You don’t have to travel to New Orleans or Rio to get in on the rich and raucous Mardi Gras. You can plan a killer party for the traditional end of Carnival season — which culminates on Fat Tuesday (Feb. 28 this year) — with a small budget and some creativity. And who isn’t looking for a reason to celebrate in February? Here’s what you need:
Don’t let the thought of trying new recipes scare you away from a party. You can serve simple dishes that bring the flavor of New Orleans right to your home, according to Country Living. Shrimp-and-grits appetizers, crab cakes, jambalaya and po’ boys are delicious — and easy to make — authentic fare. Buy a King Cake at your local supermarket or order one right from New Orleans at KingKingCakes.com.
The tradition of wearing masks was adopted so celebrants could escape societal and class constraints, thus allowing everyone to whoop it up as equals, according to Latin Times. You can get a wide array of inexpensive masks from retailers like Oriental Trading Co., PureCostumes and PartyCity. Or, you can go upmarket — who knows, maybe you have more than one masquerade party to attend — with some of the elegant handmade masks offered on Etsy. Or make it a party activity: Provide your guests with undecorated masks, lots of beads, feathers and glitter, and let them create their own disguises.
If you want to go all-out, check out the Mardi Gras costumes at PartyCity for some affordable costume options — or just to get some ideas. The traditional colors for the occasion are purple, gold and green. As The Good Stuff explains, you may be able to pull together a perfectly acceptable Mardi Gras ensemble directly from your closet. And if not, there’s always the Goodwill store and other second-hand outlets.
The purple, green and gold beads aren’t just for throwing to the crowds that watch the floats in New Orleans. They also make great table decorations and party favors for guests. Or go a step beyond: NewInNola offers ideas on how you can use these beads to create bead trees, mosaics, chandeliers and other artwork. You can buy Mardi Gras beads in bulk through Amazon.
The air in New Orleans is filled with music by unknown and celebrity jazz musicians. For a festive a Mardi Gras party, there’s nothing better than live music — so this is the time for you or your guests to unleash your musical talents. If you’d rather leave it to professionals, and need a place to start, click through this NPR piece on “The Music of Mardi Gras.” From there you can start compiling a playlist from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Wild Magnolias, Buckwheat Zydeco, Professor Longhair and more.
All-ages Mardi Gras games abound. Consider a gold coin hunt recommended by Party411.com. It’s easy: Give each guests a gift bag and send them to find gold candy coins you’ve scattered around the room or yard. The person with the most gold coins can be crowned King or Queen of the party. Other ideas including bobbing for apples (nope, it’s not just for kids) and “bowling” games with a mini bowling set you can find at Amazon or other retailers.
Don’t forget the office
Yes, Tuesday is a tough day to have a party. Many people have their Mardi Gras blowouts on the weekend. But purists may want to bring the party to work on the actual day. Bustle recommends setting out some King Cake, hanging beads and a mask at your desk, and turning on smooth jazz. Gather your co-workers for a gumbo lunch and perhaps an after-work sip of bourbon to savor Fat Tuesday.
Do you need a reason to celebrate in February? Share your celebration ideas with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.