Sometimes it seems as though every day is Mardi Gras for a preschooler -- overflowing energy and high spirits, a dose of theatrics, including, of course, an eagerness to don a costume of any kind and lots of spontaneous singing and dancing. But Mardi Gras is more than just costumes and beads. It has a fascinating history, and because it is celebrated all over the world, it offers a wonderful and fun way to introduce your children to other cultures.
Historians tell us that the ancient Romans probably kicked off the Mardi Gras celebrations. Their mid-February festival known as Lupercalia honored the god Lupercus and revolved around days of feasting, drinking, and probably a little enjoying of the "pleasures of the flesh." And according to Catholic tradition, Mardi Gras was a time to bid "farewell" to indulgences of the flesh before the beginning of Lent. Today, Mardi Gras has grown well beyond its origins to become a major event celebrated all over the world. New Orleans, Rio De Janeiro, Trinidad & Tobago, Venice, and many other countries all host Mardi Gras festivities or Carnivals every year.
But even if you do not live in New Orleans or one of the other places that celebrate Mardi Gras, you and your family can partake in some of the activities. Here is an easy one to get you started:
Easy King Cake
1 can of cinnamon rolls with icing
3/4 cup of sugar, separated into 3 parts of 1/4 cup each
Separate the cinnamon rolls and roll them out by hand so that they look like a hot dog. Shape the cinnamon rolls into an oval by pinching the ends together until you make one big circle. Place on a cookie sheet and cook as directed. While the "cake" is cooking, use food coloring to dye the sugar. Make one part purple using blue and red, one part green, and one part gold using yellow. When the cake is done, ice the top with the white icing. Sprinkle the different colors of sugars alternating as you go around the oval.
Here are two more of our favorite ways to celebrate this day of fun...
Activity for 3-6 year olds
1. Decorate an empty paper towel roll by stapling several twelve-inch strips of crepe paper to each end of the roll. 2. Cut each strip into thirds, lengthwise, to make each strip into three narrow strips. 3. Scrunch each strip with your fingers to make the shaker look fuller. 4. Let your little one have her own parade by holding onto the roll and shaking the streamers. Note: If you use toilet paper rolls, attach the streamers to only one end, so your child has plenty of room to hold onto the shaker.
Materials Needed: Paper towel roll, stapler, crepe paper, scissors
Activity for 2-6 year olds
Everyone loves a parade, and Mardi Gras parades are a ton of fun! Have your kids and their friends design and make their own floats and masks. Paper plate masks and streamers on tricycles or wagons work very well. Buy some bead necklaces, little toys, and candy to throw to the crowd. Line up the kids on their "floats" and then take a trip around your neighborhood, throwing your treats to all your watchers. Once you've paraded around the neighborhood, invite everyone over for King Cake and punch. You never know -- you might just get a volunteer to host the next Mardi Gras parade.
Materials Needed: Decorations for the floats and masks, such as streamers, feathers and ribbons; beads and trinkets; a King Cake and red punch.