Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Guide to Mardi Gras

I lived in Lousisiana for two years in Grad school. Best thing about living in Louisiana is the food AND the fact we get a week off in February to celebrate Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is a holiday that is derived from the French Carnivale. It happens on the eve before Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent for all Catholics. Because Catholics must abstain from pleasures during Lent, Mardi Gras is an evening where one is supposed to revel in pleasure (because you're about to give something up.) A lot of people forget that Mardi Gras is a religous based holiday and it only has such as large base in New Orleans due to the fact that a large population of New Orleans is still Catholic.

Mardi Gras is some form or another is also celebrated in Belgium, Amsterdam and Italy with their traditional Carnivales which happen at a similar time. There is also gay Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia where they take the day of Mardi Gras and use it as a venue for their yearly Gay Pride festival. 


Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff visited New Orleans in 1892. As part of his visit he got to pick the official colors for the festival. He chose purple, green and gold. Purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. They have stayed the same ever since. The coins and beads thrown at Mardi Gras parades are these colors to symbolize these meanings and the beads also thrown to get girls to take their tops off.
GIMME BEADS! Do you know how hard it was to find a bead photo without boobs in it?
The coins have a picture of Rex on them. Last year over 350,000 GROSS of beads and coins were tossed out at Mardi Gras!
The King Rex Coins.
King Cake is a cake where a small plastic baby is baked inside of the cake. The cake is a white cake with tri color frosting and a jam filling. It looks a little like a big donut traditionally and tastes similar to brioche. You cut the cake up and whoever gets the baby inside their cake is supposed to have the most luck for the following year.
King Cake! Find the baby!
Are a throw back to the French costume balls of the 1700's. They were banned under the Spanish rule of New Orleans but came back with advengance. You will also notice at Italian Carnivale the use of masks and costumes are a common theme.
Indians in the Mardi Gras parade! LOVE their costumes!
The most unique costumes in the parade belong to the Indians. They build new costumes every year including the year after Katrina. They are really beautiful and I feel one of the most stunning thing about New Orleans.
Even celebrities wear costumes on Mardi Gras!
The first Mardi Gras parade was in 1837. The tradition happened yearly and usually without permit until the 1960's when the government of New Orleans realized that the parade and the festival were becoming a major draw for tourism. Krewes or "clubs" were introduced to the parade in 1969. The first and most famous krewe is the Bachus Krewe which is famous for having a celebrity ride on their float to be named king or queen of Mardi Gras. Other famous Krewes are the Orpheus and the Edymion Krewe. Greek and Roman Mythology are common themes in parades and Krewe names. The Krewes compete against one another for prizes for best float, best dancers in the parade, best costumes, best theme, etc. It's all good fun but with pride on the line. 
The 2009 Mardi Gras Parade
There aren't really foods one must eat at Mardi Gras other than King Cake. The main purpose of Mardi Gras is to eat and drink as much as possible within a 24 hour period. Traditional Creole/Cajun foods include: gumbo, crawfish anything, fried catfish, bananas foster, etoufee, beignets and of course, the traditonal new orleans drink The Hurricaine!
Anything fattening and sugarry is good for a mardi gras celebration as traditionally during Lent one is supposed to abstain from fat, sugar, and alcohol.

Hurricanes. They are red due to the grenadine in them!

Recipe for Hurricane
1 oz vodka
1/4 oz grenadine syrup
1 oz gin
1 oz light rum
1/2 oz Bacardi® 151 rum
1 oz triple sec
grapefruit juice
pineapple juice

Mix all the liquor in order into a large pitcher with ice. Stir in equal parts pineapple and grapefruit juice. Chill and Serve with fruit slice and umbrella for extra classiness while getting yourself
shit faced!

*Some people add Amaretto to Hurricane's. I do not do this due to my nut allergy but if you would like it GO ahead!*

*PS- Thanks to the blogs who allowed me to use their photos. I am not in the US right now and therefore am not able to take my own pictures. I thank you for letting me use yours so I can tell my international viewers about our awesome holiday!*


  1. to eat and drink as much as possible within a 24 hour period
    Oh my god, sounds super! :) Thanks for the kind instruction in the front. I understand better now.
    I love these all kinds of festivals celebration of other countries because Koreans don't have that much and it's not that festive. Most of them are just for families and stuff.
    I remember watched the one episode with you of..who was it? I think that's from one of the photo in this post, that your guilty pleasure show once. Anyway it sounds really fun.

  2. Mardi Gras is fun. Lent is not fun. Starting this week there are a lot of grumpy catholics who have given up the vice they love most. Chocolate, Sex, Meat, Smoking, Booze or something else of personal value to them. Now there are bunched of pissed off people who want CHOCOLATE! (But not me! I don't do Lent.)