Mardi Gras began in New Orleans in 1827, as a period of indulgence before the fast for Lent. Also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, Mardi Gras always falls the day before Ash Wednesday. For that first Mardi Gras, a group of students dressed up and danced in the streets as they had at different celebrations in Paris. Today Mardi Gras attracts thousands of visitors every year to New Orleans. It is the final day of the Carnival season with varying traditions and customs to celebrate life. The celebration in New Orleans is world famous for its parades, beads, King Cakes, jazz music, masks and more. Krewes, or clubs, decorate floats for the many parades. Here are some ideas to throw your own New Orleans style Mardi Gras party.
Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!
That means “Let the good times roll!” For your Mardi Gras party, you’ll need:
- Plenty of beads
- Cajun food
- Boas, masks, costumes
- Gold, green and purple paint
- New Orleans style music such as Louis Armstrong or Joe “King” Oliver
- Coins of all kinds, including chocolate, bubble gum, and even a few real coins
Traditional Mardi Gras colors are purple, gold and green. Use these colors for the invitations, balloons, crepe paper streamers, plates and cups. In the invitations, briefly explain to your guests what a Krewe is. Ask them to think about a theme that their Krewe can use for costumes and a float. Invite families to come as their own Krewe wearing their most outrageous costumes in a chosen theme.
When decorating, remember that traditional Mardi Gras symbols include feathers, masks, jesters, and crowns. Hang streamers and beads, and put feather masks on the tables. If children are part of the festivities, they can make masks from paper plates decorated beads, feathers and sparkles. Adults may even enjoy this activity too.
Greet guests at the door with strings of beads. It’s a New Orleans and Mardi Gras tradition to throw beads off a balcony. If you can do it safely, throw beads off your deck.
Have a costume parade. Reward the funniest, most elaborate and most unusual costumes with inexpensive prizes like feather masks and boas. This year in New Orleans, parades are happening from Feb. 13 through Feb. 24. Watch live Webcam broadcasts of many of them at www.mardigras.com.
Some excellent menu options are anything Cajun, like shrimp etouffee, crawfish chowder and more.
King cake is a must! A king cake is baked with a heat-safe plastic baby inside. The lucky person whose piece of cake includes the baby is said to have good luck for the year.
Pralines are always part of Mardi Gras, and they make ideal party favors. Give each guest a basket or gift bag filled with the delicious treat.
Easy Mardi Gras Pralines
1 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c. sugar
½ c. light cream
1 ½ c. pecans, halved
2 tbsp. butter
Combine sugars and cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally until mixture is thick.
Add pecans and butter and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Remove sauce pan and let cool for ten minutes. Drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture 3 inches apart onto wax paper or foil. Cool. Makes a dozen candies.