Thursday, February 16, 2012

Looking Up Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is upon us, and you know what that means... it's time to use the library to learn more about Mardi Gras! OK, maybe you're a little more excited about catching beads and watching parades, but Mardi Gras is pretty interesting to read about, too. Here at Terrebonne Parish Library, we have what you need to find out all about it.

When you are trying to learn about a topic--Mardi Gras or anything else--it's usually a good idea to find a basic introduction. One of our favorite places to start is with the Credo Reference database, which gives you online access to over 500 reference books. To get to Credo, simply go to the library's webpage, at, and click on Research, and then Databases by Subject. Now click All-Purpose Databases and Encyclopedias. This brings up a list of some of the online resources that people use most, because they cover a wide range of topics.  Click on Credo Reference.  If you are away from the library, you will be asked to enter your library card number.

In the search box in Credo Reference, simply type in "Mardi Gras".  As the image below shows, Credo returns 232 articles that mention Mardi Gras.

The first result on the list is a Topic Page for Mardi Gras.  Topic Pages are special pages Credo Reference has put together on popular topics. They include links to definitions, images, encyclopedia articles, images, and even results from other databases and websites.  Topic pages are a great place to begin a search for information.

The main article is a nice, short overview of Mardi Gras. It has some fascinating tidbits of information: For example, did you know Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) is known as Pancake Tuesday in England?  You probably know the Mardi Gras celebration is known worldwide as Carnival, but did you know the word Carnival comes from a Latin phrase for "leaving meat"? Of course, that's because many people cut back on red meat during Lent, which starts the day after Mardi Gras. They are less CARNivorous after CARNival.  If you want to find more short encyclopedia articles about Mardi Gras, you can click on More Entries from Credo.

Now let's say you want to delve deeper. Perhaps you're writing a paper on some specialized aspect of Mardi Gras. A good way to examine a topic from a particular point of view is to look at more specialized encyclopedias. A history encyclopedia, for example, would approach a topic like Mardi Gras differently than a sociology encyclopedia. The reference department at the Main Library has rows and rows of specialized reference books, and many of them discuss Mardi Gras. Just come up and ask a reference librarian to help you find them.

Let's say you're interested in the tradition of wearing masks on Mardi Gras, and how it got started. Our reference staff could guide you to a resource like The Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, which has an article on "Masquerade and Masked Balls." In this article, we learn that all European masquerade balls originated with Carnival, and Carnival itself began as a pagan springtime festival. Later, it became part of the Feast of Fools, in which junior clergy would wear masks and hold a mock mass. This was followed by general debauchery, and the election of the Abbot of Misrule--the ancestor of Mardi Gras kings and queens, who preside over masquerade balls to this day.

Interested in finding out more about Mardi Gras traditions? Just come by the Reference desk at the Main Library, or call us at 876-5861. We can help you dig up all kinds of fun facts for the festival season.

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