Being from the southern United States and only five hours from New Orleans meant Mardi Gras was a large part of my youth. One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is being on a crowded street in Mobile, Alabama having beads thrown at me from a mime-looking character on a parade float. As a kid, it was like some kind of demonic wonderland. I came home with a literal trash bag full of beads, MoonPies and a weird plastic microphone that sang a high-pitched song in a foreign language. But there are more things than just beads and people flashing their bits on Mardi Gras.
King cakes–a cake (often a bundt cake) decorated with green, purple and gold–are often served at parties. A small plastic baby, a coin or a bean is baked into the cake and whoever is served the slice of cake containing the item has to either host the Mardi Gras party or bake next year’s king cake.
The massive parades, however, are what Mardi Gras is most well known for. Participants in the parade often wear incredibly elaborate costumes in green, purple and/or gold; some wear giant bustles and headpieces, while others have incredibly intricate beaded bodices to create beautiful pictures. Stilt walkers are also incredibly common for Mardi Gras parades. The more spectacular and eye catching, the better.
Another Mardi Gras tradition is crafting masks. According to mardigrasneworleans.com, “float riders are required to wear masks by law.” Simplicity has no place here. It’s about big feather, bright colors and shiny beads. “In the beginning, masks worn during Mardi Gras allowed wearers to escape society and class constraints.” Take the opportunity to be as extravagant as you’d like. If crafting isn’t your thing, you can buy them online or in select costume stores.
Most people think of Mardi Gras as a time to get drunk, flash their bits and catch beads. While these can be part of the festivities, Mardi Gras is also so much more elaborate and fantastical. More information on the traditions and history of Mardi Gras can be found at https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/.