Are you heading to New Orleans this year to celebrate the city’s biggest holiday? We think of it as a New Orleans-centric holiday, but Mardi Gras is actually celebrated all over the world! If you’re joining in the festivities this year, we’ve put together your guide to throwing a Mardi Gras party, with a little history lesson thrown in!
Mardi Gras was not invented in the United States. Mardi Gras is actually a millennia-old tradition dating back to Pagan and Roman days with festivals celebrating the beginning of spring. These celebrations were incorporated into the Catholic traditions and came to be a last hoorah on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which kicks off 40 days of Lent.
Mardi Gras spread through other Catholic countries in Europe until it made its way to the New World. The first Mardi Gras in the U.S. was celebrated in 1699 when the French arrived in present-day New Orleans. Although the Spanish banned the celebration when they took over the city in 1763, it came back in full force when Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812. The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans took place in 1827 and ever since then the holiday has been celebrated.
Today, Mardi Gras is a massive attraction in New Orleans. Although it is celebrated all over the world, the city draws visitors from everywhere ready to join in the revelry on Bourbon Street. Customs include parades and floats, throwing purple, gold and green beads and Venetian masks.
Fun fact: Louisiana recognizes Mardi Gras as a legal holiday and is the only state to do so.
How to Throw a Mardi Gras Party
This year, Mardi Gras falls on March 5, 2019. Interested in celebrating but not so interested in heading to New Orleans? Celebrate at home with a Mardi Gras party!
Mardi Gras Music
What kind of music do you listen to on Mardi Gras? If you’re at a loss for what to play, Spotify has a fabulous Mardi Gras playlist featuring some of the best jazz and funk sounds of New Orleans. It’s soulful and gritty! But you can also play any of your favorite party music to get people dancing!
Mardi Gras Food
What exactly is king cake? It’s a necessity for any Mardis Gras celebration. It’s a rich brioche bundt cake filled with cream cheese, chocolate or cinnamon that is typically frosted in Mardis Gras colors- purple, yellow and green. Hidden inside each cake is a tiny plastic baby, which is supposed to be good luck to find! Check out more information on king cakes from Southern Living.
Classic New Orleans Fare
What better time than to serve classic New Orleans food: red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, okra and plenty of seafood dishes, like crawfish pie! These are also dishes that are easy to make in big batches. We like this jambalaya recipe from Cafe Delites.
For cocktail choices, no Mardi Gras party would be complete without the infamous hurricane! This rum drink is a staple on Bourbon Street.
Mardi Gras Decorations & Beads
Mardi Gras Beads
Classic Mardi Gras colors are purple, gold and green. These all symbolize something different: purple represents justice, gold represents power and green represents faith. You probably think of beads when you think of Mardi Gras! They’re tossed from parade floats and it’s fun to collect as many as possible during the celebration. Make sure you have plenty on-hand to give out to guests!
Mardi Gras is all about celebrating richness and luxury before the austerity of Lent. Decorate in rich colors, including the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green. String up colored lights and hang paper chains or streamers. Fill bowls with chocolate coins. This would be a great holiday to have a piñata!
Check out these decorations from Party City.
What’s a Mardi Gras party without masks? Masks are thought to have been part of the celebrations since the very beginning. The Venetian-style ones that we’ve come to associate with Mardi Gras were introduced during the European Catholic celebrations. A bonus of the masks is hiding the identity of Mardi Gras partiers if things got a little rowdy! Ask guests to wear them to your party or provide them as favors!
Ready to throw a Mardi Gras party?
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