Mardi Gras Comes to Rowan With a Cajun Carnival

Rowan After Hours hosted "Mardi RAH" a celebration of Black and Cajun cultures. This cake, called a "Mardi Gras king cake," is one of the many great foods available for students to try during the event. - Photo / Jack Trabucco.

On Thursday, Feb. 24, Rowan After Hours (RAH) celebrated Mardi Gras a little early with Mardi RAH, a hustling and bustling celebration of Cajun culture in honor of the holiday. 

The event featured the live jug band Zydeco-a-go-go, food provided by Beck’s Cajun Café in Philadelphia and a number of other fun activities, such as face painting and do-it-yourself Mardi Gras masks. Attendants were able to enjoy a nice break from the cold as they were transported to the biggest annual party in the American South.  

“We rarely have live performers, especially during COVID,” Julie Shannon, the head organizer of the event, said.

Mardi Gras, which is a French term meaning “Fat Tuesday,” dates back hundreds of years to early Christian traditions in Central and Western Europe where the festive Carnival once originated.  Typical Carnival celebrations lasted several days and involved elaborate parties, parades, costumes, food and drinks.  The “Fat” in “Fat Tuesday” refers to animal fat used for cooking, once considered a luxury that would be used in making the last of the rich and delectable consumed during Carnival.

The purpose of Carnival was to engage in a “last hurrah” of sorts before entering the season of Lent, a time when Christians give up such luxuries and fast for forty days as a way to spiritually prepare for Easter. Nowadays, the contemporary holiday we all know typically begins on Shrove Sunday and lasts for three days before ending on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.   

Mardi Gras remains a popular event worldwide and is practiced by Christians and non-Christians alike. The epicenter of the American Mardi Gras celebration is in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the whole city goes up in green, purple and golden smoke for three days. Parades, costumes, music, food and drink fill the streets, attracting partygoers from all across the country. 

The New Orleans Mardi Gras has fully embraced the Black and Cajun culture of the state, which was on full display in the student center. Mardi RAH is one event that never left during the pandemic and one that plans to stay for many years to come.

“I love these kinds of events, where everyone comes out and celebrates like this…it’s a very authentic experience,” Shannon said.

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