International Carnival Festival Tour

Peyton Hassinger

Contributing Writer

Laissez les bons temps rouler! A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale!

In the Francophone world, there’s Mardi Gras; in Germany, there’s Fasching; in Italy, there’s Carnevale; in Eastern Europe, there’s Maslenitsa; in the Hispanic world, there’s Carnaval.

All around the world, different nations celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring with elaborate dishes, costumes, parades, and unique traditions. Typically, these extravagant celebrations happen the week before Lent, allowing participants to indulge in all sorts of remarkable delicacies. To honor and celebrate some of the different cultures represented on campus, Sewanee hosted its very own International Carnival Festival. 

On Saturday, February 18, five language theme houses on campus hosted their very own carnivals in the style of the culture the house celebrates. Each of the houses had the opportunity to share pieces of culture with the Sewanee community by cooking dishes and hosting party games and traditions unique to the country. 

Beginning in 2022, this new Sewanee tradition provided students and the community an opportunity to leave their dorms and houses and celebrate the spring weather and the end of winter. Many of the activities hosted by the houses allowed for students to participate in international traditions that they would have otherwise never have had the opportunity to experience. “You can pick and choose where you want to go, just hang out wherever,” commented Dr. Ledford, assistant professor in the French department. Being a festival spanning the majority of central campus, the Sewanee community is given the freedom to visit the houses and enjoy international culture at their desired pace. 

The different language houses all had something extremely unique to their carnivals to share with the Sewanee community. Activities at the Spanish House’s Carnaval included the ceremony of the (metaphorical) Entierro de la Sardina, or Burial of the Sardine, and Fiesta de la Vendimia, or Harvest Festival. Typically held at the end of Carnaval, Entierro de la Sardina marks the end of Carnaval and the beginning of Lent. The ceremony signifies new beginnings with the burying of the past. Celebrated in Argentina on the first Sunday of March, Fiesta de la Vendimia is an honorary celebration of wine and the winemaking industry. Providing many wines, meats and cheeses, dance competitions, and grape crushing competitions, the festival attracts many tourists, and it’s a great opportunity for community and celebration. Residents at the Spanish house were seen there cooking tortillas. Outside on the porch, a symbolic yet simple representation of Entierro de la Sardina was displayed.

The Eastern European House’s Maslenitsa featured a traditional Eastern European dish, bliny, and tug-of-war. Bliny is a pancake made from flour or wheat that enjoyers would wrap around savory or sweet ingredients  Evident in its round shape and warm color, they symbolize the sun and are traditionally made at the end of the winter to signify the rebirth of the sun. Celebrated the week before Lent, the Orthodox Church adopted this festival as a way to purge all dairy products. The dining room table in the house was covered with popular ingredients wrapped in bliny, such as jam, fruits, spread, and on the savory side, mushrooms, sour cream, and more. Community members in Eastern Europe had the opportunity to participate in traditional folk activities such as fistfights and tug-of-war.

The French House celebrated Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. At their celebration, they featured the staple Mardi Gras dessert of king cake and decorated their lawn and dining room table with traditional Mardi Gras bead necklaces. The holiday serves as a time to indulge in all sorts of delicacies before fasting for Lent. King cake was used to symbolize the three kings adorning gifts for baby Jesus, or the small plastic baby one lucky indulger might find in their slice. Outside of the house, residents and visitors were seen playing ladder toss with ropes adorned in bead necklaces. Inside, residents made bead dogs and ate delicious New Orleans king cake. 

Fasching festivities at the German House included face painting and delicious faschingskrapfen, or jam filled donuts. The festival holiday is annually celebrated at 11 a.m. on November 11, but the celebrations don’t begin until the preceding days before Lent. Similar to Mardi Gras, participants enjoy indulging in delicacies, faschingskrapfen being one of the most popular. Decoration and costuming are also a prominent part of Fasching and many celebrators will include elaborate designs painted on their faces.

Carnevale in Italy is one of the most elaborate parade celebrations in the world. Keeping in mind the intricate and extravagant adornments worn in the festival, the Italian House gave the Sewanee community the opportunity to decorate their own masks. Carnevale is like Fasching and Mardi Gras in the sense that it is a satisfying opportunity to fulfill any wants and needs before sacrificial Lent. Its origins date back to ancient Greek and Roman rituals honoring Bacchus, the god of wine. It has since been assimilated into Christianity, but the over-the-top costumes, masks, and parades have strongly kept the traditions alive.

Beads and king cake at the French House:

Photo courtesy of Peyton Hassinger

El Entierro de la Sardina at the Spanish House:

Photo courtesy of Peyton Hassinger