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Roman Catholic regions are celebrating Carnival, and the season culminates today in Mardi Gras.

In New Orleans, socially prestigious organizations called “crewes” vie with one another to present spectacular floats that parade through the city, showering onlookers with colorful beaded necklaces. In Cologne, the parades often allude to current political issues; this practice dates from the Napoleonic era, when Rheinlanders used the freedom of Carnival to taunt the occupying forces.

A hallmark of Carnival is dressing up in costumes.

Quick! Choose a costume!

Optimized-photo In Venice today, I saw hordes of phantasmagoric figures, like the one on the right. A monstrous-looking peasant with an enormous mask carried a milk pail, as if he had come to the city to sell his wares. Two people dressed as flowers in flower pots obliged photographers by crouching down so that they sat in their pots like well-behaved geraniums.

Men marched in military uniforms of centuries past, and eighteenth-century lords and ladies glided along the Grand Canal

Pirates and space explorers looked for new words to conquer. Animals, both domestic and exotic, hissed and growled.

Petrarch himself appeared in his well-known red cape, crowned with a laurel wreath.

Athena Advises

What does Carnival have to do with your college applications?

Quick! If you could dress up as anything you like, what would it be?

That tells you something about your secret identity!

Ask yourself what about that character’s life appeals to you. The exact role the character plays is less important than the quality of that experience. For example, if you immediately see yourself dressed as an acrobat, you know you’re a risk-taker.

If you see yourself as Petrarch, you may want to be a great poet–or you may want to be hailed as a representative of your country.

A princess might do well as Chief of Protocol at presidential dinners.

It’s a fun way to think about the question many teenagers find so terrifying: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

If you’d like to discuss your thoughts, send an email to Athena Mentor.

And don’t worry: I myself have enduring fantasies about Space Academy.

Dr. Marlena Corcoran