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.
Bright and colorful decorations are key to any Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold are the official colors of the holiday, so be sure to incorporate them into your decor. Start by covering the table with a richly textured fabric and scatter strings of beads between place settings.
Roll cloth napkins into rose shapes by folding them in narrow strips; make the flower centers by wrapping one end of each strip around your forefinger. Wrap the rest of each strip tightly around the center and place the roses in sherbet cups to keep their shapes. Tuck tinsel-topped skewers into the roses, scatter confetti on the tabletop, and light some votive candles -- and you have the perfect setting for a Mardi Gras dinner party.
When decorating around the house, put up as many or as few decorations as you like -- balloons, streamers, confetti, and doubloons make great Mardi Gras party decorations. Be sure to save a string of beads to give to each guest, and play New Orleans brass band, zydeco, or swing music to set the Mardi Gras party mood.
Editor's Tip: If you have small children, let them help with the decorating for the party. Give each child a handful of beads to drape over surfaces they can reach. You can also let them scatter confetti around the house, but an adult should supervise to avoid a large mess.
There are plenty of fun and festive things to do at a Mardi Gras party, from making your own masks and Mardi Gras trivia to carnival charades and costume contests. See our ideas for fun party activities, below; adapt to make them your own.
-- Make-Your-Own Masks: If guests don't bring their own masks to the party, let them make their own with crafts supplies such as feathers, sequins, and glitter. Once everyone's mask is complete, have everyone vote on his or her favorite mask and give the winner a small prize.
-- Mardi Gras Costume Contest: On your party invitation, tell guests to dress in their best wacky costume (jesters, pirates, and gypsies are a few good options). Set up an area where guests can vote on their favorite costume, and announce the winner at the end of the party.
-- Mardi Gras Trivia: Write a few facts about the holiday on trivia cards to start a trivia game that tests everyone's guessing skills. A few questions to get you started: When was the first documented Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans? (Answer: 1837) What does Mardi Gras translate to in English? (Answer: Fat Tuesday) What are the official colors of Mardi Gras, and what do they stand for? (Answer: Purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power)
Editor's Tip: To celebrate Mardi Gras with your family, have a parade in your living room to show off the masks everyone made. Toss beads and streamers to add to the festivities.
These three appetizers feature the Cajun and Creole flavors of New Orleans fare and include a creative takes on classics.
Indulge in decadent dishes like Mardi Gras party-goers in New Orleans; crispy fried catfish, chicken and shrimp jambalaya, and Cajun-style pot roast are a few of our favorites for the occasion.
French-inspired desserts, such as bread pudding with bourbon sauce or bananas foster, will give your guests the impression they're dining in the French Quarter of New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Don't forget the traditional kings cake, which you can pick up from a specialty bakery or make yourself.