Mardi Gras Party Tips
Whether you call it Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Carnival, there are certain things you can have at your own celebration that will evoke the spirit of the occasion as it is celebrated in its most famous venue – New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mardi Gras Party Tips: A Little Background
Mardi Gras can refer to the entire Carnival season, which begins January 6 and lasts until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Catholic Church's Lenten season of fasting and prayer that ends on Easter Sunday. To differentiate the day before Ash Wednesday from the entire Carnival season, many celebrators refer to it as Fat Tuesday – the English translation of the French "Mardi Gras."
Mardi Gras Party Tips: The Essentials
Fat Tuesday partying in New Orleans revolves around dozens of parades with float riders in colorful costumes tossing strings of plastic beads or other trinkets. Your invitations should ask guests to come in appropriate costume, and have some beads ready to string around their necks as they arrive. If you're lucky, you've been to a few Fat Tuesday parades in person and have a stash of beads put away; if not, you can buy them at your local party supply store or order them online. Pick up a few inexpensive feathered masks while you're there for party guests who aren't wearing costumes. The beads and masks can do double-duty as decorations by hanging them on household items around the party area.
Mardi Gras Party Tips: The Music
Load your CD or MP3 player with as much Zydeco, Cajun and Creole tunes as you can find, or if you really want your party to rock with the Mardi Gras spirit, hire a local band who plays that style of music. And your guests may find it hard to keep still while those lively tunes are playing, so be sure to clear out a spot for dancing, if space allows.
Mardi Gras Party Tips: The Food
First you must have a King Cake, a wreath-shaped confection with a trinket (usually a little plastic baby figure) baked into it. Traditionally, the person who gets the piece with the baby is on the hook for hosting the next party, but feel free to make your own tradition, such as giving a gag prize (maybe a plastic king's crown) to the lucky guest. Next, be sure to have plenty of spicy Cajun cuisine. Gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp, crawfish and steamed crabs are all good choices.
Mardi Gras Party Tips: The Drinks
For an authentic New Orleans atmosphere, mix up a batch of rum-heavy Hurricanes, like those served by the long-time New Orleans club Pat O'Briens. Put some wine out for those who don't like hard liquor, and for beer drinkers, you can't go wrong with a selection of brews from Louisiana's Abita Beer, if it's available where you live. For soft drink lovers, ice up a selection of Barq's sodas, a New Orleans icon before it was bought by the Coca-Cola Co. in the 1990s.
To be strict, if you're holding your party on Fat Tuesday itself, it must end no later than midnight – the start of Ash Wednesday. Even New Orleans' French Quarter shuts down every year at the stroke of 12.
Photo by Bengyt Nyman on Flickr