The kids and I are learning all the things we never knew we never knew about Mardi Gras. Since we were selected to host a Zatarain’s Mardi Gras House Party through www.houseparty.com we have been researching exactly what it is. I have never been to Mardi Gras and all my preconceived notions about it are based on the sensationalistic reports of the media, each year. I had no idea of its origins.
The season for Mardi Gras begins on January 6th each year, and runs all the way through Fat Tuesday (the day before Pentecost). Mardi Gras is literally translated “Fat Tuesday”. The 12th day after Christmas is sometimes called “Twelfth Night” or “King’s Day”, supposedly coinciding with the day the Magi brought gifts to Jesus.
The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple, which symbolizes justice; green, which stands for faith; and gold, which represents power. Mardi Gras decorations, costumes and even food will often be found in these colors.
Another tradition, unique to Mardi Gras is the serving of something called a King Cake. It’s a tradition that came to New Orleans in the 1870′s with the French settlers. King Cake really is not a cake at all, but more of a ring of cinnamon rolls or pastry, drizzled in icing and sprinkled with sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors. It is usually shaped in an oval or ring to symbolize the unity of faiths. Prior to the mid-1900′s, coins, beans, pecans, and peas were baked into the cake. Wealthy landowners were even known to hide precious stones or jewels in their King Cakes. Now, since the mid-1900′s, a small plastic baby has come to symbolize the Holy Day, and is hidden in the pastry. The guest who finds the baby in their slice is King or Queen for the day and is obligated to host the party and supply the King Cake the following year.
While the origins of Mardi Gras are primarily from Medieval Europe, the way it is typically celebrated today, with Mardi Gras colors, brass bands and Kings can be traced to New Orleans. Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, a French-Canadian explorer, landed south of New Orleans in 1699 and in 1702, built Fort Louis de la Mobile (which is now Mobile). This is the site of the first Mardi Gras celebration in the New World. Seventeen years later, New Orleans was established to the north and by 1730, Mardi Gras was being openly celebrated there. Early celebrations were elegant balls thrown by the city’s governors.
The earliest references to “Carnival” date from 1781 and by the 1830′s, New Orleans was holding street processions with masked participants. The throwing of trinkets to the crowds was started in the early 1870s by the Twelfth Night Revelers. In 1872, it was local businessmen who started the tradition of having a King of Carnival, “Rex”. It was at this time that daytime parades began and Mardi Gras colors, a song and even a flag were established. In 1873, floats began showing up in the parades and in 1875, then Louisiana governor, Henry Clay Warmoth, declared Mardi Gras a state holiday.
So, Mardi Gras, as we think of it, today, has definitely been a process of evolution.
“Fat Tuesday”, February 16, did not work out for our family as a party day, so our Zatarain’s Mardi Gras House Party is going to be held on Sunday afternoon, February 21. Our first Mardi Gras celebration and already we are outside the traditions. – lol - But as always, House Parties are more of a promotional tool for the company sponsoring them, (in our case Zatarains), than anything else. We will bake our own King Cake and fun masks in the traditional Mardi Gras colors will be available. Thanks to Zatarains, there are even trinkets (beads and dubloons in green, purple and gold) for our party guests. The party pack for this party was actually extremely generous and will give us an opportunity to showcase the Zatarains products very nicely.
The party pack includes:
- Jambalaya Mix
- Reduced Sodium Red Beans & Rice
- Creole Mustard
- Root Beer Extract
- Creole Seasoning
- 1 Zatarain’s Apron
- 1 Mardi Gras Party Guide
- 1 Sample Mardi Gras Menu
- 6 Mardi Gras Recipe Cards
- 5 feathered Mardi Gras Masks (and our family is supplying some others for additional guests and party decorations)
- 15 sets of Mardi Gras Beads
- 15 sets of 3 Doubloons
- 15 Money Saving Coupons for Zatarain’s Products
- 75 Gift Cards for 35 Free MP3 Songs from E-Music
I have done a rough plan of the menu and found the recipes I will be using. This is still somewhat fluid as I am not 100% certain on the King Cake, yet. Plus, though not traditionally a “Mardi Gras food”, I want to make beneigts…so I am. Ü We will have Carnival Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, a veggie platter with Creole Mustard dip, Crackers with Cream Cheese and Hot Pepper Jelly, Root Beer Float Bars, and Beneigts.
We’ll do another post with pictures of decorations, food and the actual party, later in the month. It’s going to be a fun party! There will be lots of purple, green and gold. I will model the Zatarains apron Ü, we will taste and evaluate the Zatarain’s products and enjoy a wonderful time with friends and family. If you have never hosted or attended a House Party, you should click on over to their website and sign up. If you are selected as a host, you will receive a party pack from the sponsoring company absolutely free and have a chance to try some new products, (and sometimes be educated, like we were about Mardi Gras), share the new products with your guests and enjoy your favorite people in the process.