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Marist International Programs, in co-sponsorship with the Department of Modern Languages, held a night to celebrate Carnival on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the Henry Hudson Room in Fontaine. The evening served to teach students not only about the multicultural aspects of Mardi Gras that are, at times, overlooked, but also to provide a break from a student workload in place for some fun and enjoyment.

Carnival’s marking serves as the last big bash before the reflective and more somber Lenten season. While it is most popularly celebrated in Italy, Carnival is actually observed in numerous countries all around the globe with subtle differences in each country, according to Coordinator of Italian Studies and Italian lecturer Marina Melita. She shares, “I think, culturally speaking, it gives a better global outlook. It’s not just saying, ‘Mardi Gras is only New Orleans,’ it’s all these other places.”

According to Melita, the Mardi Gras celebration was a very last-minute idea. She shares, “It was going to be an Italian-only event for our students. And then, two weeks ago, we were in a department meeting and I said, ‘Why don’t we just go and have a party with all the languages [departments]’, because Carnival doesn’t involve just Italy. One of the things that our department is trying to do is be more visible on campus, and I think this kind of helps us on both levels that it’s not just an Italian event; it’s a modern language, it’s a cultures event.”

The night was not just all about fun; the crowd of about 50 mingled students and faculty learned more about Carnival around the world from masks with origins from a diverse variety of countries and an informative video broadcasting from the front of the room. Freshman Christopher Mitchell comments, “I think events like this increase Marist’s diversity initiative on campus. And as a community it brings us closer.”

Junior Nicole Benedetto shares these same feelings when she says, “I think it’s really cool to have events that are both educational, in the sense that this is cultural, and an event where people can come and hang out and just have fun.”

Melita, surprised by the high level of student interest, shared, “I don’t think in America we appreciate it enough. I just think it’s good for students to realize that there’s a lot more going on than what we think is happening.”

Food, dancing, music, and the obligatory masks, significant hallmarks to any Carnival event, were largely present at the Marist celebration. Guests were provided with Mardi Gras wear from beads to kazoos to masks as an immersive way to have fun and jump into the celebration’s classic traditions. There was also a variety of foods like cannolis, crepes, and beignets, in addition to a few American staples like pizza, pulled pork sliders, and nachos.

One of the main events of the Mardi Gras celebration was its mask competition. Attendees were invited to wear their masks for the party itself, and faculty picked the best of these masks to compete for an assortment of prizes. A bocce-shaped chocolate set, an Italian sign language book, and a Weiss Language Center t-shirt and water bottle were among the prizes awarded to the third and second place winners. But first prize, a $50 gift certificate to Rossi’s Deli among other small gifts, was awarded to a silent masquerader cloaked in black.

Amid faculty and student guests alike, the Marist Carnival was, on the whole, a great success. It was not only a time out with good friends, good food, and good entertainment, but also served as a way to expand Marist’s outreach in diversity. Many students felt as though they learned something while attending the event and appreciated all the many cultures that share in this celebration of Mardi Gras.

“My hope is that next year it will be an even bigger and better attended event, maybe in a different space and with the help of other departments,” comments Melita. “Because that’s how these things are going to grow. We can’t stay in our little buildings and not work with each other.”

 

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