Mardi Gras, also called “Fat Tuesday,” is traditionally celebrated in late winter on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The actual day on which Fat Tuesday falls changes from year to year, but the festive nature and colorful decorations traditionally seen at a Mardi Gras celebration make this a perfect party theme for any time of the year. Even on a budget, you can create a setting that will make your guests feel as though they’ve stepped out onto the streets of New Orleans during the height of celebration.
A decoration that’s inexpensive but of high visual impact is crepe streamers. Crepe streamers can be found at dollar stores and big box discount retailers for a dollar or two. According to the official Mardi Gras New Orleans website, traditional Fat Tuesday colors are purple, green and gold. Each color has a specific meaning: purple is for justice; green symbolizes faith; and gold stands for power. Weave the three streamer colors across your ceiling for a look that is reminiscent of the parade floats of Mardi Gras.
The food table highlight of a true New Orleans Mardi Gras party is the king cake. Adorn a snack table in purple and gold and place a king cake on a pedestal in the center. According to History.com, king cake is a bit like a cinnamon roll and is ring-shaped. Somewhere inside the dough, a bean, pecan or plastic baby is hidden to represent the baby Jesus. The outside of the cake is decorated in purple, green and gold. Tradition demands that the person who gets the slice of cake with the plastic baby host the next party.
Those who attend Mardi Gras wear masks. Download a mask template online and print from your home computer onto heavy card stock. Cut out the mask and use a hole punch to create a hole on the top right and top left of the mask. Tie a piece of ribbon to each side that you can later secure at the back of your head for a snug fit. Now, decorate the masks with glitter, ribbons, jewels and feathers. The crazier the mask, the more festive it will be.
Mardi Gras beads are thrown from parade floats to those along the parade route. National Geographic dates the tradition to the 1920s when inexpensive glass beads were thrown to parade goers. A Mardi Gras party wouldn’t seem complete without dozens upon dozens of these inexpensive trinkets draped over anything and everything, including the guests. Beads are available at party supply stores and hobby stores and can be ordered online in bulk.
Additional Reading and Resources
- Mardi Gras New Orleans: Mardi Gras Colors
- History.com: King Cake Recipe
- National Geographic: The Rich History of Mardi Gras’s Cheap Trinkets