Mardi Gras: A Time to Live + Indulge

It’s no surprise that Mardi Gras is one of Chef David’s favorite times of year here at Orange Beach Concierge. After all, it’s an entire holiday season dedicated to indulging in rich, flavorful foods, glitzy dresses and decor, and feel-good revelry! What’s not to love?

Whether you’re in it for the king cake or the keepsakes, Mardi Gras is a guaranteed good time. If you aren’t familiar with the festivities, here’s everything you need to know about Mardi Gras on the Gulf Coast.

The History of Mardi Gras

Despite popular opinion, Mardi Gras didn’t begin in New Orleans. In fact, it didn’t begin in the United States at all! The holiday can actually be traced back to 16th century France, when Christians would parade a Boeuf Gras (French for ‘fat ox’) through the city as a symbol of the last meat to be eaten before the Lenten fast. As world expansion began, the tradition of celebrating those last pre-Lent days came with its French colonists.

Which brings us to the United States. Mardi Gras was first observed in Mobile, Alabama in 1703, when French settlers at 27 Mile Bluff – the city’s first settlement – celebrated Carnival with an official feast. Eight years later, in 1711, Mobile held the first known Mardi Gras parade by pulling a papier-mache bull down Dauphin Street. As time went on French pioneers spread to new areas, taking their Mardi Gras traditions with them.

Of course, the Mardi Gras of today is much different than what the early revelers experienced. Present-day celebrations feature elaborate parades that stretch for miles of city blocks as well as some new Mardi Gras traditions that give the holiday a modern twist.

Common Mardi Gras Traditions

There’s no “right” way to celebrate Mardi Gras, but there are some common holiday traditions that you can’t miss if you’re Mardi Gras-ing on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Mardi Gras Colors. The traditional Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold (though they weren’t actually declared until 1872). The colors, stamped on everything from parade floats to masks to souvenir cups, are said to symbolize justice, faith, and power, respectively. If you’re attending a parade, you’ve got to dress the part!

King Cake. A delicious cross between the French pastry and a coffee cake, the King Cake is a rich circular treat that’s topped with icing and sometimes filled with tasty flavors. There’s also a prize inside – whoever gets the slice that contains the small plastic baby is “King” for the day and has to bring their own King Cake to the next parade or event.

Parades for Days. While many parades still roll on Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras is now an entire season where revelers can enjoy festive parades for weeks before the official holiday. Mobile alone has more than 40 parades that roll during Carnival season! Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan have six parades, including a boat parade. And the nearby cities of Fairhope and Daphne also have parades.

Throws. Parade-goers aren’t just there for the fun – they’re after the throws. Mardi Gras floats are topped with krewe members that toss fun trinkets like bead necklaces, moon pies, candy, stuffed animals, and doubloons into the crowd. If you want the best loot, you’ve got to yell the magic phrase, “throw me something, mister!”

Mardi Gras Balls. Another highlight of the Mardi Gras season, Mardi Gras balls are lavish affairs put on by the mystic societies in each cities. The balls are invitation-only (so you’ll need a ticket) and have strict dress codes – black tails for the men and formal floor-length gowns for the ladies.

Feasts. As the last big meal before Lent’s 40-day fast, Mardi Gras is still very much dedicated to delicious and even decadent food. There’s no set menu, but faithful Mardi Gras followers spend Fat Tuesday (and the days before) enjoying rich and flavorful dishes like chicken and sausage gumbo or buttery baguettes. You can order both for pickup at The Pantry – just ask for The New Orleans Taste dinner to go offering to enjoy a chef-prepared meal that’s all of the feast with none of the fuss!

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Orange Beach Concierge was born out of our love of hosting a great party, event planning and everyday organization combined with Chef David’s drive and desire to be the very best at his culinary craft. We are an Alabama gulf coast-based boutique concierge service offering highly personalized services.