Hubbard French Club's Mardi Gras event focuses on cultural significance
By Samantha Phillips
Hubbard High School French teacher Jenna Evans wanted to teach students the cultural significance of Mardi Gras, beyond what most people perceive as a holiday that gives them a reason to eat, drink and earn colorful beads.
To bring her classroom lesson on the holiday to life, she started an annual Mardi Gras event for her French Club students at the Tiffany Banquet Center.
More than 100 students were at the event Tuesday afternoon, enjoying the Mardi Gras music and cuisine.
“I hope this becomes a long-standing tradition,” Evans said. “I hope people are mindful of the cultural significance of this day and not just how the media shows it.”
Each student partakes in a swing dance lesson from Fred Astaire Dance Studio teachers, eats authentic creole cuisine and decorates a king cake. A baby made of sugar is hidden in the cake, and whoever gets the piece with the baby in it is designated the king or queen of Mardi Gras.
Evans said the school has had Mardi Gras events for the past 14 years, but just started featuring new elements such as a dance lesson a few years ago.
“The kids love it,” she said. “They remember the swing dance moves and teach their younger siblings, and they remember it when it’s their turn to come to it.”
Hubbard senior Olivia Bevan said it’s her fourth year coming to the event, and she looked forward to it every year.
“Dancing is the best part,” she said.
The cooks at the banquet center prepared traditional Mardi Gras meals, including jambalaya and cajun chicken, for the students to eat.
“I always talk to them about the Mardi Gras traditions,” Evans said. She explained the holiday originates from the Roman Catholic tradition of people taking all of the rich food they abstain from during Lent and having a big feast with it on the day before Lent starts. This way, they weren’t wasting their food. French settlers brought the tradition to the United States, Evans said.
“It has a religious base to it. A lot of my incoming students think it’s all about drinking and beads,” she said.
Evans said she was inspired to go farther with her Mardi Gras lesson after Hubbard High School Spanish teacher Anna Badurik started having a Day of the Dead celebration in fall, where students partake in salsa dance lessons, try traditional Mexican meals and decorate sugar skull cookies.
“It gives them the opportunity to try some new food and to come out of their shell when they try the dances. It’s a lot of fun,” Badurik said.
Hubbard junior Allison Femia said the event is a fun way to bring the French club together.
“It’s very enjoyable. We have a good time,” she said.