Happy Fat Tuesday: Celebrate & Learn About the Cultural Roots of Mardi Gras

Happy Fat Tuesday!

It may be business as usual here in New England, but way down south in New Orleans they are having a huge party! Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) has arrived, and the whole city is celebrating! The traditions of Mardi Gras take all forms, and encompass everything from cake to sequins in an all-out celebration of local culture.

Mardi Gras’ roots lie in Catholicism, as the day after Mardi Gras- Ash Wednesday – begins the season of Lent, wherein members of the church give up certain indulgences until Easter Sunday. In order to prepare for Lent, New Orleanians celebrate like mad and spend a day truly enjoying all of the good things in life. Mardi Gras is perhaps best known for its parades filled with outrageous floats, unbelievable costumes, and lavish decorations and embellishments. In addition to these events, Mardi Gras brings together beignets and King Cake, Cajun and Zydeco music, Native American traditions, and thousands of strings of beads to create one of the most fascinating celebrations in America.

To celebrate Mardi Gras at home and learn about the cultural roots of this exciting event, spend some time soaking in traditional New Orleans music. Zydeco, jazz, blues, and Cajun music are all staples in the city’s music scene, and families can hear some of these unique sounds on the Hilltown Families Variety Show Mardi Grad Episode. While you jam to the music of the Gulf Coast, fill your kitchen with the scents and flavors of New Orleans’ French Quarter by making beignets, jambalaya, beans and rice, etouffee, or King Cake! Watch a documentary video or read a children’s book or two to learn more about the specifics of how Mardi Gras has evolved over the years to encompass the many different cultural traditions of New Orleans.

While learning about Mardi Gras, compare it to major celebrations here in New England. How does it measure up, and what might this have to do with the contrast between the histories of New England and the Gulf Coast. Differences aside, it’s a hoot to celebrate Mardi Gras up north, too! Peruse these Mardi Gras crafts for ways to decorate your home and yourselves by doing activities big and small – you’ll find instructions for everything from paper crowns to hand-knitted Mardi Gras beads.

Enjoy your Fat Tuesday!

[Photo credit: (cc) Logan Brown]

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