Mardi Gras is on Fat Tuesday, always the day before Ash Wednesday. Rich in culture and tradition, the final day of carnival is celebrated not only in the United States and Brazil, but around the world. The French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the most popular locations for Mardi Gras parties, and will fill up with tourists hoping to have one of the most exciting experiences of their lifetime.
You certainly don't need to be in New Orleans or any other hot spots to celebrate Mardi Gras. Many organizations and local nightclubs often have a Mardi Gras night, although most choose to do it on a weekend, when most people will be able to attend. If you don't want to go to a club or bar, you can plan your own private Mardi Gras party and choose the guests too! Here's some ideas for decorating, activities, food, activities, and party favors.
Colors for Mardi Gras are by no means subtle. Bold colors prevail but the main theme colors are purple, green, and gold (representing justice, faith, and power respectively.) The brighter the better! You can look in local stores for seasonal decorations or shop online at stores where party supplies are available all year long. To save money, look for "generic" supplies such as streamers, napkins, plates, and other tableware that are the proper colors. More ideas for decorations include:
Entertainment for adults and children will probably vary quite a bit. It your party will have both in attendance, it may be a good idea to set aside a "kids" room and designate someone for crafts and games. Having your party at school? The classroom is a great place to teach kids about Mardi Gras with decorations, party games, and puzzles. There are several things to do listed below for whoever you're entertaining. Of course, some are more appropriate for adults, some for children.
What's Fat Tuesday without food? Traditional foods for Mardi Gras are spicy Cajun or Creole cuisine. Color is essential as well as strong aromas and flavors. Typically, there are several dishes served before dessert but you'll need to customize your party menu to your budget and cooking capabilities if you're not hiring a caterer. Need ideas? Read on...
Meat - You can choose from a wide variety of meats such as pork, beef, chicken, poultry, and seafood. The trick is how it is prepared. Barbequing is a popular method for beef and pork with additional Cajun seasoning added. Poultry is often fried and seafood boiled. Smoking is a typical process used to preserve meat and adds flavor. Depending on the weather, you may wish to stew the meat or make gumbo with meat and vegetables. Grilling is another option that cuts cooking time and is great for outdoor parties.
Side Dishes - Choose side dishes that will complement your main dish. Red beans and rice are customary for Mardi Gras and are inexpensive to make. Side dishes with vegetables or fruit are colorful and can be served as a kabob. Stuffed tomatoes, yams, okra, green beans and cabbage dishes are excellent options. Salads are always a crowd-pleaser. Cajun seasoning added will give them a unique flavor, perfect for your party! You can buy Cajun seasoning in the store or make your own.
Don't forget to serve some type of bread. Banana bread, corn bread, buttermilk biscuits, or muffins smothered in rich butter will make sure that your Fat Tuesday ain't skinny. Many recipes for Mardi Gras Carnival can be found here.
Dessert - A meal isn't complete with out dessert. It's tradition to serve King Cake but there are many other desserts that fit the theme. Peach cobbler, bread pudding, coffee cake, pound cake, pecan or apple pie, rice pudding, strawberry shortcake, or even basic chocolate cake. Kids love cupcakes and cookies. You can keep them busy by letting them decorate their own. If you're in a time crunch, let them do this in advance and freeze the desserts until party time.
Beverages - Don't spike the punch if there will be children attending your party. Instead, have separate areas for beverages if you plan on serving alcohol. Have beverages that do not contain alcohol available for the younger crowd and adults who do not want alcohol. For those that do, you can provide a few options and ask guests to bring their own if it's not something you'll have on hand.
A keg of beer, wine, smoothies, or hurricanes will probably be sufficient but it may depend on what drinks are popular in your area. Remember to be responsible and not "over-serve" guests. If you notice any that have too much to drink, let them crash at your place or provide them with a ride home via taxi or sober driver.
Everyone loves party favors and Mardi Gras is one occasion where they're probably necessary to promote the theme. Unless you're from a city where Mardi Gras is big business, most people won't have anything to bring along to help them celebrate. Masks, beads, bracelets, hats (jester hats, top hats, crowns,) noisemakers, and confetti will all add to a festive atmosphere and get everyone into Mardi Gras "party" mode. Chocolate, foil-wrapped doubloons will be a hit with the kids and also make great decorations.