Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday is an annual event and holiday celebrated in the south. Many people, especially those living around the 17th-century territory of Louisiane, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and part of eastern Texas, celebrate the holiday with festivals, parades, and special foods such as King Cake.
It can be an entire season that stretches from Twelfth Night (last night of the Christmas season, beginning on Epiphany) to Ash Wednesday, but it really comes together in the last few days, particularly in places like New Orleans.
What is Mardi Gras?
French for "Fat Tuesday", Mardi Gras is a Christian and cultural holiday celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday and 47 days before Easter. It's the day when Christians can eat rich, fatty foods before the Lenten fasting season.
While you might be celebrating at home with a crew of 3-4, New Orleans takes Mardi Gras so seriously social organizations called "krewes" plan for an entire year to put on their parades and balls. Some organizations can be exclusive with fees accounting for thousands of dollars per person per year, to more informal groups with $20 group fees. Parading Krewe members are also responsible for buying their own throws such as beads.
Today we wanted to take a look at some of the best traditions Mardi Gras season has to offer, whether you are in the South or want to throw your own party at home.
1. Mardi Gras Ball
It might not be the intense Mardi Gras celebration put on by a krewe, but you can still throw a Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball at home. Dress up as a debutante, make some Cajun food, and get everyone in the house in on drinking, dancing, revelry, and more, and your Mardi Gras festivities will be ones to remember. The debauchery of Bourbon Street doesn't have to come to your living room for you to have a good time, whether you're celebrating Mardi Gras New Orleans-style or not.
2. Mardi Gras Color Scheme
The traditional colors of Carnival are purple, green, and gold. This year, why not decorate your house like you're in the middle of the French Quarter in Louisiana by getting a bunch of doubloons, plastic beads, and other trinkets in that color scheme, and get everyone in your family to dress up like you're part of the Krewe of Comus or Zulu?
3. King Cakes
You can obviously still make a King Cake, complete with plastic baby, this carnival season, even if you're not enjoying the delightful celebration ahead of Easter and Lent in a place like New Orleans or Alabama, where Mardi Gras is, well, king. There are plenty of King Cake recipes online -- you could even have a contest among your family members to see who can make the best one!
4. Mardi Gras Parade
OK, so it won't be the lavish affair many are used to, with throngs of revelers, flambeaux, massive parade floats, and more, but you can throw a little Mardi Gras parade in your neighborhood. Best of all, it's a socially-distancing approved activity!
5. Making Masks
Even if you're not celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you can still bring this last tradition home. Making masks can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be, and is a particularly fun idea if you've got kids to entertain. So break out the crafts and get to work!
Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.