Even if you’re not splurging for a trip to New Orleans, Rio or St. Louis – home to the Midwest’s biggest Fat Tuesday celebration – you can still celebrate Mardi Gras from the comfort of your own apartment. But as you’re buying a bunch of beads, cocktail ingredients and a plastic baby to bake into the King Cake, studying up on the history of this ancient holiday will only enhance the resulting revelry.
Krewes: The fixture of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parades since the mid-1800s, each krewe has its own unique history and theme. Dedicate your party to your favorite krewe – like Rex, which is credited with introducing the official colors of purple, green and gold – or have each guest come dressed as their favorite. Making up your own krewe and backstory can also be a creative and humorous ice breaker.
King Cake: In addition to being delicious, this dessert dates back to the 1700s in New Orleans and even further back in Europe. It has also taken many forms, but King Cake usually consists of a twisted cinnamon roll with icing died purple, green and gold. As for the plastic baby inside (or bean in some cultures), whoever finds it is crowned king or queen for the day. Buy a crown and sash for your lucky party guest.
Beads: Although these colorful necklaces have come to be associated with some R-rated behavior, it is by no means a requirement to getting them, and can in fact lead to an arrest in New Orleans. Keep your party clean and give a string or two of beads to everyone who comes in; the Rex krewe also gets the credit for starting this tradition.
Drinks: One of the biggest parts of any Mardi Gras celebration are the tasty cocktails. Use New Orleans as your inspiration and mix up some Hurricanes (Emeril’s recipe calls for light and dark rum, passion fruit liqueur, orange juice, sour mix and sugar) and Sazeracs (rye whiskey, Herbsaint, bitters, lemon peel and a sugar cube), and check your local liquor store for some Louisiana-brewed Abita Beer.
Pre-Lenten Celebration: A party is that much better when you know it’s the last time you can truly let loose for a while. Even if you’re not giving anything up for the next 40 days or going to church on Ash Wednesday, think of Mardi Gras as incentive for doing some good in the coming month, whether for yourself or others in your community.
What are your favorite ways to celebrate Mardi Gras?