Gather your friends for a midwinter holiday celebration full of bright colors, elaborate dishes, and fun. Mardi Gras is celebrated all around the world on the day before Ash Wednesday as a way to indulge before the start of Lent. The holiday has been celebrated in New Orleans on a grand scale, including parades and masquerades, since the early 1700s when the French settled there. Today, the city draws millions for its annual festivities. It's easy to plan a simple or extravagant party with our ideas for decorations, activities, and -- best of all -- delicious food.
Set the Mood
Vibrant decorations are the key to a successful Mardi Gras celebration. Be sure to include the official colors of the holiday in your decor: purple, green, and gold.
Start with an exaggerated table setting. Cover your table with a patterned fabric. Sprinkle strings of beads and confetti across the entire length for bright pops of color.
Add balloons and ribbon garland to your entryway, drawing guests in the moment they walk through the door. Play some New Orleans brass, zydeco, or swing music, and bring the Big Easy to your living room.
Mardi Gras Must-Have: Welcome your party guests with a string of beads! It isn't Mardi Gras unless everyone has beads hanging around their necks.
Get the Party Started
Start off the festivities with some exciting party games and activities. Set up a make-your-own-mask station for partygoers to create a funky Fat Tuesday look. Feathers, sequins, and glitter make for the perfect masks. For more specific instructions, check out our step-by-step Masquerade Masks.
Add a fun twist to your party and ask guests to dress up in zany Mardi Gras costumes. They can be anything from wearing purple and gold to dressing like a medieval court jester. Each and every costume has vivacious colors and goes over the top. Once everyone arrives, have the group vote on who wore the craziest look.
Test your guests' knowledge of Mardi Gras with an exciting trivia challenge. Create questions about the history, the food, and the fun of Mardi Gras. Questions can include: What does Mardi Gras translate to in English? (Answer: Fat Tuesday.) What are the official colors of Mardi Gras and what do they mean? (Purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.) Have a little fun while learning about the holiday you're celebrating.
If you're partying with the whole family, get your kids involved. Put together a parade filled with masks and costumes that everyone can enjoy.
The Real Meaning of This Celebration: Food
It's not a true Mardi Gras celebration without traditional Cajun-style dishes. Start off your party with fun finger foods that can feed a crowd. Our Easy Muffuletta combines the classic trademarks of New Orleans -- pickled vegetables and olives -- in one sandwich. Plus, it feeds up to eight people! But if you're in more of a fish mood, try our Creole Crab Cakes or our Oysters Bienville.
No Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a festive Kings Cake for all to enjoy. You can also try Doberge Cake, a New Orleans creation from the European dobos torte. With a lemon custard filling, this creamy butter cake will melt in your mouth.
For a lighter dessert, serve your guests this New Orleans specialty: Café Brulot. This steamy drink combines coffee, brandy, and spices for a sweet treat.