Mardi Gras, the French phrase for 'Fat Tuesday,' is celebrated in communities all along the Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. This feast before the beginning of Lent typically includes parades, galas and plenty of food.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s events will look a bit different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate. Here are 10 ways to enjoy Mardi Gras from home.
Photo courtesy of iStock / rustyl3599
Decorate in green, gold and purple
Purple, green and gold, the traditional colors of Mardi Gras, are said to represent justice, faith and power respectively. They are believed to have been chosen in 1872 during a visit to New Orleans by Russian Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov – these were the colors of his house. These days, you'll see many houses adorned in the trio of colors.
The annual Mardi Gras festivities typically overlap with the start of crawfish season in the South. During a typical year, celebrants host crawfish boils along parade routes and in backyards – just about anywhere Mardi Gras is celebrated.
To host your own boil, you’ll first need to source some seafood. Small businesses like Kenney Seafood on Louisiana’s Northshore, Acadia Crawfish in Crowley or Billy’s Seafood Market near Gulf Shores, Alabama will ship live or pre-boiled crawfish throughout the United States. You can also swap out the crawfish for shrimp, crab legs or lobster tails.
To give your boil the traditional taste of the Gulf Coast, be sure to season generously with Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil Seasoning. The company has been seasoning seafood boils in New Orleans since 1889.
1. Place the crawfish in a large cooler with a drain and rinse thoroughly for about five minutes until the water runs clean.
2. Fill a large cooking pot about halfway with water and season generously with crawfish boil seasoning. Cover and bring to a boil.
3. Move the crawfish into a cooking basket and lower into the pot. Add in some halved lemons, corn on the cob and red potatoes. Return to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the crawfish to soak for another 20 minutes.
4. Dump the crawfish and other add-ins onto a newspaper-covered table and dig in.
These glazed cakes, braided to resemble a king’s crown, have become a quintessential Mardi Gras tradition. It's believed that the tradition was brought to the New World from France, where these cakes were served as part of the Epiphany celebration.
Each king cake has a tiny plastic baby hidden inside, meant to represent baby Jesus. According to tradition, the person who finds the baby is King for a day and is tasked with hosting the next king cake party.
Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery in Slidell, Louisiana has been hand-braiding king cakes since 1965. Order online, and they’ll overnight a cake to your front door for your own Mardi Gras celebration.
Now that you’ve had dinner and dessert, it’s time to wash it all down with a Mardi Gras-themed martini. The Queen Lily Martini, a cocktail from the family at Bayou Terrebonne Distillers in Houma, Louisiana, is named after the owner’s great-grandmother Lily, a moonshiner and the town’s first ever Mardi Gras Queen.
How to make a Queen Lily Martini
1. Dip the rim of a martini glass into corn syrup and then purple, green and gold sugar.
2. Combine 1.5 shots of Contraband Gulf Coast Moonshine (or another white whiskey), one shot of vanilla syrup, one shot of salted caramel syrup, one shot of Chila 'Orchata and a shake of pumpkin pie spice in a shaker.
3. Add ice and shake.
4. Pour the mixture into your rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a slice of king cake and enjoy!
For a family-friendly Mardi Gras activity, decorate your own shoebox float, inspired by the intricate floats of the annual parades. You’ll need a shoebox with a lid, glue, scissors, tape, construction paper and whatever materials you’d like to decorate with. Need some inspiration?
Check out the shoebox floats entered into the Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Shoebox Float Contest. These miniature floats are just as impressive as the real thing.
Spend some time in Louisiana’s Cajun country during Mardi Gras and you’re bound to hear some Cajun French being spoken. Get ready for future in-person celebrations by learning a few words and phrases associated with the season.
Let the good times roll: laissez les bon temps roulez
Cajun dance party: fais do-do
Once we’re all traveling again, visit the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, Louisiana to practice your French at the weekly Tuesday night Cercle Francophone.
You might be wondering what MoonPies, a treat made in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have to do with Mardi Gras. In the town of Mobile, Alabama (where the first Mardi Gras celebration in the United States was held in 1703), Cracker Jack boxes had become a popular throw – a treat or trinket thrown from a Mardi Gras float to spectators.
If you’ve ever been hit in the head with a box of Cracker Jacks, you’ll know that the cardboard corners can be painful. This become so problematic that Mobile banned the practice in 1972. Soon after, the Maids of Mirth krewe began throwing MoonPies. They’re soft but heavy enough to get some leverage when throwing, and they were inexpensive.
The tradition caught on, and today, MoonPies rank among the most coveted throws.
With parades on hold in 2021, Mardi Gras-loving communities are finding new ways to celebrate. Instead of parade floats, many residents of New Orleans and other communities have decorated their homes instead. If you’re in New Orleans, you can parade yourself past these house floats thanks to the Krewe of House Floats map.
Mardi Gras isn’t just for humans. Many communities that celebrate have special celebrations for our four-legged friends. In a normal year, these events typically involve pet parades with doggie costume contests for the best dressed.
This year, pooches from around the country can take part in virtual events. Enter your pup into the Mardi Paws Costume Contest benefiting the St. Tammany Parish Dept. of Animal Services.
More than 80 percent of the floats that take to New Orleans’ streets during the annual Mardi Gras festivities are designed and built inside the facility at Mardi Gras World. Get a behind-the-scenes look at a Mardi Gras tradition with a virtual tour of the enormous float-filled warehouse. (Tip: Put on your VR glasses for the most immersive experience).