Mardi Gras is a celebration with a long history. It’s been celebrated globally for hundreds of years. The traditions migrated to the United states in 1872. In 1875, the Governor of Louisiana declared “Fat Tuesday” a legal holiday.
Mardi Gras refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and concluding on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Christian Lenten season (mardigrasneworleans.com).
Mardi Gras Celebration and Traditions – New Orleans, LA
Mardi Gras is a destination holiday for the city of New Orleans. The big celebration is a parade along Bourbon Street. There are floats, costumes, beads thrown to parade goers and lots of food and libations. One popular custom is to create and wear a mask. These masks are works of art and add to the color and excitement of the day.
Another celebrated tradition is the King Cake. Each king cake has a tiny baby inside (generally plastic now, but it’s possible the baby might be made of porcelain or even gold). In the past, you might have found an item such as a coin, bean, pecan or pea in a king cake. The lucky person who receives the slice of cake with the baby has the next king cake celebration.
The king cake tradition is believed to have been brought over from France in the 1870s. Originally, king cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. After the rich dough is braided and baked, the top of the cake is covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold (purple for “justice,” green for “faith” and gold for “power”). In more recent years, many bakeries have been creative, topping their cakes with different flavors of cream cheese and fruit fillings and offering them in various shapes (Hatic 2018). You can find them in most Texas and Louisiana grocery stores starting at the end of January.
Mardi Gras Celebration and Traditions – Galveston, TX
It didn’t take Texas long to notice the fun and festivities of our neighboring state of Louisiana. Many Texans make the 5 ½ hour drive to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. But there are choices! There is an annual parade and celebration right in Galveston, TX on the Strand which is the historic district of Galveston.
In 1985, native Galvestonian George P. Mitchell and his wife, Cynthia, launched the revival of a citywide Mardi Gras celebration. The Mitchells had long dreamed of restoring the Island’s splendid tradition, and the grand opening of their elegant Tremont House hotel on the Strand provided the spark to do so.
Mardi Gras Home Celebration
So many people love to have and attend a good party, Mardi Gras is the perfect way to usher in winter with colorful fun. If you like the do-it-yourself website Pinterest, you can get lots of ideas on how to host your own Mardi Gras party at home. Just search for key words like “Mardi Gras Party”, “Mardi Gras Costume”, “Mardi Gras Décor” or “Mardi Gras Recipes” and you’ll have everything you need to get your party planned.
Mardi Gras Safety Concerns
Ok, so not to damper your ideas for having Mardi Gras fun, you’ll want to make a party safety plan. Picture guests being silly, walking around in masks, drinking alcoholic beverages, eating with abandon, and eventually driving home. You’ll want to keep these safety tips in mind.
King Cake: Be sure your party guests are aware there may be a plastic baby Jesus in their cake bite! These party favors are usually very small and could pose a choking hazard, especially if children are eating the cake.
Responsible Drinking of Alcohol: If you plan to have adult beverages while you party, be sure you have a safe way home. Party hosts should have a plan to address safe transport for anyone who appears to have had too much alcohol and may be impaired to drive. An Uber or Lyft is worth the price for keeping your guests safe.
City Celebrations: Know in advance that street celebrations are often very crowded and it’s important to decide if it is safe to bring children, especially young children in strollers or who need a parent to guide them or help with mobility. Be sure you have a plan in case family or group members are separated.
Throwing Mardi Gras Beads: It wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without some bead throwing! These beads are generally pearl sized plastic strung in a colorful necklace. People become very excited with the idea of throwing beads from parade floats to parade goers on the ground. If you are going to be in a large crowd, be sure to protect your eyes. We’ve never seen anyone wearing safety goggles to Mardi Gras but it’s not a bad idea! Eye injuries can mean a trip to the ER if they are severe enough. Also, beads need to be kept away from babies and young children to prevent a choking hazard.
So, as the French say, “Laissez le bon temps rouler!” (Let the good times roll!) Have a happy and safe Mardi Gras celebration, no matter where you are.
“Mardi Gras History.” Mardi Gras New Orleans, http://mardigrasneworleans.com/history/.
Hatic, Dana. “The King Cake Tradition, Explained.” Eater, Eater, 4 Jan. 2018,
“The History of Mardi Gras! Galveston.” GALVESTON.COM: Official Website of Galveston Island, Texas Tourism & Marketing, http://galveston.com/mardigrashistory/.