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 [...]
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.
Psalm 100 A Psalm of Thanksgiving. Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. [...]
A Psalm of Thanksgiving.
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
We’re freshly moved and almost completely unpacked. As I sit here this morning, it occurs to me that we don’t have a Blessing Box this year. When our grown daughters were small we started this tradition. Over the years, we have had times when we were so caught up in life and just getting through it, that we didn’t really stop to enjoy everything in a day that is a blessing, a gift. There are so many, no matter what your present circumstances. A Blessing Box is a way, even for just a moment, to take a deep breath and be thankful, to stand still in the middle of your day and say, “Thank you, Lord. I know you’re in this and I am so blessed to ______________ . You fill in the blank.
Ideally, you will make this box, as a family, on Thanksgiving; and then have the whole year to get it ready for next Thanksgiving. You could hurry and whip one up for this year, but this is my personal experience when we have done that in “off” years. People tend to try to “fill the box” and so something is lost in the heartfelt thanks of the moment. It’s more about the box than being thankful. My suggestion is to work together on Thanksgiving Day and make it beautiful. Then take a year to “count your blessings”. Next Thanksgiving, when you open that box and pour your “mountain of blessings” in the center of the table to read, you and your family will be reminded of just how much you have been blessed and cared for and as you read through what others have written, you will share and relive those awesome memories.
I don’t have pictures handy of the ones we have done in the past, so I have scanned the Internet for a few picture ideas to share with you. The images on this page are some great decorated box ideas from the web. With any luck, my menopausal brain will remember to come back and post the picture of the one we do this year. If not, then my sister or one of the kids can remind me. lol
Here’s all you will need:
- cardboard box (large enough to hold a year’s worth of blessings)
- construction paper, wrapping paper, fabric, paint, markers, crayons, tape, glue
- rhinestones, sequins, foam shapes, shells, glitter, ribbon or other decorative items
- plain white paper
- pencil or pen
- 12 – 18 inches of string or yarn
- Construction is pretty simple. You will want to wrap or paint your box and decorate it. Just remember to leave a way to open the box, later. Wrap the lid separately so it can be lifted off, or leave the bottom unwrapped, etc. Our kids always had very specific ideas about what should be on a Blessing Box and I bet yours will, too. They can write verses on it. They can make or glue pictures of things they are thankful for on it. Or they may just want it to look like a treasure box or a jeweled box for a king. Their minds are so creative and if you let them, they will create something very significant, telling you all along the way, why they are doing what they are doing. This project allows for so much good conversation and those “teachable moments” where you remind them that everything we have, all that we are, and ever will be, is because of God’s love, mercy and grace.
- Somewhere, high on the side, or in the top carefully cut a slot that is big enough to slide slips of paper through.
- Use your white paper to cut small slips of paper, maybe 2″x3″, whatever works best for the little fingers in your family.
- Knot one end of your string around a pen or pencil and tape the other end of the string to the top of your box. That way you are never left without something to write down the blessings.
- Place the box in a commonly used area of your home. Set the stack of paper slips next to it and remember to check periodically, to see if more need to be added. (They will disappear very quickly at first. - lol)
As you or a family member passes the box, you will stop and consciously think of ways you have been blessed. Jot them on a slip of the paper and tuck it inside the box until Thanksgiving. You will have a veritable avalanche of praises when you open it up. It’s a simple way of reminding your children (and yourself) how very blessed all of us are and to be thankful to the One who made it possible for us to enjoy that bounty. If carefully constructed, you can use the same Blessing Box every year; or if the creating is as much a blessing for your family as the rest of the celebration, you may want to make a new box each Thanksgiving. Either way, use this inexpensive and simple way to share some great activity with your family and reflect all year long on how truly blessed you are.
Help me to remember to give You thanks in all things, to see your Hand in every situation. Help me not to be so caught up in life that I miss the opportunity to see every blessing, big and small, and thank you for it. Thank you for the love of family and the times we can celebrate together and enjoy the blessings of fellowship. Thank you for the chance to teach our children to be thankful and recognize that they are blesssed.
Yes, there are only 44 days left, but no worries, you’ll be fine. :) Instead of stressing over the gifts, planning and shopping, remember to take the time to enjoy friends and family and celebrate the gift of Jesus. It’s easy to get caught up in the world’s frenzy this time of year, but you [...]
Yes, there are only 44 days left, but no worries, you’ll be fine. :) Instead of stressing over the gifts, planning and shopping, remember to take the time to enjoy friends and family and celebrate the gift of Jesus. It’s easy to get caught up in the world’s frenzy this time of year, but you really can give some wonderful gifts without breaking the bank, focus your family on the true meaning of Christmas and enjoy the festivities, instead of fretting over them.
In 2005, I started a tradition in our family that was so well received and was a thorough joy for me to produce and give. I made a family cookbook and you can do it, too. It’s simple, personal and something that continues to give throughout the year. Each year, I make new pages for the recipients to add to their book.
All you will need is:
- a 3-ring binder with the plastic pocket on the front
- your favorite family recipes
- sheet protectors
- a computer with word processing software
- images of family and friends
- the stories and memories that your recipes evoke
For the first edition of my cookbook, I wrote to family members and asked for recipes that had significance or meaning to them or for ones that I remembered from childhood and did not have copies of. I also used my own recipe files.
As I typed up the recipes, I added pictures of the people who made them or loved to eat them, and added memories about the recipes or people in anecdotes on that page.
All that’s left after you layout your cookbook, is the assembly. Print it out and put it all together in the binder. I slipped two pages, back-to-back, into a sleeve protector and inserted that into the 3-ring binder. It preserves the pages and makes cleanups simple if something spatters when assembling a recipe.
Each cookbook had a personalized cover with the recipient’s name and a graphic that was representative of their own tastes. Every Christmas, I can put additional pages under the tree and share more great family memories. Here is a link to the first cookbook, so you have an example of how I put it together. FAMILY COOKBOOK (This file is the entire first cookbook, so give it a minute to load. It should open a new window, so you can come back here and read some more, while you wait.) The cover was not included in this example, since each was customized to the individual recipient. Get creative and you’ll come up with some great ideas for your covers. Slide them in the pocket on the front of your binder and your project is complete. This gift is simple and inexpensive to produce, plus it’s bound to be a hit at a family gift exchange.
The second idea I am using for Christmas, this year, is for our 7 yr old daughter and two granddaughters. All of them love to be in the kitchen and are great “helpers”. Our 7 yr old has requested her own apron, because mine are “too big” for her. I spoke to their mom and she concurs that the granddaughters would love these, too. I found these adorable patterns for vintage aprons on Ebay and now with a trip to my scrap bag, I can wrap three more great Christmas gifts without spending a ton of money. Once the sewing is complete, I’ll post pictures of the finished products.
I hope to have time to post other ideas for inexpensive Christmas gifts that will be warmly received by those you love. In the meantime, any of you that have ideas are welcome to post them here, in the comments. We can learn and save money when we help each other.
Get creative, have some fun and make some memories for your Christmas morning celebration. I’ll be back soon with more ideas.