Eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow it is Lent! The day before Ash Wednesday is a day of celebration throughout the Catholic world. The name Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, may have arisen because the French used to drive a fat ox through the streets of Paris on this day. Or it may refer to the fact it is the day before the strict fast of Lent begins and all the “fat” foods like meat, eggs, cheese and butter had to be consumed before they went to waste.
Whatever you want to call it, this is a great time for families to have fun together.
- Green, gold and purple are the colors of the holiday, so use them liberally. Purple represents justice, green stands for faith and gold signifies power. One idea is to set the dinner table with green napkins and tablecloth, drink purple grape juice and serve a golden dessert like pears or caramels — after you dine on pancakes, of course!
- Wear a costume. Dressing up like kings and queens is integral to many Mardi Gras festivals. Let your kids put on their crowns, glass slippers, pirate hats and puffy shirts. While you’re at it, put on your own dressiest outfit and join in the party. Be sure to wear lots of colorful beads since brightly colored strings of beads are part of the fun.
- Make a mask. Masks are an important part of any costume, so cut a paper plate in half, attach a paper dowel, cut out eye holes, get out the glitter, glue, feathers and have at it!
- Create a parade. What would Mardi Gras be without a parade? Have your kids make a train of chairs, decorate them with ribbons, streams and balloons in green, gold and purple, then put their stuffed animals and dolls on them like they are riding on floats.
- Another idea is to have each member of the family decorate a shoe box and then use all your “floats” as table decorations. A small doll in costume makes a good rider for a shoe box float. Be sure to sing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and march all around your “parade.”
- Go for a walk. Especially in New Orleans, “walking clubs,” groups of people in costume, walk about on Mardi Gras, sometimes following the parades and handing out trinkets. Once you are all bedecked with your finery, go for a walk around the neighborhood and hand out pieces of gold-wrapped chocolates.
- Bake a king cake. A tiny plastic baby representing the Christ Child is baked inside a specially made cake. The person who finds it will have good luck the next year — and they have to provide next year’s king cake as well. The cake is usually decorated with sugar that has been colored purple, green and gold with food coloring.
Whatever you do, just make sure that your day is filled with love, laughter and lots of good stuff to eat!