In France, the day before Ash Wednesday became Mardi Gras. It’s a Christian holiday that became a prelude to Lent.
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday.” It was a time to binge on fatty foods like meat, eggs and cheese, and eat whatever was left of it in your home to get ready for Lent. This feasting tradition spread throughout European countries like Italy, France and Germany until it later made its way to the United States.
When we think of Mardi Gras today, we think of New Orleans, Louisiana. The first American Mardi Gras took place in New Orleans on March 3, 1699. French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville landed nearby and named the area Point du Mardi Gras after holding a small celebration there.
Flash forward to present day and Mardi Gras has become a huge, festive holiday of street parties, parades and masked balls. Traditions that have lasted since the 1800s are throwing beads and trinkets, wearing masks, eating and baking King Cake, and decorating floats for parades.
Mardi Gras is a fun and unique holiday to get the kids involved in too! Here are some creative, kid-friendly ways to celebrate and teach them about the traditions of Mardi Gras:
-Make your own Mardi Gras mask: One of Mardi Gras’ many traditions is making and wearing masks. Set aside a time to do arts and crafts and have the kids make their own masks using feathers, stickers, tissue paper, glitter and anything else they love. Once they’re made, they can proudly wear their masks for the day.
-Make Mardi Gras jewelry: Mardi Gras is a holiday full of vibrant colors! Let your child’s creativity shine through by making their own bracelets and necklaces. You can use regular, plastic beads for this or they can also make their own beads. You can make beads by rolling up colorful slips of paper or duct tape. Put them on a string to make a bracelet or necklace.
-Make your own musical instruments: Music is a big part of New Orleans and Mardi Gras celebrations. Learn how to make your own drums, maracas and tambourines. It’s easy! You can use objects you already have lying around in your house like a coffee can, plastic lid and dried beans or beads. They can add their own personal touch to their instruments by decorating them using stickers or paint. You can also cut up colorful paper into shapes and have them glue in on their new, home-made instrument.
-Bake some Mardi Gras/New Orleans themed desserts: New Orleans is known for some yummy desserts like their beignets, but they have even more tasty treats during Mardi Gras season. You can make these desserts as simple or as intricate as you want. For example, you can do something as easy as chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels with Mardi Gras colored sprinkles. You can also make a traditional King Cake or even mini King Cake cupcakes which are the perfect serving. You can even whip up your own beignets! The kids will love baking all these goodies and they’ll love eating them even more.