Celebrate Mardi Gras Anywhere

So this Winter holiday {I’m from LA; it’s a holiday!} isn’t just beads and female body parts. In fact, our great friends over at New Orleans Moms Blog have shared how it’s much more…

 This event is truly not about the beads or the party but instead it is about the  feeling of fraternity, happiness, and unity in the quest for a great day of festivities and unforgettable memories.

Sounds like something we should love our neighbors one state over for, right?

Here in Houston we can get a figurative and literal taste of that happiness.  I’m going to go ahead and say there is no right way to celebrate this season. Different areas of LA {even within New Orleans itself} have varying customs and traditions. So we’ll take a bit from the history books {okay, sure, the Internet} and grab a bit from my hometown, LA days and call it a lesson, okay? And if you really want to delve in with your kiddos, be sure to check out this fantastic list of Mardi Gras books!

Mardi Gras, or Carnival, season in Louisiana is full of tradition and excitement. It begins on the Epiphany {January 6} and ends on Fat Tuesday {the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday}. Let’s look at some basics and how you can celebrate here in Houston or, in fact, anywhere. Louisiana transplant or not, you are welcome to the party!

The Parades

With roots dating all the way back to pagan fertility rituals awaiting Spring’s appearance, and transforming to Christian pre-Lent festivities, parades are the heart of Mardi Gras. A king presides over the parade and leads his krewe through the route.

Whether occurring at night or on a weekend afternoon, parades often showcase the city’s music in local bands and performances, and people often picnic, dress in costumes, and of course, keep their arms up for the “throws” {beads, dabloons, cups, stuffed animals, toy swords, and even coconuts and decorated shoes}. Parade go-ers yell, “Throw me something, Mister!” and dance to each float’s music, and they are sure to bring bags for carrying the goodies that won’t fit around their necks. Some of my favorite memories as a child are heading back after a parade and dumping our loot on the floor to see just what we caught.

Celebrate anywhere ::

Mardi Gras

  • Host a Mardi Gras Mambo play date parade at the park. Head over to the Dollar Tree, Walmart, or Party City for garlands, beads, masks, and other festive decor to wrap around trikes, bikes, and wagons. Grab your own throws to hand or throw out to that day’s park visitors. Bonus points for bringing a portable speaker and streaming Mardi Gras music for some dancing along the route!
  • Make your own beads! Celebrate carnival season with family or friends by creating Twizzler beads, and if you really want to craft up an afternoon, try your hand at dyeing pasta to thread into beads. We’ve done this one for a play date, and the kids loved wearing their crafts!
  • Don your best purple, green, and gold. Symbolically, purple represents justice; green represents faith; gold represents power. Grab some themed construction paper and create handprint masks for your parade. These are so easy and can be jazzed up with feathers, stick on gems, pom-poms, and even a bit of glitter if you are feeling daring!

The Krewes

Led by their royal ranks {king, queen, dukes, maids, and captains}, krewes are the social clubs that host Mardi Gras parades. Each has its own theme, traditions, and rules, but all must host a ball and sponsor a parade that includes floats or bands.  As a child I was in awe of the grandeur of it all, and going back to parades as an adult, I appreciate the theming and intricacy of some of these floats.

Celebrate Anywhere ::

Celebrate Mardi Gras Anywhere | Houston Moms Blog

  • Make your own floats! Decide on a theme for your own krewe {family and friends}, or leave it wide open, and put those old shoeboxes in your closet to good use with an easy shoebox float. Keep it tradition and full of purple, green, and gold with the supplies you purchased at the Dollar Tree {see above!} or let your creative juices flow and create a more unique float. Host a contest {another one of my favorite memories as a kid}, and give out prizes for originality and design!
  • Turn a wagon into a giant float! Grab some leftover Christmas wrapping paper and boxes from your latest Amazon delivery and get your krewe rolling in style.

The Food

When you picture Mardi Gras food, you can’t help but think of king cake {and Louisiana people might also see buckets of chicken along the parade route or pots of jambalaya if lucky enough to have a home along that route}. But why a king cake? To honor that head of the krewe talked about above? Nope. Its origins are a celebration of The Feast of the Epiphany where the three kings visited the Christ Child.  Traditional king cakes are made of a cinnamon-y dough and topped with a glazed icing and colored sugar. Every cake has a tiny plastic baby inside that represents Baby Jesus. Whoever gets this baby in their piece supposedly buys the next cake.

Celebrate Anywhere ::

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  • I baked mini king cakes from Pillsbury for my son’s first birthday, and they were a hit!
  • This year I’m taking a page from the New Orleans Moms Blog recipe book and making this simple kid-friendly king cake.
  • Eating king cake this season is all about the tradition. If you don’t want to make your own, you can certainly purchase from most grocery stores these days. Insider tip: purchase two! Since they aren’t as fresh as typical LA bakeries, they are perfect for king cake bread pudding. Eat one and repurpose one. You won’t regret it.
  • You can have king cakes shipped from Louisiana, but Houston is home to several bakeries whose cakes are said to come pretty darn close to those in LA. It’s on this year’s list to hit up one of these!
  • If you aren’t into the king cake itself, embrace the colors of the season with simple Mardi Gras cupcakes.

Maybe you know a little bit more; maybe I haven’t covered enough! Either way, let’s get this party started already, and while we do, let’s consider ourselves lucky. At least we get to avoid the port-a-potty situation

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