Tablescapes, Mardi Gras!

The history of Mardi Gras began long before Europeans set foot in the New World. In mid February the ancient Romans celebrated the Lupercalia, a circus like festival not entirely unlike the Mardi Gras we are familiar with today. When Rome embraced Christianity, the early Church fathers decided it was better to incorporate certain aspects of pagan rituals into the new faith rather than attempt to abolish them altogether. Carnival became a period of abandon and merriment that preceded the penance of Lent, thus giving a Christian interpretation to the ancient custom.

Mardi Gras has had an up and down history, some years parading and partying were banned and the celebrations stopped for a while, only to be reinstated at a later time.  Many of the traditions have changed over time but amazingly the basic principals are still recognizable as parts of the celebration as it was centuries ago.

Mardi Gras came to America in 1699 with the French explorer Iberville. Mardi Gras had been celebrated in Paris since the Middle Ages, where it was a major holiday. Iberville sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, from where he launched an expedition up the Mississippi River. On March 3 of 1699, Iberville had set up a camp on the west bank of the river about 60 miles south of where New Orleans is today. This was the day Mardi Gras was being celebrated in France. In honor of this important day, Iberville named the site Point du Mardi Gras. From there he traveled further and established Mobile.

In 1703 French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration in what was to become the United States.  The first Mystic Society, or krewe was formed in 1711 in Mobile Alabama.  Social events begin in November and continue through January and February with balls and parades, continuing up until Midnight of Fat Tuesday, the eve of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

In 1871, a young woman was deemed Queen of Mardi Gras and was presented with a cake hiding a golden bean.  Thus began the king cake tradition.

The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are PURPLE which stands for justice, GREEN, which stands for faith, and GOLD, which stands for power.

Mardi Gras is pretty big in the South, especially on the Gulf Coast, obviously because of it’s history.  My beach neighbors all decorate their mailboxes or front doors, and everyone belongs to a “krewe” and attends balls and parades.  I have been to several parades and parties in Orange Beach and it is SO MUCH FUN!  Birmingham doesn’t celebrate as much as the coastal areas do,  but I love to decorate for Mardi Gras!  I am in a little bit of a quandary this year, Fat Tuesday is Feb. 12, right before Valentine’s Day Feb. 14, so Valentines Day and Mardi Gras decor are going to have to share space in my house this year!

The other day I gathered up everything I could find that was purple, green & gold, or Mardi Gras worthy, and made a big pile on the table in the foyer.

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I had some old gold placemats that are fairly hideous, I shudder to think that years ago I thought they were super cool! I had some real Mardi Gras parade beads, lots of purple, green and gold Christmas ornaments, some green glass bottles, an ornamental purple vase…Hmmmmmmmm…..I have more stuff than I thought!

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I have had this jester head for a long time and can’t remember where I got him, but his painted china face and golden clothes are magical.

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FIRST rule of doing a tablescape or centerpiece:

Decide on a theme, a color palette, or a mood that you want to create.  This is your start point.

SECOND

Gather everything from around your home that either fits the theme, the palette or the mood.  Open up your mind and look at your things differently.  The crazier the better.  Make it interesting.  Just gather, you can edit later.

THIRD

Establish a base to build on.  Choose a tablecoth, runner, place mat, tray, platter, something to ground your creation.

FOURTH

Start building.  Don’t be afraid! Add, subtract, change, rearrange.  Your eye will tell you when you have it right.  Step away for a while and when you return the good and the bad design points will probably be obvious to you when you have a fresh look.

FINAL

Add the finishing touches and enjoy!

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This centerpiece mimics the crazy messy party atmosphere that defines Mardi Gras.

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I added the iron cross to connect the decor to its religious origin, and the tipped over bottle symbolizes the over indulgences of food and drink. The green glass compote almost looks like it has fleur de lis on it!

Stop back by to see how I transform this centerpiece into an elegant table for 4, and I will be sharing a recipe for EASY KING CAKE too!

I’m joining

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Comments
10 Responses to “Tablescapes, Mardi Gras!”
  1. lulu says:

    What a lot of information you have shared here. I have to confess that I knew little of Mardi Gras other than that it is time for lots of parties. I know it’s coming because lots of green and gold was visible at the grocery yesterday! Your centerpiece is playful and fun.

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  2. I’m not even from the South, but the tradition of celebrating Fat Tuesday and doing fun Mardi Gras stuff is something I grew up with. I love it!!! Your placemats fit right in with the theme. Aren’t you glad you held onto them? The jester head is really cool!!! I like how you positioned it on the vase. That really gives it prominence. Good thing you included all the information about the history of Mardi Gras because a lot of people don’t know much about it at all. Have a good weekend!!!!!

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  3. Kathleen says:

    Love your centerpiece for MG. I wish it wasn’t so early this year, but Easter is, so it must be!
    Here from Seasonal Sundays at The Tablescaper.

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  4. Great post. Wonderful guidance. I never realized the concept Mardi Gras was.

    – The Tablescaper

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    • Cleo says:

      Wonderful post, thanks for the history. We always celebrated Carnival at home growing up and my mom made little fried dough balls and drizzled them with honey, oh yum!!!

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  5. Lorraine Thomas says:

    Thank you for the very interesting history lesson regarding Mardi Gras. I always look forward to your vlogs & delicious recipes! Have a wonderful day!💃☺🃏

    Like

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