Everything You Need To Know Abut Mardi Gras

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Growing up in New Orleans, I’ve got a unique perspective to share about the family fun that is Mardi Gras.

mardi gras king cake

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. The following day, Ash Wednesday, is the start of lent.  Believers observe lent by fasting or giving something up.  So Mardi Gras is the day they gorge on all the things.  Hence the name Fat Tuesday.  And it is ONE BIG party.

Most of the people I know have never even BEEN to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  So their concept of Mardi Gras is brought to them by the media…booze and breasts,  That is not the Mardi Gras I know.  And just like most of us can attest from other forums in life, the media doesn’t always accurately depict things. Yes there is booze and yes some women flash themselves to get stuff from the floats, but in the 10 years of going to Mardi Gras parades growing up, I never saw it once (the flashing)! There are spots designated for families and most of the partygoers don’t go there.  Here is a quote I found:

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 Kids don’t belong in the French Quarter or on Canal Street during Mardi Gras. So take the family to St. Charles Avenue between First Street and Napoleon Avenue. Here the parade goers are all families. Many bring their ladders with kiddie seats attached to the top. The atmosphere is good, clean family fun.
My mom said kids usually dress up, I don’t remember this, but here are my brother Ryan and I all dressed up for Mardi Gras…we look a little unhappy here…

mardi gras costumeMardi Gras Parades

Parades went on for weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day.  I didn’t know much about lent growing up, I just knew we got 3 days off of school the week of Mardi Gras. My family had friends who even started their own “krewe” called the Krewe of Little Rascals. That parade happened in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. When I was 5, my brother Ryan and I got to ride on the float and throw beads and cups and toys off to people in the crowds. (below I am climbing up the ladder onto my float…in the tiger costume)

mardi gras parade

It was called “little rascals” because it was all about the kids. Kids were the main participants on the floats. Each krewe also has a King and Queen and in this case, it was also children. My brother and I got to ride on a float in this parade and throw treats to the crowd.

Our parents supplied us with Mardi Gras beads, cups, doubloons, and trinkets to throw from the float. The idea is that it would last us the entire parade route.  But my 5 year old self didn’t know I was supposed to ration it out.  I dumped all my stuff out to people in the first 5 minutes!  But my brother was very meticulous and only threw out a little at a time. The story goes that he generously shared with me the rest of the parade, so I had more to throw to the crowds. What a good big brother!

The picture below, my dad looking at the camera, and my little brother, Russell with the handsome collar on the bottom.

family friendly mardi gras

 

kid friendly mardi gras

I have fond memories as a child sitting on top of a homemade ladder box seat, waving my arms yelling, “Throw me something, Mister!” The people on the floats threw bead necklaces, small toys, doubloon coins, but I was always hoping for a LONG bead or stuffed animal.  If you have one handy bring a ladder so you are high enough that the people on the floats can see us you.

There are sections in New Orleans that catered more to the family crowd and thats where we would go. My grandparents would often fly in from Utah each February/March to join us in the Mardi Gras festivities…it was a family affair!

mardi gras parade tips

I even found a picture of me in 8th grade standing atop a ladder with my littler brother inside, two friends next to me, and my dad below in the swagger shades.

Mardi Gras Ladder

Most Popular Mardi Gras parades:

  • Uptown New Orleans: Krewe of Zulu
  • Uptown New Orleans:  Krewe of Rex
  • Mid City:  Krewe of Endymion
  • Uptown New Orleans:  Krewe Bacchus

I remember the year that the cast of Growing Pains came to the Endymion parade (always had a celebrity each year) and I got just a few feet away from my middle school crush, Kirk Cameron. If you lived in the 80’s and didn’t have a poster of him on your wall, then I’m not sure we can be friends. Yes, I took the below picture with my 110 film camera.

Kirk Cameron Picture

Each parade left us with a great big bag of loot.  This is not a good picture, but shows us going through our treasures after the parades are over.  We would dump it out and survey the goodies just like you would do with your Halloween bag.

King Cakes

King Cakes are also a yummy memory.  At school, we would have a king cake every Friday.  Whoever got the “baby” would bring the king cake the next week.  This would go on for 6 to 8 weeks or so.

Being close to Louisiana, there are some parades in Texas and a few bakeries even sell King Cakes.  I love getting them to help share in the tradition with my kids. My brothers lives in Tennessee, so his wife often bakes a King Cake for their family.  So you don’t have to have a bakery near by in order to enjoy one!

In our family, we guess where the baby is hidden.  I make a flag for each family member.  Each family member makes a guess where the baby will be.  Stick the flag in that spot and claim your piece of King Cake.

king cake

Look who got the baby!
king cake baby
Check out more fun Mardi Gras Ideas!
Mardi Gras recipes, crafts, and decorMardi Gras King Cake