A Southerners Guide to Celebrate Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. I know it as an exciting time of unrepentant energy, celebration, and alcohol. Especially the alcohol.
This holiday event is all about indulgence and jubilation, a time of excess, tasty food (beignets and jambalaya), and exotic drinks. Traditionally, this celebration is conducted before the ritual fasting of Lenten. The idea, then, is to get your eat on and drown yourself in every tasty beverage you can handle.
It’s a magical time, where everyone comes together so they can get sloppy drunk and wake up in places they don’t recognize.
If that sounds like your jam, well, good news. You’ve stumbled upon my guide for celebrating Mardi Gras the best way: your way. Sure, anyone can just waltz into a festive carnival and find themselves duking it out with a keg or three. But not you, right? You want to make the next Fat Tuesday is one to remember. Problem is, you don’t exactly know where to begin.
Well worry not connoisseur of the carnal delights. This quick-fix guide will grant you inspiration to indulge all those sordid ideas. Whether you plan on getting “I’m going to fight this shark” level drunk or just want to have fun with friends, I have you covered.
Getting Started – Plan Your Attack
While ‘planning’ doesn’t exactly sound like the high-octane, impulse driven celebration style you’d think with Mardi Gras, it’s still kind of important. The holiday offers something for everyone. What you want out of it is determined by what you plan to do.
Hard to catch that alcohol laced parade if you didn’t wake up in time, right? Or maybe you want a family-friendly escapade? Regardless, get some ideas together.
- How many people do you expect to hang with?
- What does everyone want to do?
- What will this cost?
- Where do you plan to go?
- Staying in, going out, or half and half?
- Willing to travel?
Questions like those will keep some semblance of organization during a party day. Even a loose group of friends can get disentangled if they aren’t on the same page.
While we don’t expect you to crank out a bible of rules, it pays to prepare. Literally.
The Mardi Gras Parade
Once you get a solid feel for the “logistics” of your escapade, it’s on to the next big thing. No, not drinking (not yet at least). Fat Tuesday’s colorful parades are a big component of the holiday. In fact, regardless of how you plan to celebrate, we recommend catching one of these.
The vitality of crowds intermixed with amazing floats is something you don’t get to see often, so why not treat yourself? This is especially the case if you want something entertaining for everyone. Kids and adults alike can enjoy Mardi Gras parades, no matter where they plan to celebrate.
But hey, it’s one thing to want to go to one. It’s another to figure out where the best ones are. Again, we’ve got you covered.
So where are the parades? Well that’s the question: location. For the most part, the largest celebrations are conducted in New Orleans. In fact, it’s mostly here. While there are other Mardi Gras celebrations around the States, if you want elaborate parades, you go to New Orleans.
If you’re willing to travel, great! But guess what? It doesn’t stop there. There are multiple parades throughout Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. So which one to catch and where to go?
Again, it depends on what you want to see and how far you’re willing to go. Different parades occur at different times. If you’re not an early bird, chances are you and the gang want to catch events later in the evening. If the family has plans, earlier parades might help.
Still not sure? Here’s a quick resource to give you a better idea:
As you can see, there’s a whole mess of things to do and places to go. Choosing what works best for you and your schedule assures there are no slip-ups on the big day (or days, if you’re partying hard).
Not in New Orleans? No problem. It’s great for the spectacle of catching colorful floats, but if you just want to find celebrations in general, you’re not restricted to New Orleans. If you want to get out and experience bead tossing, alcohol-induced fun, there are likely celebrations held in your area or near a major city.
Look, this is an excuse to eat like crazy, get stupid drunk, and hang out. At the beginning of the week, no less. If there’s a party to be had, you will find one.
But maybe that’s not your style – maybe you want to handle the party itself. Good call. Or, potentially bad call, depending on how you prepare. If you don’t do the latter, you might have a bad time. It’s all about expectations, guests, and what you want out of the big day.
If you’re planning a quaint get together with family and friends, wearing a few celebration-appropriate things topped off with a nice drink, no problem. But if you want to get dizzy in feasts and alcohol, you have to invite the right people for the right time.
So, let’s take a two-pronged approach. We’ll cover some ideas, recipes and things to do for a nice get together or a crazy night of fun.
If you’re thinking of staying at home or celebrating in a smaller way, you can still live it up without losing your mind at a friend’s party or colorful parade.
The first big thing to do then is to get your big eat on. It’s not called Fat Tuesday just for fun! Since the traditional roots of the holiday were about eating a lot and then conducting a fast, this was an opportunity to “live it up” before controlling what one ate afterward.
For this, you’re free to chow on any dishes that come to mind but consider dishes in the spirit of the big day.
May we suggest:
- Gumbo, for a tasty spicy seafood delight
- Muffuletta, a classic New Orleans sandwich
- King Cake, a way to top off dining with dessert
You can also slap together jambalaya, fried shrimp, seafood/crawfish boils, and anything else you can think of. These recipes aren’t mandatory – but if you want that authentic Mardi Gras taste, they’re certainly some of the more popular dishes.
Now that you’ve got some ideas for food – what about décor? Well, all depends on whose showing up. But let’s assume there’s a desire for festive costumes. Mardi Gras isn’t just focused on eat and drink, there’s a costumed element too.
How you want to proceed is up to you, but typical décor include masks, colorful beads, feathers, and whatever else comes to mind. If you want to feel creative and include family members (like younger kids), you can make some of these yourself. It’s a good way to get others involved and add your own personal touch to the celebration.
As a side note, if you plan to make your own stuff, we don’t recommend glitter – that’s a nightmare of a mess.
You’re free to extend this colorful array to your home as well; nothing says celebration like a canvas of different lights and mysterious attires. If you do this, we also recommend using the three primary colors associated with Mardi Gras: purple, yellow, and green. Purple for faith, yellow (or gold) for power, and green for justice.
There are plenty of other touch ups you can do for your home, but that all depends on how far you want to go. We assume that by taking the home “Netflix and chill” approach you’re just looking to hang out with friends and family. But, these touches will provide a pleasant atmosphere while you enjoy Fat Tuesday.
Oh, but we haven’t forgotten the best part. Alcohol. Since you’re at home, you probably aren’t planning to get too drunk. Or maybe you are? Whatever the case, we can also suggest drinks to make at home for the big day. Sure, you can skip that process and just buy a twelve of your favorite brand, but if you’re going to the trouble to decorate and invite, you may as well try some authentic alcohol too.
It shouldn’t surprise you Mardi Gras drinks are mixers and cocktails. Cheap beer isn’t usually found on the menu – unless you’re hanging out for the night or visiting a bar – so the idea is to douse all the delicious food with tasty drinks.
What kind? There are plenty to choose from, but for your convenience, we’ll include a recipe list.
We’ve already gone over the parades, and there are plenty to choose from if you happen to be in New Orleans. But if you’re visiting and more interested in the drinking aspect, there are plenty of great taverns and bars to visit too.
Even better, some bars serve some food with your drink, so you can really get a taste for Fat Tuesday.
But hey, whatever the plan is, just remember a few things for your big night out:
- You might need a designated driver, depending on where you are
- Not everyone is looking to get the same level of drunk so make sure you know what’s what
- You might want to set a spending limit – that bill adds up fast
For your convenience, here’s a link with some recommendations to Mardi Gras specialty bars. And hey! It even includes a bunch of extra useful info for celebrating the big one.