If you love bright colors, glitter, and/or making decisions you'll regret in the piercing, unforgiving light of day, Mardi Gras is obviously the most wonderful time of the year. Tragically, plane tickets and hotel rooms cost money, so heading down to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the festivities is easier said than done. But that doesn't mean you can't celebrate Mardi Gras from wherever you find yourself on Fat Tuesday; all it takes is a little creativity and a lot of glitter.
Each year, Mardi Gras takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent — 46 days of fasting, including abstaining from meat, and preparing for Easter. With that in mind, it's easy to see why, over the centuries, it became tradition to cut loose in the days leading up to Lent. Eventually, the culmination of Carnival season became known as Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday." Although many historians believe the first Mardi Gras parade took place in 1699, the first "krewes" didn't show up until the mid-1800s. After that, however, the holiday quickly developed into the tradition of parades, sparkles, and debauchery that we know today.
These days, the holiday remains a primarily southern American tradition, with visitors from around the nation flocking to cities like Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans (duh) to celebrate each year. Even if you can't make it to the epicenter of the festivities this year, though, you can still join in on the fun — here are 11 ways.
1Make A King Cake
No Mardi Gras party is complete without the colorful, ring-shaped king cake. Find a recipe online and get to baking.
2Bring Beignets To Work
If ever there was an excuse for a (delicious, fluffy) beignet, it's on Fat Tuesday. If you bring them to work, you'll be the most popular person at the office that day.
3Host A Cajun-Inspired Dinner
Full disclosure: I'm from the deep South, so I might be a little biased. That being said, Cajun and Creole food is freakin' delicious, so get together some friends and make traditional dishes like jambalaya or étouffée. Better yet, host a crawfish boil.
4Decorate Your Own Masks
Masks are a deep-rooted Mardi Gras tradition, allowing revelers the freedom of anonymity. Get together some of your friends and decorate your own Mardi Gras masks in purple, green, or gold — the sparklier, the better. Wear them if you feel like it, or mount yours on the wall later.
5Make A Themed Cocktail
Let's be honest: Mardi Gras is about many things, and one of those things is alcohol. There are approximately a billion Mardi Gras-themed recipes for cocktails online, from Cajun Bloody Marys to hurricanes, so head over to Pinterest and get your bartender on. Alternatively, just wing it until you make something purple that tastes good.
6Read Up On The History
If you're not the partying type, you can still celebrate Mardi Gras by grabbing that cocktail you just made and doing what introverts do best: looking up stuff on the Internet. Spend some time researching the history of the holiday; it goes back much further than you may realize.
7Make A Wreath
If you have the time and the inclination, make a Mardi Gras wreath to hang on your front door. Get creative, or use a design you find online — my suggestions are to stick to the three holiday colors and recycle any beads you have laying around from past Mardi Gras.
8Find A Local Celebration
New Orleans hosts the most famous Mardi Gras festivities, but other cities have their own celebrations. If you live in the South, see if you can travel to a parade in a city along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico; otherwise, ask around to see if there are any local celebrations going on nearby.
9Throw A Massive Party
If you don't feel like braving the Mardi Gras crowds or you're too far out for any local celebrations, get into the spirit of the holiday and bring the party to you. Get some beads, feathers, masks, and a veritable ocean of alcohol, and you're set for a party of legendary proportions. If you invite enough people, you might be able to stage your own miniature parade or elect a Mardi Gras King and Queen.
10Wear The Holiday Colors
Wear purple, green, and gold on Tuesday to get into the spirit before the parties that night — just maybe save the feathery, bejeweled stuff for after work.
11Plan Next Year's Trip
If you're dying to visit, you officially have a year to figure out a way to make it to New Orleans for next year's Mardi Gras. Start planning your trip now, and you might find yourself among the Louisiana crowds in 2018.