Valley schools will mark traditional Mardi Gras

1 year ago

ST. JOHN VALLEY,  Maine — At one time Mardi Gras was celebrated joyfully and enthusiastically in some parts of the St. John Valley. 

Unlike the highly commercialized celebrations in Louisiana, Mardi Gras in the Valley was celebrated simply with family and friends. Celebrants wore homemade masks and costumes using old clothes and clothing worn inside out or backwards. 

Valley United Food Service Director Melanie Lagasse, in coordination with the Club Francais’s Comite d’Éducation, are re-introducing Mardi Gras to local students. 

“Granted, the exposure is limited, but it is an important step in preserving the local Acadian culture,” said Lagasse.

Don Levesque, chairman of the education committee, said, “The idea of this project is not to resuscitate long dead traditions, but it is to make students, as well as some adults, aware of our unwritten history and cultural traditions.”

So, from Feb. 13 to 17, local students will taste traditional foods that were once, and sometimes still are, common in the Valley, such as baked beans with hot dogs, chicken stew, American chop suey and pâté chinois.”

Le Comité d’Éducation prepared table cards for every table in all six cafeterias. The cards contain a brief description of Mardi Gras as it was once celebrated here. It also refers students to a short YouTube video, taken long ago in Newfoundland, where Mardi Gras celebrants are called mummers because, like here, they were sometimes largely silent. 

“The resemblance to our old celebration is amazing,” said Levesque.

But silence does not mean passive. Mummers, like local Mardi Gras costumed participants, would take over a home, singing and dancing, and enjoying for a short time treats provided by the family that was “invaded” before the revelers moved on to the neighbors.

Mardi Gras is Tuesday, Feb. 21.