If you’ve always loved Mardi Gras but don’t have it in your budget to head down to the Big Easy for one of the world’s most famous celebrations, we have good news: You can throw your own Mardi Gras party without having to travel a mile!
Check out some of our tips on how to pull together your own Fat Tuesday celebration. But first, a quick history lesson.
The History of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is an amalgamation of religious traditions that dates back thousands of years with roots in ancient Roman pagan celebrations of spring and fertility. These celebrations were characterized by raucous parties where everyday business and certain social restrictions were temporarily suspended.
When Christianity came to Rome, these old traditions were incorporated into the new religion as a way of converting the pagans and eventually came to be celebrated as a lead-up to the Christian season of Lent.
Mardi Gras became a sort of last hurrah before the beginning of Lent, when Christians would traditionally fast or participate in acts of penance until Easter.
Mardi Gras takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday each year, hence its name, French for “Fat Tuesday.”
Celebrate at Home
You don’t have to travel all the way to New Orleans to participate in the festivities. You can celebrate Mardi Gras at home with our tips for throwing your own Fat Tuesday shindig. Get ready to break out all the purple, green and gold you can find.
It isn’t called “Fat Tuesday” for nothing. Mardi Gras is named for all the rich, fatty foods those celebrating would indulge in in preparation for the weeks of Lenten fasting that would follow Ash Wednesday.
While you may think the bulk of your party planning needs to focus on the decorations, colorful beads and libations, remember that food is one of the most vital parts of this holiday. If you’re handy in the kitchen, try whipping up some Cajun favorites for your guests to enjoy.
For dessert: king cake. King cake is a Mardi Gras staple. Traditionally, the treat includes a braided ring of dough as the cake base with a glaze on top and, depending on the recipe, may have a filling of cream cheese or fruit. To finish the look, the glaze is sprinkled with alternating sections of purple, green and gold sanding sugar.
And don’t forget the hidden baby! In authentic king cakes, a small plastic figurine of a baby (said to represent the baby Jesus) is hidden in or under the cake. The person who gets the slice with the baby gets good luck and has the job of providing the king cake next year.
If you aren’t much of a baker, king cakes are increasingly offered at grocery stores around the country this time of year, and you can also purchase them straight from the source, as many New Orleans bakeries will ship them right to your door.
Purple, green and gold are obviously going to be your go-to colors when it comes to decorating for your Mardi Gras party.
String lights will help set the mood and provide ambiance. You can buy three different sets of string lights – one purple, one green and one gold – or you can buy specialty Mardi Gras string lights that include alternating bulbs of each color. Hang them along the walls of your party space.
Since Mardi Gras is a holiday for going all out, don’t be afraid to be bold with your choices. Go ahead and use lots of shiny or metallic garland or tinsel and hang some ornaments from the ceiling.
If you don’t mind the cleanup, sprinkle some glitter or confetti on your table and counters. Or, scatter some colorful coins along the dinner table as a clever and historical decoration. Traditionally, Mardi Gras krewes (the organizations responsible for planning the carnival) in New Orleans stamp doubloons (Spanish gold coins) on their emblems and hand them out during the parades.
Don’t forget a mask! Masquerade masks are a huge part of Mardi Gras costumes and, as the host, you should make sure you’re properly attired.
- Gold, Green and Purple Party String Lights $22
- Gold, Green and Purple Tassel Garland $5
- Mardi Gras Ornaments 6ct $6
- Mardi Gras Coins 100ct $6
- Adult Mardi Gras Feather Mask Black $10
Throwing trinkets into parade crowds has long been a Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans, and you can continue the tradition by making sure you have party favors to give your guests. Beads, masks and temporary tattoos all make great take-home gifts. You can even hand out crowns to each of your guests so everyone can be king (or queen!) of Mardi Gras.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a party without props for taking pictures. Get some Mardi Gras-themed photo booth props and get ready to make some memories!
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