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UMFK Acadian Archives features exhibit on Mardi Gras

February 1, 2010




Many individuals wonder why we celebrate Mardi Gras. The story of this extraordinary tradition is dynamically told in a new exhibition entitled “Mardi Gras Remembered” at the University of Maine at Fort Kent Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes. The exhibit will be on display through the month of April.

A special opening ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., prior to the start of the annual Fiddlers’ Jamboree. A traditional Mardi Gras King Cake will be served and prizes will be awarded.
Mardi Gras, or Carnival, derived from the Latin expression carnis levare meaning "farewell to the flesh", has existed for more than 2,000 years and was a non-religious event before it was adopted by the Catholic Church. Carnival starts on the Fest day of Epiphany, January 6, and ends the night before Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence known as Lent. The ancient customs saw Carnival as a time of abandon and merriment. Today, Mardi Gras is celebrated in numerous cities and towns around the world.
The exhibit will be filled with amazing masks, with the traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras colors: purple, green and gold, colorful costumes, and displays representing Le Carnaval de Québec in Canada; Carnaval de Rio in Rio De Janeiro; Carnaval de Nice, France; Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana; Cajun Mardi Gras; Carnival of Venice, Italy and Mardi Gras in the St. John Valley. Each display traces the ancient origins of Mardi Gras to the present day. Visitors may also view a video filmed during the Carnaval de Québec.
According to Lise Pelletier, director of the Acadian Archives, “This exhibit is a great opportunity to honor an Acadian and Catholic tradition and to educate people about a tradition that was very prevalent in the St. John Valley for centuries. The ancestors of the first St. John Valley non-natives brought Mardi Gras celebrations with them from France. The exhibit has an appeal for people of all ages, from fun activities to thought-provoking videos about “Mardi Gras Made In China” and segregated Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile, Alabama.
While you are at the exhibit, you may listen to Valley people talk about how they celebrated Mardi Gras: girls and boys, men and women would wear their clothes inside out, done a mask, and go from door to door asking for treats. Revelers had to change their voice and their walk so people could not guess who they were. Then the evening would progress into a dance and a party, the last chance to indulge before the lean period of Lent.
Working with the Archives staff and work study students are UMFK’s Education Professor Dr. Doris Metz’s students and Priscilla Daigle’s students who have developed age-appropriate educational activities for everyone.
For more information, please contact Anne Chamberland at 834-8631 or Lise Pelletier at 834-7536. Teachers who wish to bring their students on a fieldtrip to the Acadian Archives should call to make a reservation and find out how this exhibit fulfills the requirements of the Maine State Learning Results.