So, yesterday was Fat Tuesday. As a girl from the midwest, I feel that I could not be any farther removed from the French tradition that still continues in New Orleans. However, quite a few of my peers partook in Fat Tuesday festivities yesterday. While being at Purdue, I also feel like I have learned quite a bit about the traditions surrounding the celebration.
Our Associate Dean and Director of Academic Programs of the College of Agriculture at Purdue actually spent a number of years at Louisiana State University, and has brought the traditions of the bayou to Purdue. He and his wife are known for hosting different student groups at their home for dinner, and as a student who has participated in a few of these, I have learned to embrace the Louisiana-inspired cuisine.
It is not uncommon to walk into the Fernandez household to the smell of fresh Jambalaya, and it certainly never disappoints. (I’ve been known to fill my plate with seconds.)
So of course, Dr. Fernandez brought the tradition of Fat Tuesday to campus yesterday with free King Cakes for students (while it lasted) in the Agricultural Administration building where his office is.
I saw the announcement on Facebook that they would be available, and so of course I took the opportunity to indulge my sweet tooth, and try something new. The treat certainly did not disappoint.
With all of the festivities going on, I decided to do a little research on the traditions of Mardi Gras.
First of all, while I was picking up my piece of king cake along with a few of the other students who were there for the free sweet treat, I learned that there is always a small plastic baby inside the cake meant to represent baby Jesus. This was the first tradition that I decided to research.
Initially, centuries ago in old world Europe, it started out as a bean that was hidden in the cake. The plastic baby came into the picture later. Regardless, finding the bean or the baby has always meant that you get to be the king for the day – and that you have to buy next year’s cake.
The king cake is typically colored in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, purple, green, and yellow, which each symbolize something different. Purple stands for justice, green is for faith, and gold is for power.
Another thing I wondered about was the purpose behind Mardi Gras, and so I did some research on that.
As it turns out, “Mardi Gras” actually translates to “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is always the Tuesday before Lent, and is meant to be the day that people reflect on the sins that they need to atone for during Lent. However, it has become more of a day to indulge in everything you are giving up for Lent. Hence, the partying.
Although we are sitting in the middle of the midwest, I feel that I have been more exposed to the traditions of Mardi Gras, and hope to one day experience it for myself in New Orleans.