Illustration by Jonathan Woon

By Erica Dunigan
Staff reporter

Walking around a corner on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, you may just catch a glimpse of a girl taking off her top for beads from a stranger. Peering across the street you may see a vendor selling a variety of masks, and right next to him another vendor is selling Jambalaya.

Mardi Gras is a French expression which means Fat Tuesday.

Ashlee Alley, campus minister and director of campus ministries, said, “Historically, Mardi Gras is the time where people would get rid of all the food that would spoil during the period of time, known as Lent, and would have a big party known as Fat Tuesday.”

Alley said Mardi Gras is also known as a carnival-like celebration. It is the last party before the beginning of the Lenten period. “It’s the big carnival before the time of self-reflection, and then sacrifice enters for the season of Lent,” she said.

Jan. 6, which is known as the Twelfth Night after Christmas, this is when Mardi Gras season begins. The festivities are kicked off with what is called King Cakes.

“They bake a cake to honor the three kings,” Alley said. “Inside every cake is a tiny baby. The person who will receive the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the next King Cake party.”

For one student, these festivities are part of a tradition.

Rachel Muth, history senior, said, “I’m from Lake Charles, La. I would celebrate Mardi Gras every year before Lent, but I haven’t celebrated since I’ve been at SC.”

Muth said that a lot of people think of Mardi Gras as this big party where you can go drink and get beads. “Mardi Gras has lost its meaning,” Muth said. Mardi Gras is filled with festivities from parades to balls right before Fat Tuesday leads into Ash Wednesday.

“Once everything is over, and Ash Wednesday hits that’s when the Lenten period starts,” said Alley. “Then the Lenten period will lead us up to Easter Sunday.”

Many different denominations participate in Lent.  “When people think of Lent they mainly think of Catholics,” said Alley. “But, that’s not true.”

Lent involves 40 days of sacrifice. Something that is very important to you, or that takes up your time.

Matt Thompson, assistant professor of religious studies, said, “When you give up something you want to give up something that has a hold on you, more than it should have. Examples would be meat, coffee, T.V., and especially your computer.”

Kyle Just, physical education junior, said that as a Methodist, he participates each year on Ash Wednesday, and through Lent. “Last year I gave up Facebook, which was really hard,” said Just. “I noticed how much time I had in the day, and having my friends at school made it easier.”

On Ash Wednesday, SC will be having a Chapel Service for students to come participate. Alley said, “I will be speaking that day in Chapel. During the service we will also be talking about the meaning behind Lent.”

Just said it’s nice to have Chapel to go to for Ash Wednesday. “When you don’t have your family at home to go to service with, it’s nice to have your friends at school to be with,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter what denomination we are, or what we celebrate before Lent,” said Alley. “I think Lent does something for us spiritually. It reminds us of our mortality as we’re waiting for life to come through Christ’s Resurrection on Easter.”

Erica Dunigan is a junior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at

Edited by Samantha Gillis.