Laissez le bon temps roulez!

Florencio Madonado Vaca, Zephyr Staff Reporter

Although many may regard French culture as completely foreign and trivial in the United States, the truth is that francophone culture is a main component in the lives of many Americans across the nation.

According to the 2010 United States census, French is the third most spoken language (other than English) in our country, trailing behind Spanish and Mandarin and California is home to the largest percentage of Franco-Americans.

Among the most prominent aspects of francophone culture is the celebration of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, celebrated this year on February 17. Typically associated with French Catholicism, Mardi Gras is the last “big party” before the traditional Lenten season of fasting and meditation.

Mardi Gras was first celebrated in our nation in Mobile, Alabama by French settlers in 1703. The tradition would continue through the centuries, surviving wars, influx of non-French settlers and the continual political changes the region had to endure. By 1873, Mardi Gras celebrations expanded to New Orleans, the city that today we most closely associate with this colorful and flamboyant festivity.

However, New Orleans is not the only city where Mardi Gras celebrations take place and French Catholics are not the only participants.  Many Americans of all ethnicities in multiple cities across the nation become the epicenters of the vivacious parades that characterize Mardi Gras, among the most notable being Pensacola, Florida; Galveston, Texas; Lafayette, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi.

Even if in California we do not see as many celebrations of this kind, we live in a global world and it is imperative that we learn about the traditions that color our planet.

“Learning about other cultures is the backbone for tolerance in America,” French teacher Diane Moen explained. While teaching French, she discusses the importance of teaching the students about Mardi Gras and other aspects of francophone culture.

« La connaissance d’autres cultures est essentielle pour créer la tolérance en Amérique. » a expliqué Mme Moen, notre prof de français. En enseignant le français, elle parle de l’importance d’enseigner des aspects du Mardi Gras et de la culture française. »

This year’s celebration has passed, but maybe you can join this vibrant celebration next year and let “Laissez le bon temps roulez!”