Host Mardi Gras in Your Home
Just What IS Mardi Gras?
Everyone has heard of Mardi Gras, whether you celebrate it or not. We all know it's sometime in late Winter/early Spring. And we all know that New Orleans, LA is the place to be if you want to celebrate it the right way. We're all aware there are masks involved, beads and candy being thrown, and lots of fattening (and yummy) foods eaten in celebration. But what in the world are we celebrating?
In this Hub, I'll tell you a little about the history of Mardi Gras and the religious meaning behind it. Then I'll share with you why we do some of the things we do--why we allow our inhibitions to be lowered, why we're willing to do anything-ANYTHING- for that one string of beads, and why we celebrate masquarade-style.
Lastly, I'll share some tips on how you can throw a Mardi Gras Masquerade party in your home to celebrate the holiday! I'll give you ideas on how to decorate, what to feed your guests, and a few entertainment ideas to get your friends in the Mardi Gras Mood!
Mardi Gras Explained...
Mardi Gras is actually French for "Fat Tuesday". In the Catholic religion, believers celebrate the season of Lent every year. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. During the Lent season, Catholics worldwide take this time to practice prayer and self-denial (Hence, "what are you giving up for Lent?"). The first day of the Lent season occurs on a Wednesday (Ash Wednesday), and the day before it is known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.
Knowing that they would have to give up something for Lent starting on Ash Wednesday, Catholics began celebrating for days, or even weeks, beforehand. It was (and still is) their way of getting all the partying out of their system in preparation for the long weeks of repentance and fasting ahead of them.
In the U.S., and particularly in the formerly French regions of the Southeast, Mardi Gras celebrations began to become "the norm" in the early 18th century. There is an extremely strong French Catholic influence on the holiday, and because New Orleans had (and still has) such a strong French influence in its heritage, New Orleans has become THE place to celebrate Mardi Gras in the U.S.
Many people who celebrate Mardi Gras are celebrating for the "right" reasons. However, many more (in modern times, at least) now see the season of Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday itself, as an excuse to let loose, drink much, eat even more, and just plain party!!!
Now, who am I to judge? Like most celebrations, Mardi Gras is routed in pious religious history, but over time, the deep meaning behind most holidays has been lost and replaced with a more secular meaning. Mardi Gras is no exception.
And you know what I have to say about it? Any excuse to party and have a good time is just fine with me! Whether you choose to see the deeper, more serious reasoning behind the celebration, or whether you are just looking for an excuse to have a good time, Mardi Gras is a fun holiday and a great theme for a party!
Where Do The Strange Traditions Come From?
Why masks? Why beads and candy? And how about the colors--green, purple, and gold? King cake, gumbo, crawfish etouffee...What is the meaning behind these Mardi Gras traditions? In this section, I will attempt to explain...
Masks-The whole idea behind wearing a mask is that you can hide your identity! With regards to Mardi Gras, the days and weeks leading up to that final day before Lent can tend to get more and more crazy as Fat Tuesday approaches. A person behind a mask will do things they would never think to do if others knew their true identity!
By donning a mask, they can "get away" with certain behaviors that might damage their reputation otherwise. To take it a bit deeper, a person behind a mask can be a bit more "easy going" with their sexuality and really let loose, knowing that very soon, during the Lent season, they will be under strict orders to repent!
Strings of Beads and Candy-When Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the Southeast, parades would be thrown and crowds would gather to watch the participants. These participants would dress-up as rich aristocrats and they would throw fake jewelery and candy to the on-lookers. People would do almost anything to get ahold of a string of beads or a handful of candy!
Eventually, traditional parades gave way to just huge celebrations of people in the streets, where everyone was able to dress-up (not just the parade participants) and everyone made sure to bring a handful of beads and a pocketful of candy to the celebration. As the partying goes on, there's a fun exchange of "What will you do for this string of beads or this piece of candy?" All I can say is, people will do some crazy stuff for some plastic beads!
The Traditional Mardi Gras Colors-Most holidays have certain colors associated with them. Christmas is red and green, Valentine's Day is pink and red, Easter is any pastel colors, but mostly pastel pink, blue, and yellow, Halloween, orange and black, and so on. Mardi Gras is no exception. Purple, green, and gold are the three colors that have become synonymous with the Mardi Gras celebaration. Why? Here's an explanation of why:
"The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple (symbolic of justice), green (symbolic of faith) and gold (symbolic of power). The accepted story behind the original selection of these colors originates from 1872 when the Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New Orleans. It is said that the Grand Duke came to the city in pursuit of an actress named Lydia Thompson. During his stay, he was given the honor of selecting the official Mardi Gras colors by the Krewe of Rex."
Further research has indicated that the colors were chosen simply because the Duke liked them; he thought they looked pretty together. Most scholars believe that the meaning behind the colors (justice, faith, and power) weren't attributed to the colors until much later.
How To Throw a Mardi Gras Themed Party in Your Home!
Now that you know the history behind the holiday, and the meanings behind the traditions, you're better prepared to throw a fantastic Mardi Gras party in your home for your friends and family!
Decorations-Obviously, you want to decorate in purple, green, and gold! From streamers and balloons, to confetti, bead necklaces, and strings of lights, stick with the traditional colors and you can't go wrong. These three colors will also be available when it comes to your tableware (plates, cups, bowls, tablecloths, etc.) and all of these items can be purchased at your local party supply store or stores like Walmart, Kmart, and Target, and definitely online at party supply stores such as Shindigz and (to the right) Amazon..
Mardi Gras party supplies on Amazon
What to Wear-Be sure to let your guests know it will be a Masquerade Mardi Gras party and let them know to come dressed-up in a fancy costume or elegant evening-wear with accompanying mask! It's so much fun! And even though everyone will most likely know who everyone else is, there's still a sense of mysteriousness if everyone is sporting a mask to hide their faces!
These costumes can be found at Buycostumes.com.
Yummy Foods to Eat-In addition to having lots of candy on hand--preferably wrapped in purple, green, or gold wrappers--there are plenty of very traditional food items you can choose to make and serve at your party. Here are just a few of the more well-known and loved recipes:
- King Cake
- New Orleans Gumbo
- New Orleans Jambalaya
- Southern Crab Dip
- Louisiana Crawfish Etouffee
- Creole Shrimp and Grits
I don't know if you're noticing, but seafood is a definitely must for any Mardi Gras celebration. If you have guests who don't like seafood, Southern cooking, or don't eat meat...well...they're out of luck. I'm just kidding! Be sure to serve some foods that everyone can enjoy like a nice veggie tray and fruit tray, crackers, chips, or pretzels, and maybe some cookies or cupcakes (purple, green, and gold/yellow frosting will continue the theme).
Entertainment-When it comes to entertaining your guests, you're really not going to have to plan-out anything elaborate. The truth is, if there are good people, great food, tasty drinks, awesome decorations, masks and costumes, and plenty of beads to be thrown about, your guests will manage to entertain themselves!
Chances are good that as the evening goes on, you'll notice some inhibitions being lowered. And you know what I have to say about that? GREAT!!! We all need a good excuse to have some fun every now and then, and the celebration of Mardi Gras is as good any excuse as any!
Play some traditional New Orleans jazz music in the background and you can't go wrong!
HAPPY FAT TUESDAY!!!
Here Are Some Helpful Links!
- Throw a Mardi Gras Celebration!
Want to celebrate Mardi Gras? This year, Fat Tuesday falls on March 8, 2011. Transform your party into Carnival or New Orleans with these activities! Ideas on decor, make or order a king cake, games, food and music.
- Mardi Gras in New Orleans
New Orleans Mardi Gras information about the history, traditions, krewes, tours and dates for visitors coming to enjoy carnival season
- Mardi Gras Masks
Get your groove on this Mardi Gras! The big day in usually in February, so you'll want to be ready with the perfect costumeand the perfect costume calls for the perfect mask. Here's how to make or select a gorgeous Mardi Gras disguise this year.
- Mardi Gras - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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