The Max Kade International building hosted a Carnival costume celebration featuring foreign music and fare last Saturday night, bringing an internationally-celebrated tradition to Allegheny. Festivities for Carnival, a pre-Lent festive season originating in Europe, differ from place to place, but most include costumes, parades, music and dancing. This year, Ash Wednesday fell on Feb. 13, the Wednesday preceding Allegheny’s Carnival event.
As the party got underway, the main lobby was filled with all sorts of costumes with music playing over the speakers and Carnival pictures from all over the world on a projector screen. Partygoers embraced the costume tradition of Carnival. Entries included Professor Einstein, a mime, several soccer players, an undead fisherwoman and the stunning pair Lawrence [Laura] Thorne, ‘13, and Nicholina [Nick] Millington, ‘13.
Once the costume contest began, German House Teaching Assistant Katharina Stock, dressed as Einstein, stood on a chair calling out the participants, who walked through the main lobby from the east hallway while the crowd clapped and applauded. Once the final contestant had paraded through the lobby, the judges were given one song to decide on the winners.
The panel consisted of Josh Whitson, International Student Advisor, Linda Litzinger and Jenny Kwata, who both work in ACCEL handling the international programs, and Yvonne Longstreth, Parkhurst employee and well-known campus figure.
Contest winners were Tyler Prinkey, ’15, dressed as the Ultimate French Stereotype, complete with baguette, painter’s hat, moustache, and striped shirt, and Alicia Foster, ‘16, dressed as a gypsy.
Marina Perez Granada, the Spanish House TA, explained the motivation behind it.
“We need to make an event, all Houses together,” she said, “because it’s so important in Germany, France, and Spain, we thought a Carnival would be a good idea.”
Starting with Ash Wednesday, the six weeks of Lent preceding Easter are traditionally considered a period of restraint and self-reflection, during which people engage in pious practices such as fasting and meditating. As no parties or festivals were to be held during this time, all the alcohol and rich food was disposed of in a huge party in the several days before Lent.
Teaching Assistants of the five International Houses collaborated to plan the event. TAs included German House TAs Stock and Lisa-Sophie Tornier, Spanish House TA Granada, Chinese House TA Chi Zhang, ‘13, French House TA Julie Robert and Arabic TA Shaden Attia.
In featuring different representations of Carnival, the TAs wanted to emphasize the commonalities rather than the differences.
“We’re just…trying to put everything together and not actually distinguish between each country,” said Stock. “Just trying to have parts of every country without saying, ‘This is German, this is French.’ That’s not the idea of it.”
The main event took place in the Max Kade lobby, where there was music and food. The food included foreign dishes provided by the Middle East and North Africa House and the German House, including konefah and sambousa.
“Konefah is a dessert dish, it’s basically small breaded pieces covered with butter, nuts, and syrup,” Attia said. “Our Lebanese students made the sambousa. They’re basically like the Arabic version of egg rolls, with beef, clove garlic, and onions.”
The Spanish House was soon filled with a line of people waiting for Henna, which would continue throughout the night. Guests streamed into the German House to make masks and paint their faces, including those who weren’t costumes.
The Chinese House originally hosted paper-flower making, but this was moved to the main lobby to encourage greater participation among the guests.
“[They] can be used for decoration,” explained Zhang about the flowers. “Something like [balloons].”
After the costume contest, Aline Prata and Raul Luciano, exchange students from Brazil, showed the popular, energetic Brazilian dance axé (pronounced Aa-shay). Members of the crowd enthusiastically joined in, and there were several lines of people following along.
At the end of the night, Granada said that all the hard work had been worth it. Stock and Tornier said that guests had told them that they had started a new tradition.