The Skinny on Fat Tuesday If there's a French speaker in your house, then they can tell you 'mardi' translates to 'Tuesday' and 'gras' to 'fat,' giving the origin for term Mardi Gras. Parts of the US originally settled by the French or Spanish—like Louisiana and Alabama—were the first to have celebrations of Mardi Gras. This day prior to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent—46 days before Easter—became a time to eat decadently one more time. During Lent, many Christians fast—refrain from eating meat certain days of the week or rich foods containing eggs, sugar, butter and milk—so the day before Lent starts is one to use up those foods. Now, many US cities have Mardi Gras Carnival festivities not only on Fat Tuesday but anytime following the Twelfth Night after Christmas. It's the kind of party that's a cure for wintertime blues or, as they say in New Orleans, to let the good times roll! Other countries call this day by other names such as Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, Fastnacht and many more! If your family's roots are in one of them, explore and celebrate with traditional foods and fun. Color It Purple, Green and Gold Whether you're inspired to decorating excess or keep things more restrained, you'll find lots of decorating and paper goods sources at party stores and online to decorate just the way you like! You'll also find plenty of masks and clothing ideas if dressing up and masquerade-type parties fit the bill for you! Whatever you choose and how many beads, doubloons and feathers grace your party, the colors need to be those of Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold. Purple represents justice; green represents faith; gold represents power. Mardi Gras Family Fun Search for family events that a part of many cities' Mardi Gras festivities. What a fun outing for the family! Put kids to work fashioning paper plate masks. Cut eye holes and attach ribbon for tying on or tape on bamboo sticks for handheld masks before decorating starts. Supply mask makers with colored paper, stickers, beads and feathers along with scissors and glue. Give several prizes: Most Creative, Best Use of Supplies, Most Ferocious, etc. If children have enjoyed big parades like those held in Mardi Gras cities, decorating shoebox floats and staging their own parade can be fun. Give them a variety of craft supplies to work with. Again, prizes are part of the fun! Use a doll that represents the baby hidden in the famous King's Cake, a Mardi Gras tradition, to play a version of the 'hot potato' game. Have a scavenger hunt with beads, doubloons and candy hidden throughout the house.