How to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is a festival known by many names around the world, including Carnival, Fasching, and Fat Tuesday. Among Christians, this joyful holiday is an occasion to cut loose and celebrate before the more somber season of Lent begins. No matter what your beliefs or cultural background, you can celebrate Mardi Gras by eating delicious foods, dressing up in colorful attire, and attending fun parades and festivities. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to have a good time!


[Edit]Getting into the Mardi Gras Spirit

  1. Wear purple, green, and gold to symbolize justice, faith, and power. The classic colors of Mardi Gras were first popularized by the Rex Organization, one of several secret societies, or krewes, that help define the way Mardi Gras is celebrated in the U.S.[1] Embrace the spirit of the holiday by dressing up in your flashiest purple, green, and gold clothes.
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    • For example, you might wear an emerald green dress with a purple shawl and gold shoes. Or, you could accessorize a suit with a purple tie, green socks, and a gold pocket square!
    • The Rex Organization debuted this color scheme at their 1892 “Symbolism of Colors” parade.
  2. Make a colorful Mardi Gras mask. Masks and costumes are a long-standing Mardi Gras tradition, going back to medieval European Shrove Tuesday celebrations. Buy a colorful mask, or make your own and decorate it with gold, green, and purple beads, glitter, and feathers.[2]
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    • Print out a mask template online or buy one from a craft store, then paint it and decorate it however you like.
    • Today, you can only legally wear masks in public in Louisiana on Mardi Gras!
  3. Decorate yourself with beads. Mardi Gras has become synonymous with colorful plastic beads, which are thrown out to revelers during parades.[3] Even if you can’t attend a parade, get into the Mardi Gras spirit by putting on a few strings of shiny gold, green, and purple beads.
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    • You can also decorate your home with beads and Mardi Gras doubloons (fake coins).
  4. Listen to festive, upbeat music like zydeco, jazz, or Samba. Music is an important part of any celebration, and Mardi Gras is no exception! New Orleans has many musical genres associated with it, and you can’t go wrong with listening to some classic jazz, blues, or zydeco. If you’re feeling a little more international, you can listen to Mardi Gras-themed music from cultures around the world, like Brazil or Italy. [4]
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    • If you’re hosting a party, put together an upbeat Mardi Gras playlist. You can even celebrate the rich variety of Mardi Gras traditions by including tunes from the many different countries where Mardi Gras or Carnival is celebrated.
  5. Have a food fight with your friends. Mardi Gras is a time to cut loose and do things you normally couldn’t get away with (as long as it’s all in good fun). In some countries, like Italy and Belgium, festival-goers celebrate by pelting each other with oranges.[5] If your friends are okay with it, take the opportunity to blow off some steam by flinging oranges or other food at each other.
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    • The biggest Fat Tuesday food fight is the annual Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy. This fun event is said to date back to the 12th century.[6]

[Edit]Eating Mardi Gras Foods

  1. Feast on tasty po-boy sandwiches for lunch. The po-boy is a quick and easy Mardi Gras sandwich that you can make with almost any ingredients. The only rules are that you should have them on crusty, fresh-baked French bread and smother them in gravy. Fill up your sandwich with breaded shrimp, catfish, oysters, roast beef, ham and cheese, or even French fries.[7]
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  2. Make a jambalaya. Jambalaya is a classic Mardi Gras dish that combines shrimp, chicken, sausage, rice, and veggies in a spicy sauce made with garlic, onions, and tomatoes.[8] Get together with friends and family to cook jambalaya from scratch, or purchase a ready-made rice and seasoning mix and add a few of your own fresh ingredients.
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    • Other popular Mardi Gras shrimp dishes include gumbo, shrimp etouffee, and shrimp and grits.
    • If you love shellfish, but shrimp isn’t your crustacean of choice, you could cook crab cakes or have a crawfish boil instead![9]
  3. Whip up some red beans and rice. Red beans and rice is an old New Orleans staple.[10] To make a quick and easy version, simmer some canned or pre-cooked red kidney beans with chicken stock along with onions, garlic, bell peppers, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and cayenne and black pepper sautéed in oil. Throw in some smoked pork sausage and serve the mixture on top of long-grain white rice.[11]
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    • As an alternative to pork sausage, you can use ham hocks, bacon, or pickled pork.
  4. Serve a sweet king cake for dessert. This traditional Mardi Gras dessert looks like giant, colorful donut and contains a surprising secret ingredient: a tiny plastic baby. Bake your own king cake or buy a pre-made one at your local bakery. Whoever gets the piece with the baby inside wins good luck—and hosting duties for next year’s Mardi Gras party![12]
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    • If you make your own king cake, decorate it with a sweet glaze and sprinkles in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold. Put the baby in after you bake the cake so that it doesn’t melt or burn during cooking.
    • According to some versions of Mardi Gras lore, the king cake traditionally had a ring or bean inside rather than a toy baby. The baby is thought to symbolize the baby Jesus, a nod to the Mardi Gras festival’s religious roots.[13]
  5. Fry some crispy beignets for another traditional dessert option. Beignets donuts are another classic staple of New Orleans Mardi Gras cuisine. After you make your dough, let it chill in the fridge overnight before you fry it for best results. Dust the beignets with powdered sugar and serve them warm and fresh.[14]
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    • As an easy alternative to the classic beignet recipe, which involves yeast, eggs, sugar, flour, shortening, and evaporated milk, you can use pancake or biscuit mix. Combine the mix with enough milk to make a thick dough, then roll it out, cut it into squares, and fry it until it’s golden-brown.
    • Other popular dessert options include pecan pralines, Bananas Foster, and monkey bread.
  6. Try a festive milk punch. Milk punch is a creamy dessert drink that’s reminiscent of eggnog. To make it, combine milk, sugar, bourbon, and vanilla to taste. Shake it up with crushed ice and top it off with a sprinkling of nutmeg.[15]
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    • Other traditional Mardi Gras cocktails include Sazerac, Vieux Carré, and mint juleps.

[Edit]Attending Parades and Festivities

  1. Check when Mardi Gras celebrations will be happening this year. Mardi Gras takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday, in late February or early March. Since this holiday falls on a different day each year, check your calendar ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss it.[16]
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    • In 2020, Mardi Gras will take place on February 25.
    • You can easily check the date by doing an online search for “Mardi Gras date this year.”
    • In some areas, the Mardi Gras or Carnival season lasts for several days. For example, the Carnival festivities in Brazil last from the Friday before Ash Wednesday to the midday on Ash Wednesday.
  2. Search online to find parades and parties in your area. Even if you don’t live in an area where Mardi Gras is a major holiday, there’s a good chance that some events will be happening nearby. Go online and do a search using terms like “Mardi Gras festival near me,” or check the arts and entertainment section of your local newspaper for information.
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    • For example, many towns and cities throughout the U.S. celebrate with parties, parades, food tasting events, and pub crawls on Mardi Gras.
  3. Travel to NOLA or Mobile, Alabama to attend major celebrations in the U.S. Most people in the U.S. associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans, LA. However, the first major celebrations in the U.S. took place in Mobile, AL.[17] If you live in the U.S. and want to participate in one of the country’s biggest Mardi Gras festivals, make plans to travel to one of these southern cities.
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    • Since these celebrations are immensely popular, it’s a good idea to book tickets and hotel accommodations as far in advance as popular.
    • Other major celebrations around the world take place in Venice, Italy; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Basel, Switzerland; Cologne, Germany; Trinidad and Tobago; and Martinique.
  4. Attend a parade and catch “throws”. Parades are a big part of Fat Tuesday celebrations all over the world. Whether you’re traveling or celebrating in your hometown, try to attend one of these exciting events. These parades involve colorful floats with Mardi Gras “royalty” dressed in elaborate costumes. People on the floats throw treats and trinkets such as beads, cups, and plastic coins to the onlookers.[18]
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  5. Expect big crowds and rowdy celebrations. Mardi Gras festivities are crowded, loud, and high-energy events. If you attend one of the major festivals, be prepared for lots of noise and excitement! You can make the best of the festivities by taking a few common-sense steps and precautions, such as:[19]
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    • Arriving a few hours early for parades in order to get a good viewing spot
    • Choosing a designated meet-up spot if you’re going to be meeting family or friends
    • Bringing ladder box seats for kids or small adults for better viewing
    • Carrying a bag to stash your throws
    • Walking or taking a bike to avoid festival traffic
    • Avoiding rowdier areas, such as the NOLA French Quarter, if you have kids with you
    • Wearing comfy shoes
    • Carrying your valuables in a front-facing belt-bag rather than in your purse or a back pocket

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