By Collin Hall
I’ve spent about half my life in Louisiana, and I found out very quickly that it’s impossible to avoid the ruckus of Mardi Gras come mid-winter. The Mardi Gras holiday season is technically Christian, but it resembles a good-ol’ pagan throwdown more than it represents any Christian gathering I’ve ever been to. I lived six or so hours from New Orleans, but we still got a week off school whenever Mardi Gras rolled around. Even in Shreveport, six or more hours-long parades drew crowds of tens of thousands every year; it’s hard not to miss the spectacle of it all. In Cape May County, we undoubtedly live in Yankee Land, but there are still some fun ways to bring Mardi Gras to the Jersey shore.
Make a King Cake
A “King Cake” is a signature doughy, cream-cheese filled, round cake that every family I knew made each Mardi Gras season. People take pride in their king cakes; there is unspoken competition among friends, and everyone wants to have the best king cake. This applies to businesses too. Even hardware stores sell their own spin on King Cake in Louisiana. One of the best King Cakes I ever had was from a local Tractor Supply Co.
A “little baby Jesus” is often stuffed into the cake. Whoever finds Jesus in their slice either gets a gift or must host next year’s party. Crazy stuff. Don’t forget to color and decorate the cake in purple, gold, and green (ugly as those colors may be together)…
Grab some Beads (they’re cheap)
Hardly anyone buys Mardi Gras beads in Louisiana because each parade throws them out by the millions. By the end of parade season, beads are more common than dirt; people weigh their necks down with pounds and pounds of beads. In Cape May County, we don’t have that luxury. Grab some beads from a local party store and throw them at your friends; invite your friends over for a Mardi Gras party and stock up, because plastic beads are incredibly inexpensive.
Decorate for the Occasion
Cape May County doesn’t have the “Krewes” that we had in Louisiana, but some simple household decorations can make you feel like you are right in downtown New Orleans or Shreveport. Mardi Gras theming is easy: gold, blue, and purple balloons, streamers, and table settings can make a huge splash on a small budget.
In many parts of Louisiana, Mardi Gras is marked by Mardi Gras balls with exclusive invitations. A fun Mardi Gras party here in Cape May County can replicate these balls without the air of mystery by just moving some furniture aside and plugging in a Bluetooth speaker. Let the people dance!
Don’t Make a Fool of Yourself
Mardi Gras is funny because it is known both for being a Christian holiday and for being the holiday with the most “I just made a fool of myself”s per minute. At any Mardi Gras parade, the alcohol flows fast and the tomfoolery even faster. Drinks are an important part of a Mardi Gras parade for many people, and I recommend some tropical drinks to ring in the mood. But remember: you want to remember your Mardi Gras party.