Mardi Gras, translating to “Fat Tuesday” in French, originated in Europe and is dated as far back as the Middle Ages. In March of 1699, French explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville founded the Point du Mardi Gras, about 60 miles south of New Orleans, and also the Fort Louis de la Louisiane (now Mobile, Alabama) in 1702. A small society that lived in Fort Louis de la Louisiane celebrated the first Mardi Gras in 1703, though the first Mardi Gras complete with a parade wasn’t until the 19th century.
If you want to celebrate Mardi Gras, the first thing you are probably going to do is look up plane tickets to Louisiana. Since domestic American plane tickets are expensive and especially if you don’t like crowds, your best bet is to throw a Mardi Gras party in the comfort of your own home or hometown. Mardi Gras parties have the potential to be as wild and gargantuan as you want them to be, or simple and calm as you’d like. If you’re not of the French/French-Canadian heritage or are from anywhere but the American South, you probably don’t know much about throwing an authentic New Orleans Mardi Gras party. Good thing we’re here to help! Let us be your guides as you go about planning your next Mardi Gras party.
Mardi Gras is traditionally celebrated in late February and early March, but don’t let that stop you from hosting a festive New Orleans feast at any time of the year. However, if you’re planning on buying your decorations at a local craft store, you might want to rethink your battle plan if it’s the middle of September in Minnesota, where everyone’s mind is on literally anything but Mardi Gras. Just sayin’.
The first step in planning your party is figuring out where you want to hold your event. This can range from your backyard or to the local fire hall or church gymnasium. After that, you’ll want to decide how extravagant you want your event to be. If you want to deck the area out with stand up tents, a professional photo/caricature booth, and make it a replica of New Orleans, you should shoot for your budget to be about $5,000 for the venue and decorations, give or take your outfit, party favors, and of course, food.
The classic Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold. The basics would be streamers, balloons, confetti, and any decorations in between. The two biggest aspects of Mardi Gras are about as many beaded necklaces that you can get your hand on, and doubloons (the colored plastic coins). The possibilities are endless with doubloons and necklaces, as you can use them for decorations, fill bowls with them, throw them, use them in goodie bags, personalize them, whatever you want. I’d say the more coverage that you have of anything that makes it feel like your home town, the better. Make it psychadelic, loud, and possibly painful to look at from being so vivid and obnoxious colors. The overall goal of a Mardi Gras party is making people forget where they are, with or without a copious amount of alcohol.
To add to the effect of Mardi Gras, send out invitations asking your guests to dress up in the style of Mardi Gras, decked out in feather boas, masquerade masks, billowy outfits, neon wigs, glittery glasses, tutus, crazy hats, and anything else you can find of the appropriate Mardi Gras colors.
A Mardi Gras party can’t truly be a “Fat Tuesday” party without FOOD. New Orleans is known for Cajun and Creole cuisine, translating to a whole lot of flavorful dishes like jambalaya, gumbo, King Cake, Remoulade sauce, and more. Check out an entire arsenal of recipes from side dishes to cocktails at http://allrecipes.com/recipes/192/holidays-and-events/mardi-gras/ . As always, be cautious of dietary restrictions when serving at your party, and make sure things are properly labeled. Be certain that when serving alcoholic drinks, you properly label which are alcoholic so no kids accidentally consume vodka. A great party host always has options for those who are gluten free, vegetarian, or have allergies. To save on costs, you can always ask each guest to bring a side dish or dessert tray. Though it may not be authentic New Orleans style food, you won’t have to break the bank when it comes to feeding a crowd.
In addition, food coloring can be your best friend while cooking for a themed party with heavy focus on a color scheme. You can decorate cookies and cupcakes with green, purple and gold frosting, you can dye eggs purple and make them deviled eggs, color chocolate and make chocolate covered pretzels and popcorn. Never limit yourself to just the usual when it comes to Mardi Gras.
With this article and a little more shopping, we hope that your Mardi Gras party is everything you’d want it to be and more. Remember to take plenty of photos and plan on having a clean up crew for when the party is over, if it ever does end!