While there are family oriented Mardi Gras parades and celebrations, chances are good that unless you live close by you will not be taking your child to one of these. However, you can still celebrate Mardi Gras with your children. By organizing a children’s Mardi Gras parade and party for your neighborhood or your play group, you can share this fun holiday with all. Start planning early and get your children involved. Talk to them about Mardi Gras and what it is. Discuss what kinds of things they might like to do at the party. Some suggestions include crafting masks, playing games to get beads and decorating their bikes and wagons for a parade.
Send invitations to any children in your neighborhood or to a specific group of your children’s friends. You can make the invitations with glitter and card stock. Tell each of the children to dress in their party outfits and try to wear the Mardi Gras colors of gold, green and purple. Ask each child to bring either a bike, wagon or ride on toy of some sort to decorate. Encourage all of the parents to participate as well! Decorate the house or yard in Mardi Gras colors. You do not have to have the party ON Mardi Gras, any day in the weeks preceding would be just fine.
During the party, you can make Mardi Gras masks. You can purchase blank masks from a party or craft supply store. Have the children decorate the masks using glue, glitter, markers, feathers and whatever else they feel like using. You can also do other crafts such as making crowns. Play party music and let the kids glue away.
You can play typical party games as well. Make the prizes for the games Mardi Gras beads! You can also stuff a pinata with beads and candy for the kids. I would suggest serving a king cake for the party! You can purchase king cakes in many grocery stores close to Mardi Gras or search for a recipe to make your own. Whoever finds the baby in the king cake is king (or Queen) of the parade and rides in the front!
Using colored streamers and hand made signs, have the children decorate their bikes and wagons like they are floats. Make sure that each child can still ride their bike and that no wheels are interfered with by decorations. Once the children are done decorating, have them put on all of their beads and start the parade. Plan out your route first. For older children, around the block or even all around the neighborhood would be a great parade. For younger children and toddlers, just around the back yard would probably be enough. If you schedule the parade and party for a weekend, there should be people in their yards and on the street to see and appreciate the children. Make sure there is an adult chaperon with them for the entire parade route to ensure the children’s safety.
You can take time during the party to discuss with the children what Mardi Gras is all about. Let them know that it is a carnival that precedes Lent and that the day after Mardi Gras is the beginning of a holy time for the church which ends at Easter. Although the party does not have to mention religion in any sense unless you choose, some children may be curious as to the origins of the holiday.
To purchase supplies and craft projects for your party, you can look in party supply stores or craft stores. You can also get cardboard “crowns” from Burger King that make wonderful blanks to be decorated when you turn them over. Check out Oriental Trading for some great resources on Mardi Gras beads and masks.