabaloo member Emily Berger said. “Partly because it is exquisitely delicious and partly because it makes a great pun on my name.”
Apart from the events throughout the city, a Mardi Gras tradition for Tulane students is the trek down to the parade route. Making the walk is, in itself, a party. Mardi Gras, however, is not all fun and games. In the midst of taking selfies, posting on Instagram or tracking your friends, many items can go missing. Fifth-year architecture student Hannah Bahney does not have any Mardi Gras traditions.
“Unless losing my phone counts, I’m five for five on that one,” she said.
Not every unique Mardi Gras experience happens off campus. For some, returning home after a parade can be just as surprising as the spectacle of the krewes.
“Last year during Mardi Gras, someone chucked my bed posts over the balcony from the fourth floor [of Willow Residences], but I’d rather that not be a tradition,” Berger said.
Any Mardi Gras attendee is aware of “Tequila Sunrise.” It is more iconic than any Muses shoe or Zulu coconut. The goal of making it to the Tuesday morning celebration and to Zulu for one last hoorah after a week of debauchery is a goal for everyone, but few find success.
“My favorite thing about Tequila Sunrise is that there are a lot of people together in one area regardless of where they’re from …” junior Andy Swicord said. “They come together under one umbrella for the beautiful Tequila Sunrise.”
Whether you are dressing up, chasing down frosted burgers or awkwardly calling Housing and Residence Life about missing furniture, Mardi Gras is the greatest celebration on earth.
“I don’t have any Mardi Gras traditions,” Senior Sarah Haensly said. “Every Mardi Gras is different and spontaneous.”
No matter how you choose to spend the Carnival season, remember Mardi Gras is a marathon, not a sprint.
Sam Ergina and Julia Engel contributed to the reporting of this article.