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Most people think of Halloween as being the only day to host a party that you can dress up at. However, Mardi Gras was a grand event at one time, not the drunken fest that it can be now. In the late 1800s, it was a time of family parades and balls or masquerades. It was a tradition that many begged entrance to and few were ever invited. But it was such a time of celebration after Twelfth Night, which was the close of the winter season or the twelfth day of Christmas. Once the sixth of January is over, the celebrations begin until the day before Ash Wednesday, which is commonly referred to as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.

Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: Gnuckx, Flickr

People of position would form Krewes, who are the planners and executors of the party. Each member of the Krewe was responsible for inviting guests and in turn, the guests could invite guests. They were elaborate themed balls where women wore beautiful gowns and men were chivalrous. The food was extravagant and the dancing was enthusiastic.

This year is the year to bring back the past. Adopt something new, we did after all, beat the apocalypse last December. That should be our cue to live life to the fullest and to experience new things. You should treat yourself to a night of luxury! So, in honor of the upcoming Mardi Gras holiday, here are some tips to kick off your new year!

Form a Krewe
This is just another word for “crew”. Back in the day, it was the    Krewe that planned everything and even participated in the Tableau, or a still life depiction featuring the theme. So, like statues of a scene. These people can be family or friends, but choose well. You want people who can help and will share expenses.

Choose a Theme
The theme is very important because your entire ball will be based on this one idea. Just as many of us coordinate our homes with a particular themed décor, this same principle should be applied to your party. It will even affect your food choices! However you choose your theme, the colors of green, purple, and gold are the colors of Mardi Gras. Most themes can incorporate those colors predominantly.
Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: Brides

Decide on your menu according to your theme. It doesn’t really make sense to have seafood at a western themed party. However, an under the sea gathering would support that well. Check into catering options or ask for your guests to bring a dish to share and set it up buffet style where you have room. Perhaps decorate the dining area in your home for people to walk through and get their food.
Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: Hoosier Homemade

A crucial piece of the historical puzzle is to bake a King’s Cake with a bean having been thrown in the batter. When you cut the cake, whoever has the bean in their cake hosts the next party or becomes ruler of the Mardi Gras. In the past, a king and queen were crowned to preside over the festivities once the bean was found. One option would be to use a member of the Krewe to keep an eye on the food and drink making sure that there are not any guests that go without.
Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: The Tomkat Studio

The olden day invites were very artsy and would be framed to show off the fact that they had attended a Mardi Gras ball. Give them a little elegant southern flair perhaps.
Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: Brookhollow Cards

Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: Scriptura

Before you send your invitations, you need to decide on where this affair will be held. A home of the Krewe will be your least expensive route, but there are also possibilities like hotel conference rooms or themed establishments that can accommodate a very large party.
Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: Preston Bailey

You need to face the fact that not everyone will come dressed to the nines. But if you ask people to come dressed up, you had better make sure you are in costume as well. Be specific if you want masks to be worn or if they are optional. Generally, formal gowns and suits were worn, however, the custom has migrated to accepting themed costumes as well.

The décor for your party will largely depend on what your theme is. To make it easier, pick one that your Krewe has in common or has pieces they can contribute. The balls were lavishly decorated and there are ways to do this inexpensively, but having the Krewe contribute vases or chairs, even rugs or dishes will help you immensely.
Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: The Crafty Hostess

Celebrating the Mardi Gras Tradition
Photo Credit: Karas Party Ideas

Decorating the tableau should be an enormous amount of fun. Whether you have one or not is up to you, but they aren’t all that hard to put together and make super backdrops for pictures. Make a backdrop that you can set up behind it using plywood and fabric or even custom wallpaper that matches your theme. The backdrops of yesteryear were ornate and elaborate scenes befit to receive the royalty of the evening.

Here are some ways to create a ballroom like space in your home:

First, clear out most of your furnishings, leaving the middle of the floor open for dancing. Bonus rooms are great for this because many are oversized and can house quite a few people. If you are like me, I would play music through my surround sound, but I don’t want to have it show. I mean, you need it in there but you don’t want it to detract from the atmosphere.

Create a tent feel in the room by taking fabrics, yards and yards of fabrics, and create a faux ceiling that will fall to the floor and wall off your equipment. Shop the bargain bins at the fabric stores for enough fabric to complete your project.

Lay the fabric out on the floor in a pattern that will intersect in the middle. Pull up enough of all the layers to create a pouf ball and secure it with a zip tie. Take the pouf and secure it to your ceiling, pins should be enough depending on the weight. Give each streamer some slack and secure the edges of the fabric to the ceiling where it meets the wall, or where you wish the wall to fall. Leave the lengths to pool on the floor for effect.

Using an area for your display, be it a front room or an area of your ballroom, segregate your area either with a stage or with colored paper on the floor, perhaps a piece of plywood covered in fabric. This area is used for photos as well as crowning the King and Queen of the Mardi Gras.

If you are going to make it a real Mardi Gras ball, there needs to be music for dancing. Having a live band is not really necessary but creating a playlist or CD is a great idea instead of turning on the radio. Traditionally, there were special souvenirs handed out when a member of the Krewe danced with another guest. These were very specific tokens that were custom made for the event. Beads, coins, or even jewelry are ideas you could use if you want it to be a very traditional gathering.

As a member of the Krewe, and the host, you should free yourself up to mingle and enjoy the evening. Assign positions to others to enable you to be a part of the party. Your presence will make the party.

Mardi Gras has been a very pompous holiday in Louisiana for many, many years. Bring a little frivolity and lightheartedness into your life by celebrating it as they used to, and still do in some parts of the state. It is a holiday that has been tainted with the drinking and flashing so that lookers on don’t understand the real reason for it. It never was a reason to become inebriated and rowdy. It has been a day of celebration, bringing the last weeks of Carnival to an end before Lent. It is a time to enjoy those around you and look forward to the next year with such great friends in your life!

{Maddy Olsen has written this post for Costume Super Center}