Mardi Gras is known for its perception of being a wild party, but did you know Mardi Gras has great significance? This is why most New Orleans citizens would say to bring your kids and celebrate. If you’re not quite ready to take a trip to New Orleans, here is a bit of history and activities so you can have a kid-friendly Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras dates last from the end of the holiday season to the day of Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. This time is also called Carnival and is celebrated in many countries, and ends before Ash Wednesday or the start of Lent. This celebration dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites and Roman festivals. When Christianity was invented, leaders decided to incorporate these celebrations instead of getting rid of them.
1. Eat Beignets for Breakfast
Beignets are a French favorite and it's no surprise that it is a New Orleans favorite as well, with their French history background. This deep-fried dough treat will certainly get the kids ready for a day of Mardi Gras fun.
2. Buy Beads
Beads are a big part of the festivities. You can go buy beads and string and let your little ones create their own beaded necklace. You can also just go buy the necklaces and make your own home decorations such as beaded wreaths and streamers. Colorful beads are an add on to the celebration and the kids are sure to like them!
3. Decorate Masks
Have some leftover beads and arts and crafts in the closet, have a ‘most creative mask’ competition! Let the kids make their own masks from a paper plate and string and let the creativity flow. Mardi Gras is the largest masked celebration in North America and was originally worn to allow goers to escape society and class constraints. Anyone can be who they want to be on Mardi Gras and talk to whoever they want to talk to. Today, everyone wears masks on Fat Tuesday and float riders are even required by law.
4. Make Your Own Floats
Still, have some arts and crafts leftover? Gather some old shoe boxes and the kids can build their own floats with some beads, stickers, paint and tissue paper. When they are done, attach a string at the end and let them parade it down the block.
5. Make Jambalaya
Jambalaya is a traditional New Orleans meal and a great representation of Mardi Gras food. You can’t have a Mardi Gras for kids without trying out a new type of food. Who knows it might become their favorite. Want an easy recipe, here is one from McCormick.
6. Create your own Krewe
A krewe is a social organization that puts on parades during the carnival season. The first krewe in Louisiana was the Mystick Krewe of Comus. They organized a torch-lit parade with marching bands and rolling floats. This is how the public celebration of Mardi Gras came to be. A fun activity would be for the family to come up with your own Krewe name while participating in activities like creating beads and masks!
7. Practice French
The language spoken in New Orleans, next to English of course, is French. Practicing some basics can get the kids interested in different languages.
la reine = queen
le roi = king
un defile = parade
un collier = necklace
le violet = purple (justice)
l'or = gold (power)
le vert = green (faith)
mère = mother
père = father
soeur = sister
frère = brother
Seeing a parade and joining the festivities is a great way to celebrate Mardi Gras. If you are not in the New Orleans area there are usually local parades that can be just as fabulous. This will allow the kids to experience a new type of celebration and allow them to have fun all in one. Remember to bring your beads and masks! If you don’t plan on attending a parade, that is okay, make your own at home. Put on some jazz and samba music and dance around the house. Also, if you are attending a parade make sure your little ones don’t go running after beads and candy, for their safety and the safety of the people participating in the parade.
9. Bake Your Own King Cake
The king cake originated in France in the 12th century. It is to celebrate the three wise men giving gifts twelve days after Christmas. The day is known as the Feast of Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or Three Kings day. Making and creating the cake is too original to celebrate and honor the three kings. The cake is usually circular and is covered in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, Green (faith), Purple (justice) and gold (power). Also, the cake usually hides a little toy baby. Whoever's piece holds the baby is declared king for the day and is said to have good luck in the coming year. This Mardi Gras food will be a hit with the kids especially if they make it with you. Here is a simple recipe for the family to make a king cake and don’t forget the toy baby!
10. Have Fun!
Mardi Gras is a perfect reason to celebrate with the family and teach the kiddos about something new! Whether you are visiting New Orleans or celebrating at home there are plenty of traditions that are kid-friendly to take part in. My favorite tradition is trying to bake beignets and king cakes. I mean who doesn’t love a reason to eat sweets? Does your family have any fun Mardi Gras traditions that you like to celebrate?