Soon New Orleans’s Bourbon Street will be bustling with revelers celebrating Mardi Gras. The Catholic-centric holiday, sometimes known as Carnival, is celebrated in Catholic-dominated areas. The most notable festivities take place in New Orleans, Venice and Rio de Janeiro, but are also celebrated on smaller scales around the globe, including the Philadelphia area.
The celebrations, which date back thousands of years, come ahead of Lent. Originally these festivities were celebrations of spring and fertility, according to the History Channel, and were eventually folded into the season of Lent, leading up to Easter. Early revelers often ate copiously ahead of the fasts and required days of abstaining from eating meat, so food remains closely linked to modern celebrations. In the U.S., those consist of Cajun and creole foods, as well as the colorful king cake.
Historians believe the traditions of Mardi Gras made their way to the U.S. in 1699 via French explorers and were revived in 1827 by a group of students. Since, parades, beads, masks and other festivities have become prevalent ways of celebrating.
Mardi Gras festivities don’t officially kick off until next week—Tuesday, Feb. 9 is Fat Tuesday and the official start of Mardi Gras—but local events are starting sooner in anticipation of this much-loved holiday. For those who can’t make it New Orleans, here’s a guide to local events.
Jenks Mardi Gras Ball
The John Story Jenks Academy for the Arts & Sciences will host a ball in celebration of Mardi Gras and as a fundraiser for the Chestnut Hill-based elementary school. The event includes food, drinks—featuring French 75s—music, a silent auction and more.
The Mcdowell Home, 142 Bethlehem Pike, Chestnut Hill. Visit www.friendsofjsjenks.org.
Mardi Gras at XFINITY Live!
XFINITY Live! once again hosts a Mardi Gras celebration, complete with hurricanes. There will be live entertainment and a contest to see who can get the most beads that night.
1100 Pattison Ave., Philadelphia. (267) 443-6415. Visit www.xfinitylive.com.
Mardi Gras with Bill Beck of Beck’s Cajun Café
Head to Reading Terminal for a cooking demonstration from a Cajun master. Bill Beck of Beck’s Cajun Café, Tony Luke, and BEN-FM host, Marilyn Russel, will craft traditional dishes like poached eggs with creole hollandaise, smokey collard greens and more. While there, pop into the café for Cajun and creole specialities like jambalaya, po’boys and muffalettas.
1136 Arch St., Philadelphia. Visit www.readingterminalmarket.org.
Brother Joscephus and the Love Revolution
Ardmore Music Hall welcomes Brother Joscephus and the Love Revolution for gumbo rhythms, old school funk and more to celebrate the musical styling of Mardi Gras.
23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore. Visit www.ardmoremusic.com.
Stop in to Doc’s for $10 hurricane fishbowls, Oyster’s Casino and blackened catfish for some sumptuous and festive sips and bites.
117 E. Gay St., West Chester. (610) 429-4046. Visit www.docmagrogans.com.
Mardi Gras with Wild Bohemians
World Café Live celebrates with its 32nd annual Mardi Gras show. Wild Bohemians bring the musical flavors of Louisiana to Philadelphia, performing Cajun, Zydeco, Jazz and more.
3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Visit www.philly.worldcafelive.com.
Bonerama and Glen David Andrews
The touring trombone band, Bonerama, brings its smooth, bold sounds to the Main Line, along with Glen David Andrews, a New Orleans native. Together, they’ll bring the spirit of the South to Pennsylvania.
Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore. Visit www.ardmoremusic.com.
Mummers Mardi Gras
It wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without the Mummers. Join these famous performers for an exciting jaunt down Main Street in Manayunk. The parade will feature all 17 string bands. After the parade, meet the bands and enjoy additional performances. This is part of the greater day-long celebration that takes place in Manayunk.
Main Street, Manayunk. Visit www.mummersmardigras.com.
Epilepsy Foundation’s 9th Annual Mardi Gras Gala
Embrace the traditions of a New Orleans Mardi Gras while helping raise funds for those who suffer from epilepsy. The gala will feature a French Creole sit-down dinner, the famous New Orleans drink, hurricanes, Mummers’ entertainment and more. Black tie optional.
Crystal Tea Room, Wanamaker Building, 2020 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Visit www.mardigrasphilly.org.