The History of Mardi Gras: More Than Just Colorful Beads

Mardi Gras MaskMardi Gras is primarily thought of as a time to party and get crazy in New Orleans. The holiday conjures up images of huge parties on Bourbon Street, strewn with purple, yellow, and green beads. There’s more to this holiday than drinks, parades, and creative masks. Translated from French to “Fat Tuesday” in English, Mardi Gras is based on history and traditions, both old and new. Here are a few things to know about this holiday before you go crazy with your parties this evening!

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

As many people know, Ash Wednesday is a religious day that recognizes the first day of the forty days of Lent. Lent is traditionally a time to abstain, as Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, and many people of Christianity give up sweets, chocolate, bread, or other treats. Fat Tuesday is the day many people get their fill of the soon-to-be forbidden treats, and in the U.K. this day is sometimes called Pancake Day. (Might we suggest a tool for that?) Others choose to confess their sins on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is why it is sometimes called “Shrove Tuesday.” (From the word shrive, which means to confess.) This last chance for outrageous behavior is contributes to the crazy partying of Mardi Gras.

Celebrate in style with traditional Mardi Gras treats and New Orleans cuisine:

Mistick Krewe

The Roman Catholic Creole community put on the original carnival celebrations, but the parades were poorly organized, and primarily confined to the Catholic Creole community. In 1856, business owners of New Orleans got together to create the Mistick Krewe of Comus, which put on highly organized, and sometimes-elegant celebrations for carnival season. Legend has it that the invitations to Comus festivities, including the ball, were highly guarded secrets, and may have contributed to the tradition of wearing masks at the Mardi Gras parades.

Colorful Beads

The story behind the colorful beads all started with Rex, the King of the first carnival in 1872. He chose the royal colors for the celebration (legend has it that he was actually Russian royalty), with purple representing justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Apparently the idea was for people on parades to throw the beads to those who resembled these traits. The original beads were made of glass, which wasn’t very conducive to throwing, but today’s loot consists of plastic beads and coins in varying colors. Green, purple, and gold are still essential to Mardi Gras celebrations.

Mardi Gras Masks

What Mardi Gras celebration would be complete without colorful and creative masks? Masks offered individuals the opportunity to truly enjoy themselves without class constraints; for a couple of days they could be whoever they wanted to be. The tradition continues today, and all who attend the parades show up in highly decorated masks.

Torch Throwers

Finally, you might notice very talented flamethrowers leading the parade floats, which you might consider a more modern addition. However, those traditional torches were simply a way to light the streets so the revelers could enjoy the parades and festivities after dark. Attendees would often throw coins to the torchbearers in appreciation.

5 Entertaining Tips Everyone Should Know

Party season is right around the corner, and we have some great party tips to make your next get-together memorably festive. Whether it’s your turn to host an office party, a birthday celebration or just a good excuse to have fun with friends, these tips will provide you with what you need for success.


Pick a Theme

Holiday parties have a built-in theme, but even if you’re hosting a mid-week gathering for no particular reason, coming up with a concept for decorations, drinks and food can help you create a festive atmosphere. Luau and tiki themes are always hits for backyard barbecues, but don’t feel constrained to popular party ideas; you can go as wild as you like with your concept. Guests will be charmed with a Mardi Gras masquerade or a retro party with dishes and drinks from vintage cookbooks.




Cook Ahead

When you get most of the cooking done ahead of time, you give yourself more freedom to enjoy entertaining. Instead of spending your party in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on some complicated dish, plan a simple, straightforward menu of foods you know your guests will love. You and they will remember the fun more than the food, so prepare something elegant and easy. Lasagna, roasted chicken and macaroni and cheese are a few possibilities.

Cookware that looks and performs beautifully, such as this set of three handled baking dishes, lets you assemble and store entrees or side dishes the night before and pop them in the oven shortly before guests arrive. They go straight from the oven to the dinner table, saving you another step and giving you more time to spend with your guests.



Make It Inviting with Light

What makes a chic nightclub or formal restaurant special? In many cases, it’s the lighting, not the decor, that makes the difference. Try some special effects with lighting to make your next get-together magical. Outside, try stringing colorful paper lanterns or white fairy lights above your deck or patio. Interior spaces take on a beautifully warm and welcoming glow with candles. Kids and pets don’t always get along with candles, though, so choose child-friendly alternatives such as this electric pillar candle light string for part of your table design.



Create a Play List


Music makes a party, and you have more options than ever for music that complements your theme. Internet radio stations have hundreds of stations with dozens of exciting musical genres from which to choose. You can even find music from favorite television shows or movies to play as background music for a season finale party or Oscar night. For holiday parties, look for unique takes on classics; an album of vintage Christmas music, for example, makes your party memorable and will get people talking.



Appeal to All the Senses

You’ve already decorated, cooked and chosen the music, but don’t forget to make an impression on your guests’ noses. Bouquets of fresh flowers, incense or candle warmers have the staying power to perfume the air for hours without coming on too strong. For a dinner party, choose scents that go well with food and won’t overpower the meal, such as vanilla or spice fragrances. A summer cocktail party might call for something exotic and tropical.

Entertaining can be as much fun for you, the host, as it is for your guests when you plan. Start thinking about creative, fun party ideas today, and you’ll be set from now until the new year!