There's no denying that holidays have been weird in the past year. We've done solo-Halloweens, backyard Thanksgivings, and virtual Christmases. We've celebrated birthdays over Zoom. We've learned how to be together apart and apart together. Speaking of socially distanced soirees, Mardi Gras 2021 is going to look a little different, too.
Fat Tuesday takes place on February 16th, 2021. While we can't laissez les bon temps roulez in Nola this year, we can bring the party home with these fun ways to celebrate. (And hey, we may even try to get some beads while we're at it!)
The origins of Mardi Gras are not precisely known, but it is believed to have originated with Roman pagan celebrations. These days, it's got strong associations with New Orleans, which is where some of the biggest celebrations happen every year, including parades complete with marching bands and elaborate costumes. In a typical year, the biggest sites of activity are Bourbon Street and the French Quarter (though not this year, as New Orleans has banned parades).
Mardi Gras is traditionally the celebration and indulgence that happens before people start the fasting period of Lent. It's part of the Carnival season, which kicks off each year on January 6th, with the "Twelfth Night" festivities (so-called because it's the 12th day after Christmas). Every year, Mardi Gras falls on "Shrove Tuesday," which precedes Ash Wednesday.
Mardi Gras literally means "Fat Tuesday" in French, which is a nod to the consumption of food and drink that typically happens in excess during celebrations. It's also evolved to involve quite a bit of nudity and "flashing," often in exchange for Mardi Gras beads.
The celebrations this year will be nothing like they've ever been. But the good news is that some of the central components of the holiday—food, drink, nudity, and more—can all be enjoyed from the comfort of our own homes. Read on for some ideas of how to celebrate Mardi Gras in 2021.
For starters, being stuck at home for Mardi Gras this year is no reason not to dress up. Get your pod together and get fancy with beads, glitter, hats, and purple, green and gold costumes.
If you're wanting to join some real Mardi Gras celebrations, find a virtual one to join. There will surely be plenty of Mardi Gras virtual parties being put on, but you can also just arrange your own with friends, family, or coworkers. Virtual drinks may not be nearly as fun as getting together on Bourbon Street, but it can still be a good time.
One of the highlights—and central traditions—of Mardi Gras is eating. There are some traditional Mardi Gras eats, and there are also tons of Cajun and Creole recipes out there that will make any celebration downright delicious.
King cake is a long-standing tradition of Mardi Gras. It's an oval-shaped cake similar in texture to a cinnamon roll (sort of a bread-cake hybrid). It's decorated in gold, purple, and green and is oh-so-tasty. King Cakes typically include a "fève" ("fava bean" in French). Fèves are trinkets—often figurines—that are hidden in King Cakes and other desserts. The specifics of the King Cake and fève rituals vary from country to country and tradition to tradition. But it is a widely beloved part of the Carnival season. Here in the states, you're looking for a small plastic baby. Once the cake is cut and pieces are served, whoever gets the fève/baby is crowned the King (or Queen) of Mardi Gras, receives a prize, and/or is presumed to be blessed with luck and prosperity.
Some other great food options for Mardi Gras include Cajun Corn Maque Choux, Creole Red Beans, New Orleans Beignets, and Creole Fried Rice. OOLA's One Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe and Easy Cajun Shrimp And Grits Recipe are two other must-trys. To help you out with many different kinds of Cajun recipes, make a homemade Cajun or Creole seasoning. Similar to Tony Chachere's famous blend of spices, it includes cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, and sage, to name a few. It's crazy good, and yummy on meat, but you can also use it on popcorn, sweet potato fries, veggies, and more!
Mardi Gras may be a little unrecognizable this year, but that doesn't mean it needs to be any less tasty.
Alcohol and Mardi Gras go hand in hand. What is Mardi Gras without booze (or at the very least a virgin cocktail)? One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday at home is to whip up some fancy cocktails to make the occasion that much more festive and fun.
You're probably familiar with the classic Hurricane, but other Mardi Gras-themed cocktails include Brandy Milk Punch, Sazerac, Strawberry Daiquiri, Drunk Grasshopper, Zombie Cocktail, King Cake Shots, Roffignac, Absinthe Frappe, and Bourbon Hot Toddy.
If you want to be as on-theme as possible, try finding or creating purple, green, or "gold" cocktails—the traditional colors of Mardi Gras.
Though some may be disappointed by missing out on the usual festivities of Mardi Gras, we can still make this year's holiday special. To add to your food, drink, and in-person or virtual get-togethers, infuse some Mardi Gras and New Orleans spirit into the occasion. Decorate your house in purple, green, and gold. Have a mask-making party—or order some online. Dig out those Mardi Gras beads you've been hoarding since your college days. Laissez les bon temps roulez and play a game. Order Cajun takeout and put on a Mardi Gras playlist.
There are so many ways to enjoy Mardi Gras from home. Give yourself and your loved ones this time to indulge, celebrate, get a little wild, and experience one of our most festive holidays.