One child hand-picked purple pom-poms and feathers out of a plastic tub filled to the brim with multicolored craft supplies. Another twisted netting to form the base of a mask.
This afternoon of crafting activities was a part of a Mardi Gras-themed Family Craft Day, which took place Sunday at Mathers Museum of World Cultures.
“It’s a fun opportunity for parents and children to come together and learn more about a tradition and day that’s important all around the world,” said Sarah Hatcher, head of programs and education at Mathers.
Lent is a six-week period of abstention that encourages penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving and self-denial.
Hatcher said Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” gives Christians who celebrate Lent an opportunity to let loose before the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.
As a result, Hatcher said she wanted to give families an opportunity to enjoy learning about Mardi Gras.
“Lent is for most a time of contemplation and reflection,” Hatcher said. “So Mardi Gras really is a time to have fun and enjoy yourself in preparation for Lent.”
Behind Hatcher, a PowerPoint summarizing varied Mardi Gras traditions from around the world was projected onto the wall.
Hatcher said she made the PowerPoint to show attendees that Mardi Gras is not limited to what people often associate with it. Instead, it’s celebrated in a wide variety of different ways.
“Mardi Gras isn’t just all about colorful beads and scantily clad women,” Hatcher said. “It’s about community and tradition.”
Beside Hatcher was a station for attendees to make their own Mardi Gras costumes from brown paper bags. The craft was based on costumes made by stitching bits of random fabric that are traditionally worn during the processional, Courir de Mardi Gras.
At this station, a child worked on a Mardi Gras cape covered in pink and red hearts. With her mother’s help, she drew a Hello Kitty on the center of the cape to match the pink Hello Kitty necklace she was wearing.
Father Jimin Bang said he brought his family to the event because it would be an engaging activity that would allow them to stay indoors during the cold weather, but he also said he hoped his daughter would be able to learn more about cultures beyond the Korean and Asian cultures she was used to.
“She’s only three, so I don’t know how much of this she really understands,” Bang said. “But I hope she will learn about different culture to broaden her perspective of the world in the future.”
Volunteer Yiyu Bao said her interest in culture and broadening her perspective is why she decided to help out.
While Bao is familiar with other Asian cultures, especially Japanese, she said Mardi Gras represented a culture she had yet to learn much about.
“I’ve learned how important Mardi Gras is to Christian culture,” Bao said. “I want to learn more about other cultures like this so that I can help solve problems that affect the whole world.”
At the next station, a volunteer set a pointed, cone-shaped hat on the table. The hat, called a Cajun capuchon, represents the idea of community in Mardi Gras -tradition, Hatcher said.
In Cajun tradition, people would wear capuchon hats and go from door to door begging for gumbo ingredients. Afterward, they pool ingredients together and make gumbo as a community.
Hatcher said she wanted to celebrate that same idea of community by inviting families in Bloomington to craft together.
“A key focus of Mardi Gras is that idea of community,” Hatcher said. “It’s a time to come together and celebrate, so I want us to come together and celebrate and learn as well.”
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