Can you celebrate Mardi Gras at work? We think so! We are always looking for another reason to celebrate and focus on team building. Whether you live near a carnival celebration or not, you can bring a little bit of Mardi Gras fun to the workplace.
In this post, we’ll discuss the deep and festive history of the occasion and share seven Mardi Gras work ideas to celebrate the day in the office or virtually.
The Origins of Mardis Gras (or Fat Tuesday)
Mardi Gras is also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday, depending on where you’re celebrating. It is a day of partying, feasting, and parading that marks the day before the Christian fasting season of Lent begins, which lasts for 40 days until Easter.
Mardi Gras has been around for quite some time!
Its origins can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Roman festivals that commemorated the start of the harvest season. When Christianity arrived, these ancient traditions were mixed in with the new faith, which resulted in a festival of heavy drinking, eating, masquerading, and dancing.
Making its way through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries, Mardi Gras eventually landed in the French House of the Bourbons. Originally called “Boeuf Gras” (fatted calf), the festive holiday followed France to its colonies.
On March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived on a piece of land 60 miles south of New Orleans. Realizing it was the night before Mardi Gras, he and his men named the land "Pointe du Mardi Gras." A few years later, in 1703, in the settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile (also established by Bienville), they celebrated America’s first Mardi Gras.
The tradition grew over the years, and by the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans (... which was also established by Bienville 😅), but not yet with parades. In the 1740s, the governor of Louisiana established elegant balls for high society—a tradition that’s still carried on today.
The festivities continued to grow in proportion for nearly 100 years. By the 1830s, street processions were held in New Orleans, consisting of horseback riders, maskers with carriages, and glittering flambeaux (gaslight torches). Floats were introduced in the 1850s, and the tradition has continued ever since!
💃🏻 Learn more about the history of Mardi Gras!
King Cake and Mardi Gras
The King Cake tradition was brought to New Orleans from France in 1870, but it originated long, long before that. King Cake actually comes from an ancient Roman tradition. During Saturnalia (a winter solstice celebration of Saturn, the god of agriculture), beans were baked into cakes to celebrate the harvest. The person who found the bean was named “king of the day.”
During the Middle Ages, Christianity came along and appropriated the tradition for Three Kings’ Day, also known as the festival of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night, which celebrates the day Jesus is supposed to have revealed himself to the three wise men. It takes place on January 6th and marks the start of Carnival season. As a symbol of the day, a tiny baby figurine was placed inside each King Cake.
The tradition still continues today. Every King Cake has a tiny plastic baby placed inside it, and the person who discovers it is named “king for the day” and they become responsible for hosting the next Mardi Gras party and providing the King Cake.
King Cake is traditionally a cross between coffee cake and French pastry. It’s decorated with three distinct royal colors that each represent something. Purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power. The colors are meant to resemble a jeweled crown in honor of the three wise men.
Mardi Gras Ideas for Work
Stuck on office Mardi Gras ideas? Let's talk about how you can celebrate Mardi Gras in the workplace this year. Continue reading for our 7 Mardi Gras activities for workplaces.
1. Decorate the Office 💜💚💛
Decorate! Mardi Gras is all about big flashy colors. Turn the holiday into a team building exercise by decorating the office or a specific shared space, such as the kitchen or break room.
The traditional Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold. Work as a team to see how you can represent this holiday across your workspace. Common themes include masks, beads, and anything flashy and bright or shiny and golden.
Work remotely? Instead, ask each team member to put up a decoration or two in the background for the next video call.
2. Get a King Cake for the Office 🍰
Hey—it’s tradition! Each King Cake has one tiny plastic baby inside of it, and the person who finds it in their slice is named king for the day.
A quick search on Google for where to get Randazzo King Cake or where can I get King Cake near me should give you a few options. If not, here are 6 shops that will ship an authentic King Cake to your Door.
Keep the tradition going next year! If the team is on board, whoever finds the tiny Jesus baby this year can provide the King Cake the following year. Just warn your team to be careful when they chew! 👶
3. Provide Mardis Gras Snacks or Cater a Lunch 🍤🌶
Everyone loves a free lunch, especially when it tastes as good as Louisiana cooking. A King Cake is a must-have for Mardi Gras, but there are also plenty of savory dishes your team will love.
Traditional celebratory foods include seafood gumbo, shrimp creole, beans, rice, barbecued shrimp, fried catfish, jambalaya, beignets, and hush puppies.
Do what you can to support local businesses instead of chain restaurants for Mardi Gras. Ask your local networks for local recommendations or do some Google research to find out what options you have nearby. The more you engage with your community, the better for your business; plus, local businesses need all the help they can get.
4. Play Mardi Gras Games as Meeting Icebreakers 🃏
Icebreakers are an ideal way to start any meeting. With Mardi Gras fast approaching, swap out your regular icebreakers for some Mardi Gras games instead.
Mardi Gras icebreakers can work for both in-person and virtual team meetings. Send your remote employees supplies in advance if any are required. Make sure you budget time for icebreakers into each meeting so that you aren’t taking time away from other important meeting agenda items.
Mardi Gras games for work:
- Mardi Gras trivia
- Mardi Gras dress up contest with a vote
- Find the baby (again) by hiding it around the workplace
- Arts and crafts mask making
- King Cake decorating (or cupcakes for remote teams)
- Mardis Gras bingo
Toss the beads (over someone’s neck or another object)
5. Dress Up 🎭
It’s time to dress up! Encourage your team to dress up in Mardi Gras‘ colors and themes. Anything purple, green, or gold, along with coordinating beads and masks, will fit the theme.
As long as it follows your dress code, anything goes. Mardi Gras is all about having fun and being bold. Just make sure your themed day doesn’t interfere with any important client meetings (or include your clients in the fun!)
This activity is great for remote teams too. Choose a Mardi Gras theme for your video calls on the big day. Take time at the beginning of the meeting to admire everyone’s creative ideas, and if you want to encourage participation, you can offer prizes for the best dressed.
Mardi Gras outfit ideas for work:
- Traditional colors of purple, green, and gold
- Mardi Gras masks 🎭
- Mardi Gras beads
- Flashy styles
- Crowns 👑
6. Play Jazz in the Office 🎷
Louisiana is known for its rich jazz history, so take this opportunity to fill your office with the festive sounds of Louisiana jazz. A quick search on Spotify for Louisiana jazz will give you many albums and playlists to choose from.
7. End the Day With a Drink at a Local Establishment 🥃
At the end of a long day (or week!), your team needs to let their hair down a little and get to know each other outside of work. A shared drink at the end of the day is a great way to celebrate Mardi Gras, along with all of your team's hard work.
Traditional Mardi Gras drinks include a hurricane (made with rum and passion fruit juice), Daiquiris, bourbon, and a bourbon hot toddy.
Look for a local establishment near your business, ideally within walking distance, so you can walk there together. If you don’t have a local bar or restaurant nearby, you can always purchase the ingredients you need and allow your staff to make a drink of their preference at the end of the day.
This is the perfect time to crack out some Mardi Gras trivia!
More Ways to Celebrate
We love a good office celebration! Follow our office supplies blog for the latest event ideas, office trends, team building strategies, and more.
💚 Whether you’re honoring an upcoming Earth Day or simply looking for ideas to celebrate our planet, read our Office Earth Day Ideas for Work.
❤️ The month of love doesn’t need to be exclusively romantic. There are plenty of ways businesses can show appreciation to employees, give back to the community, and promote self-love. Read our 6 Inclusive Workplace Valentine's Day Ideas.
💜 Make the most of your time at work by keeping morale high and colleagues motivated. Learn more about Celebrating Birthdays at Work.
For more informative articles about office supplies, subscribe to our email newsletter!
Never fear, you won't begin receiving daily sales emails that belong in a spam folder. Instead, we promise a fun weekly roundup of our latest blog posts and great finds from across the web. And if you lose interest, it's always easy to unsubscribe with a single click.