Beginners Guide to Mardi Gras on a Budget


Mardi Gras has quite the reputation, as we all know. If you don’t know, it’s about time you crawl out from that rock you’ve been under. The two-week-long holiday pretty much consists of all our favorite things: music, bright colors, warm weather, comfort food, specialty drinks and beads.

I can’t help but wonder why this holiday gives us such a good excuse to have this much fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I think we should know a few things before we dive into this. Here’s a breakdown of what Mardi Gras is, why you should celebrate and how you can get down like you’re from New Orleans. 

What is Mardi Gras?

Long story short, this holiday started because back in 1699 some French explorers arrived at a spot south of New Orleans and named it “Pointe du Mardi Gras" when they realized it was the eve of their festive holiday traditions, according to Mardi Gras New Orleans’ official website. Since then, New Orleans became an established city and transformed this celebration from elegant balls to parades and getting rowdy in the streets for two weeks. Hey - progress is progress. 

Today you can find various forms of celebrations including: 

  • Carnaval, the period of feasting and fun that begins on Jan. 6 
  • Parades with flashy floats and bead throwing
  • Costumes or dressing up in purple, which stands for justice, green for faith and gold for power
  • Playing and dancing to all kinds of music
  • Eating lots of fattening, delicious food

No wonder New Orleanians call Mardi Gras the "Greatest Free Show on Earth!"

Why should we celebrate? 

The answer of “why not?” usually suffices for things like convincing myself to go out every Tuesday night, and the same thing can apply to ballin’ out on Mardi Gras. If the history doesn’t do it for you, remember it’s always fun to dive into different traditions and try something new. Mardi Gras is all about coming together to have fun! Plus, I can’t think of a better excuse to eat, drink and dance in the middle of February. It’s like a theme party, but goes way beyond just one night. 

How does one “Mardi Gras”...?

There are tons of big and small ways to celebrate Mardi Gras - whether you’re living it up down south or not. If you’re like me and trapped in Mount Pleasant, you’re going to need to find some easy and inexpensive celebration tips. Here’s a few to start:

Be your own bartender.

Here’s how to make a hurricane, which is by far the most popular and delicious Mardi Gras drink.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 ounces dark rum (if you’re 21+ years old)
  • 2 ounces light rum (if you’re 21+ years old)
  • 2 ounces passion fruit juice
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon grenadine
  • Orange slices and maraschino cherries


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Add the first seven ingredients. 
  3. Cover and shake well. 
  4. Strain into a hurricane glass (or solo cup) filled with ice. 
  5. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.
  6. Enjoy! 

Make it lively.

There’s nothing better than finding the perfect playlist to go with your occasion. Turn on Spotify’s (un)official Mardi Gras playlist to make your Mardi Gras celebration feel real. Enjoy songs from jazzy to Lil Jon. Get it, girl. 

Get your gumbo on.

Comfort food is a huge part of Mardi Gras and southern culture. I suppose you could just head down to KFC and pick up some fried chicken, but that’s not nearly as fun as trying your own recipe. I found some quick and easy recipes that Taste of Home provides to help you find your new favorite Mardi Gras meal. Check out a Seafood Gumbo Recipe (you can also use chicken or sausage) and Sausage Chicken Jambalaya Recipe. All aboard the flavor train. 

You know what they say: when in Mount Pleasant, live as the New Orleanians do.