Lycee Francais de Chicago: Making masks for French Carnaval

February 14, 2012 10:09:13 AM PST
In the spirit of Mardi Gras, France celebrates French Carnaval every February 15 in the city of Nice. And so do the children at Chicago's Lycee Francais.

For the 2 weeks leading up to Mardis Gras, Nice comes alive with activity and colorful celebrations. Following the Carnaval Parade, the "King Carnaval" head is actually lit on fire during a large fireworks display. Children from Lycee Francais de Chicago have created a replica of the King Carnaval head, known in French as "Le Roi du Carnaval". Some of the students are here in our studio to show us to create the masks at home.

    Mask Materials Needed:
  • Aluminum Foil or Round Balloon
  • Newspaper
  • Papier Mache Paste
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrush

Mardis Gras History
Mardi Gras started in Ancient Rome. When Rome was converted to Christianity, the officials decided to keep some customs of the pagan ceremonies. France has been celebrating Mardi Gras since the Dark Ages, but back then only the upper class celebrated Mardi Gras. Since then, the celebration has spread to everyone no matter their religion or social status

Mardia Gras Traditions
Mardi Gras literally means "Fat Tuesday" in French. It was traditionally the last day that you could eat rich food, as the next day is Ash Wednesday (the day a 40 day penitence starts), which is where the tradition of eating crepes comes from. It also comes from the pagan tradition of symbolizing the sun, as it is round and yellow. Lycee Francais de Chicago celebrates Carnaval by having their elementary students dress up in costume, parade through the halls with the King Carnaval mask, and end the celebration with a traditional ballroom celebration.

The Madness Behind Mardi Gras masks
We're wearing masks today because Carnaval is the day that everyone is allowed excesses, to be grotesque, and also so we aren't recognized. Carnaval is the day you can misbehave and not be recognized. A tradition at the Carnaval de Binche is for people

The History Behind Le Roi Du Carnaval
Sa majeste Carnaval, the king of Carnaval, is a giant papier mache float that opens the ceremony each year. The first night, he receives the keys of the town. The last night, he is set on fire during a fireworks show.