When you think of Mardi Gras, you likely think of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, lots of beads, and LOTS of debauchery. And while there is plenty of that, Mardi Gras is actually a Christian holiday built on thousands of years of traditions and history. If you’re looking to host a Mardi Gras party of your own, you’ve come to the right place.
Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” is the culmination of Carnival season, which begins on January 6, or Twelfth Night, and is celebrated the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday every year. It’s a great time for those who observe Lent to get their last bits of indulgence in before their fasting activities begin for the Lenten season. It’s also a great idea for those looking for a fun, spirited theme for an upcoming party.
And you’re in luck! We’ve got just six steps to make your Mardi Gras party sparkle.
Decorate with Purple, Green, and Gold
The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold. Why? Like many things in New Orleans, it depends on who you ask. History has it that in 1872, the first parade of Rex, the king of Mardi Gras, declared them. The theme of the Rex parade was “Symbolism of Colors.” It was decided that purple stood for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Because every king must have a kingdom and every kingdom must have a flag… right?
You can find purple, green, and gold in pretty much every Mardi Gras decoration ever made. Consider some shiny garland. Put beads all over the place. And you can’t go wrong with the fleur de lis or a Mardi Gras flag!
Plan a Delightful Menu of Decadent Bites
When you speak to anyone who’s been to New Orleans before, they’ll speak a lot about how delicious the food is. They’re not wrong. New Orleans is known for its Cajun/Creole culture, seafood, and comfort foods. Things like jambalaya, gumbo, and po’boys are great things to put on your menu. But, in fact, one of the most common foods you’ll find parade goers munching on? Fried chicken. Keep it Louisiana and get a few buckets from Popeyes.
Finally, celebrate the season with a King Cake. This traditional Carnival treat is a combination of coffee cake and cinnamon roll, usually iced in, you guessed it, purple, green and gold (yellow). Many are stuffed with different fillings and creams to make them even more decadent.
You may be surprised to find a little plastic baby hidden inside the King Cake. It’s one of the biggest traditions in New Orleans. The idea is that whoever gets the baby in their slice of King Cake has to either bring the next King Cake or throw the next party. Of course, if you find yourself in Louisiana, you’ll find King Cakes in most bakeries and grocery stores. But if you’re not in the Pelican State, there are tons of recipes out there.
Don’t Forget About the Drinks
Mardi Gras wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without the beverages. Though many locals will advise against the consumption of Hurricanes, they are a staple for any tourist visiting. Capture the essence of Bourbon Street with this 90-year-old, sweet, fruity drink. If you want to skip the booze, leave out the rum and the grenadine. You can also opt for some less-sweet options like the Gin Fizz, French 75, or the Pimm’s Cup.
Dress Up in Whatever You’d Like
One of the best things about Mardi Gras (and New Orleans itself) is the costumes. You’ll always see costumes in parades, but many parade goers dress up too. Encourage your guests to dress however they’d like. Perhaps it’s a gold top with some purple and green accessories. Or maybe they wear a colorful wig with a fancy gown. Remember – Mardi Gras is a time to celebrate weirdness and have fun.
Create Your Own Signature Throws
One of the most iconic parts of Mardi Gras are the “throws” – the items that are tossed from parade riders to those watching. The most common are colorful plastic beads.
However, many of the Krewes have their own signature throws that can become quite coveted. The Krewe of Muses, an all-female Krewe, is famous for throwing fabulously glittered and decorated shoes; the Krewe of Tucks throws decorated plungers and toilet brushes; the Krewe of Iris throws decorated sunglasses; the Krewe of Zulu throws decorated coconuts. These are just a few of the larger Krewes hosting parades.
You and your “Krewe” can come up with your own signature throw to make, trade, and take from the party.
Play Some Tunes
You can’t host a Mardi Gras-themed party without music. One of the best parts of parades are the marching bands. There are tons of playlists out there, but WWOZ plays traditional New Orleans music from Jazz and Blues to Cajun, Funk, and Bounce. Plus, it’s commercial free and listener-supported!
Mardi Gras is all about traditions, family, community, and fun. It’s a great reason to party and a great theme for your party. By using our guide, you’ll be able to create an authentic Mardi Gras experience for your guests that’ll send you straight to St. Charles Avenue. As we say here in the Big Easy, laissez les bons temps rouler – let the good times roll!
Kadi McDonald is a freelance writer, marketing strategist, and proud Cleveland sports fan. She is also currently located in New Orleans.