Celebrate Mardi Gras Like a New Orleanian

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Drop everything you’re doing, and get excited because Mardi Gras is only one week away (Tuesday, March 5). While many Northerners are ordering packzis by the dozen, it is far more indulgent to go the route of a true New Orleanian.

The day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent is known as Mardi Gras (Mardi being the French word for Tuesday and gras meaning “fat”). Traditionally, this holiday is reserved for the merriment and eating of indulgent and fatty foods before the fasting that occurs during Lent. These traditions date back to 1799 when French explorers landed near New Orleans on Fat Tuesday, had a party, and decided to name the landing spot Point du Mardi Gras.

 

While many countries around the world celebrate in their own way, New Orleans has become the epicenter for Mardi Gras celebrations. This yearly event boasts lavish parades, the tossing of literally tons of beads, and some of the best food and drink traditions all in the name of letting the good times roll. If you can’t take a trip to the Crescent City this year, here is a guide to everything you need to have a great Mardi Gras celebration wherever you live:

Décor

It’s not uncommon to start seeing green, gold, and purple decorations adorning homes in the South as soon as Christmas is over. Elaborate wreaths and garland made with deco mesh, beads, feathers, fleur-de-lis, and masks are a sure sign it’s time for Mardi Gras. Since you might get a few stares from your neighbors if you’re outside of the Heart of Dixie, try a simple DIY wreath made with tied tulle ribbons.

If you prefer a personalized touch, a door hanger is a fun way to decorate.

When decorating a dining table, don’t forget plenty of beads, candles, and colorful party essentials in coordinating Mardi Gras colors.

Fashion

This time of year isn’t exactly toasty enough to be scantily clad in most parts of the country, so it’s important to find an alternative to bikini tops and body paint. Comfort is key, and subtle nods are a must to rocking the theme. This color blocked sweatshirt is perfect for the occasion and sure to keep you warm. As a bonus, you can wear it all year because it’s not too specific to the date.

Another choice is to pick one accessory item in the tri-colors and pair it with a solid color top and jeans. These tassel earrings are festive and trendy and match well with any casual outfit.

Drinks

New Orleanians are known for their cocktails, and Mardi Gras is the perfect time to try a signature drink. Click the link in the drink name for the recipe.

Hurricane

The Original Hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s. Photo Credit: Distiller Blog

Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter Street started as a speakeasy and is the known as the birthplace of the Hurricane. This fruity cocktail mixes rum and fruit juices together in a libation that is sure to please. Pro Tip: you can buy the Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane mix directly from here if you want a shortcut.

Pimm’s Cup

The Pimm’s Cup is famously served in the Napoleon House and is known for being light and refreshing. With a lower alcohol content, it’s perfect for sipping throughout your festivities.

Strawberry Daiquiri – Non-Alcoholic

If you stroll down the streets of New Orleans, you will find pop-in daiquiri shops doling out slushie-style cocktails by the bucketful. It’s fun to have a drink for all of your guests to enjoy, and this one is easy to whip up in many variations.

Food

Any good Mardi Gras needs plenty of amazing food to keep everyone’s appetites satisfied. Remember, it’s called FAT Tuesday, not I’m watching my diet Tuesday. That New Year’s resolution fizzled out a long time ago anyway, right? Click the link in the dish name for the recipe.

Beignets

The best beignets (ben-yays) in the city are from Café du Monde, and that is a fact, not an opinion. Do yourself a favor and just buy the mix and follow package directions. This is as close as you can get to the real deal. 

Beignets at Cafe du Monde. Photo credit: Neworleansonline.com

King Cake

King Cake from Sunflour Bakehaus in Farmington, Michigan

Essentially a King Cake is a large coffee cake in a circular shape that’s covered in frosting and sprinkles. Often times, there will be a tiny plastic baby hidden inside of the cake. There are many different meanings attached to the baby including luck and prosperity, the promise of pregnancy, or, more realistically, the finder is in charge of buying next year’s King Cake.

Many local and small bakeries make and sell King Cakes for Mardi Gras, so it’s worth a phone call to see if they can make one for you. If not, many New Orleans-based bakeries will ship directly to you.

Crawfish Etouffee

Crawfish Etouffee by Emeril Lagasse

There are many variations on this delicious dish, but a traditional version is always best. Emeril Lagasse is a native New Orleanian and stays true to the roots of this recipe. Pro tip: Get your crawfish tails at Wal-Mart in the frozen section. 

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster by Brennan’s in New Orleans

Brennan’s on Royal Street created the original Bananas Foster recipe using rum to flambé the fruit tableside. Its fancy showmanship will have your guests ooh-ing and aah-ing for days after your Mardi Gras bash has ended.

Mardi Gras is a fun holiday to add to your list of yearly traditions and is also a great way to party away those winter blues. With these tips and tricks, your Fat Tuesday will never be the same again!

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras?
What are some of your traditions?

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