‘Fat Tuesday’ Parade Winds through the Hallways of WJHS

Post date: Mar 11, 2014 5:44:3 PM

A somewhat surreal, yet definitely fun atmosphere descended upon Wells Junior High School for a short time Tuesday afternoon, March 4th, when a mixture of 7th and 8th grade French and Spanish students paraded through the long and winding halls of WJHS celebrating Mardi Gras.

Strolling to the beat of recorded music while wearing festive masks, parade revelers greeted and handed out candy to other students who came out of class temporarily to line the parade route.

This event, along with several other coordinated festivities such as ‘Day of the Dead’ at Halloween are annual celebrations planned by the foreign language department at WJHS to reinforce student awareness of the cultures they study.

According to French teacher Beth Cilluffo, learning a foreign language is not just about learning the language, but also learning about the customs and cultures of the countries where the language being taught is spoken.

Mardi Gras, French for ‘Fat Tuesday’, has been observed in various ways in French and Spanish speaking countries and other places throughout the globe for several hundred years. It is usually held on the day before the start of the Lenten season and usually includes parties, music, food, and parades featuring participants wearing identity concealing masks.

According to Cilluffo, most of the masks worn in the school’s parade were made in class, some, depending upon the material used, took a few weeks to complete. Along with creating masks, students learned about the roots of Mardi Gras and where it is celebrated.

The wearing of a mask for Mardi Gras essentially provided anonymity for the wearer to be whomever they wanted to be for a few days and mix with those of other social classes.

Some masks for Madi Gras are elongated with a beak. According to Cilluffo, the origins of these masks date back to the plague years of medieval Venice, when, doctors wore masks filled with herbs and other substances in the nose of the mask to (they believed) ward off the plague.

Caption: A few of the foreign language students who paraded through WJHS on Mardi Gras posing for a photo after the parade had concluded. Teacher Beth Cilluffo is in front wearing an elongated mask.