By Dana Rengel

Mardi Gras celebrations are few and far between in Eugene, but since when has that stopped anyone from having a good time? Tuesday, March 4, take a break from essay-writing and midterm-studying to gorge yourself on, well, anything, because this is the holiday of excess.

In the tradition of Christianity, Fat Tuesday is the celebration prior to the fasting season of Lent.

“Mardi Gras is like a big crazy party. Let’s eat all the rich foods, have a lot of fun, because tomorrow starts the time of giving up,” said Aimee Fritsch, a senior in planning, public policy and management and peer minister at Newman Catholic Church. “It’s a day to get your last fix of whatever you’re giving up for a while.”

This Tuesday, Newman Catholic will be hosting a Mardi Gras extravaganza with lots of food and a dessert bar to benefit its alternative spring break in Henderson, Nev., to work at the St. Therese HIV/AIDS outreach center. @@ facts checked @@

Chloe Stoller, a senior in advertising and New Orleans native, is spending her first year away from her hometown’s famed Mardi Gras festival since she was born. Some of her favorite Mardi Gras foods include king cake, crawfish boils and moon pies.

Original king cakes are a simple brioche bread with colored sugar, but the cakes have evolved throughout the years to incorporate cinnamon sugar, cream cheese and even apple pie filling.

“I always have friends send me king cakes. It’s literally the best thing ever,” Stoller said. “Modern New Orleans king cakes are like cinnamon rolls but braided with frosting and purple, green and gold sprinkles.”

In the center of a king cake is a tiny trinket, usually a tiny rubber baby but occasionally an uncooked fava bean. Whoever bites down on the baby is ceremoniously asked to bring next year’s king cake, and the tradition of delicious baked goods continues.

“When I think of Mardi Gras, I think of spring,” said Dana Lowry, a senior in art history and transfer student from Tulane University. “Crawfish boils are huge in the spring — you get lots of spicy potatoes, corn on the cob and suck out the brains of the crawfish.”

And of course, there’s jambalaya and gumbo, two Cajun specialties that are enjoyed year round but make a gigantic appearance at the days surrounding Mardi Gras.

Another huge part of the New Orleans celebration of Mardi Gras is, of course, the alcohol.

“The city of New Orleans loves to drink,” Lowry said. “Abita strawberry beer is really popular and only served in the springtime. You can buy daiquiris by the gallon, and cocktails like hurricanes and grenades are popular, too.”

But sadly, if you’re looking for a drunken good time to celebrate the holiday, you’ll have to settle for homemade. Papa Soul Food in the Whitaker is just about as Southern as it gets, and there are zero bakeries in Eugene that sell king cakes. Fear not — if you’ve ever made bread before, king cake is delicious and easy to make on your own.

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