Break Loose for Mardi Gras Family Style

by Tyson Beazley

Costumes, carnivals, parades, music and great food! Sounds like the party of the year. Guess what? You're invited!

Even if you can't take the kids to the festivities in New Orleans, you can throw your own memorable shindig. If you hold a parade outdoors, you might even become the entertainment in your own neighborhood.

Jazz up the Halls

Jewel tones represent the traditional colors of the holiday. Emerald green, vibrant purple and gold beads, balloons and confetti set the backdrop.

Scatter doubloons generously over table tops. Is your ancient Spanish coin stash a bit low? Go ahead and substitute pennies, nickels and dimes...or if wee tots might swallow the loot, make large foil-covered substitutes.

Costumes and Getups for the Occasion

Mardi Gras maskThink campy, fun and festive. Mardi Gras costumes range from clever or cute to wacky, weird, and even bizzare -- just like Halloween. It's time to be brave and set your imagination free! Le bon ton roulé (let the good times roll!).

You can enlist the kids to help create colorful bead necklaces (use large beads that won't fit in tiny noses or ears) or making crowns and feathered masks -- the more flamboyant the better! Have extras on hand for non-costumed party poopers.

Food N'awlins Style

King Cake for Mardi Gras!Red rice and beans, jambalaya and gumbo shout "Mardi Gras party." For dessert bring out the traditional King Cake, a pastry ring with purple, green and gold sugar sprinkled on top and a plastic baby baked right inside!

Tradition holds that whoever gets the baby will have good luck for the rest of the year and is obligated to host next year's Mardi Gras party, or at least make a King Cake. No real babies were hurt in the making of this cake.

To wash down all the goodies, fill a punch bowl of rum-free "Hurricanes" for the youngsters and drivers. You combine pineapple, orange and pomegranates juices, stir it all up and slurp it down. Serve the drinks in thin, tall glasses or paper cups. Either way they're fruity, fun and festive.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Dancing ShoesTo get dancing, download a playlist of distinctive New Orleans’s zydeco music -- an eclectic mix of folk, creole, jazz and rhythm and blues.

Stuff your stuff: Take your deck-out group on a parade around the neighborhood. Bring along the music and kick up your heels. Once home, stay silly, joke around, and continue the parade in the house. The pets might want to join in!

Bead game: Bead Game: Each player starts with five bead necklaces. Wander around and chat with other party guests. If they say "bead," "purple," "green" or "gold" they give up one bead necklace.

You can modify the game for younger kids. Ask them to describe raisins, grapes and beads to one another without using any of the "taboo" words. Then crown each player with beaded necklaces.

Doubloon toss: Drop the doubloon into the glass. Drop a coin (or other trinket) from waist level into a glass Have beads, tinsel wands and other prizes for the players. Lot of kids at the party? Set up several tossing games stations up to cut down on wait times.

Mask hunt:Hide masks around the house or outside if the weather cooperates. Designate one color specifically for toddlers to keep older kids from snapping up the easy to see masks.

Take tons of pictures. Once you've recovered from the bash, look them over, laugh a bit and put together a memory book for grandparents or your child's own bookshelf.

How are you going to celebrate? Share with us!

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