Mardi Gras traditions from around the globe
February 01, 2010
Mardi Gras as we know it, or "Fat Tuesday," is the celebration of excess and pleasures of the flesh before the traditionally somber Lenten season. However, for thousands of years, people have been ushering in the spring time and a new year with revelries and festivals. In fact, many of today's Mardi Gras celebrations stem from the traditional vernal parties.
In almost all cultures that celebrate Mardi Gras, masks and costumes were an important part of the celebrations. They elevated revelers beyond their daily roles in their community and allowed them to participate in the rituals and activities as masked and anonymous citizens.
Today, festivalgoers around the world typically don fun and colorful outfits and costumes. In America, it's common for those who celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans to wear bright wigs, outlandish outfits and, of course, plenty of Mardi Gras beads.
One fun and modern tradition that the French settlers brought over to America is the king cake. This festive confection is usually a cinnamon-flavored cake with sugary icing that has a small figurine, most commonly a plastic baby, baked into it.
Families would gather round, divide the cake into equal sections, and then dig in. The person who gets the piece with the trinket becomes the "king."
The king often gets to wear and crown and is granted certain privileges, though they are also charged with providing the cake for next year.
Mardi Gras Around the World
Rio de Janeiro is a hot spot renowned for its "blocos de carnaval," which is a parade that takes over the entire city on Fat Tuesday. All of Rio is covered in Mardi Gras decorations and partiers wearing colorful outfits covered in feathers and silk.
Salvador's Mardi Gras equivalent, Carnaval, has the largest street party on the planet according to the Guiness Book, and the event lasts an entire week.
Other metropolitan areas with a French influence, like Montreal, also have renowned celebrations before the repentant season.
In Quebec, for example, the revelers start the festivities on the last Friday of January and celebrate until the middle of February with outdoor winter sports and activities.
Host Your Own Mardi Gras Party
To incorporate some of the traditional activities into your Mardi Gras party, start out by requesting that way all of your guests come in costume on your Mardi Gras invitations. This way everyone will get into the festive spirit of your fete.
Next, throw up as many Mardi Gras decorations as possible in your party space to create a carnival feel. Look for purple, silver and gold streamers, balloons and party lights.
Finally, make sure that you have a king cake (with a plastic trinket baked inside) to determine who the king of the night is.
As guests arrive, hand out fun Mardi Gras party supplies like beaded necklaces and glow sticks, and let the fun begin!