Every February through March, thousands of people gather in New Orleans as well as other cities to celebrate the festivity known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”. While Mardi Gras is heavily associated with alcohol, there are other ways to commemorate the Mardi Gras season without drinking. If you’re navigating sobriety or moderation during Mardi Gras, you should feel empowered to spend the time however you want to, even if it means ignoring the holiday altogether.
Why is Mardi Gras a Drinking Holiday?
Before we dive into celebrating Mardi Gras sans alcohol, let’s look at the significance of the holiday and how it became so associated with alcohol.
Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday,” is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent. The Lenten season holds much significance in the Christian tradition. It’s a 40-day period used in preparation for Easter. During this time, many Christians observe Lent by giving up one of their vices. For many, alcohol is a popular vice to give up. So the day before Lent begins, people indulge in a carnival-style party where they indulge in the vices they are about to give up, like sugary foods and alcohol.
The celebration morphed and changed as it grew and time went on, and became more popularized as a major drinking holiday, even among people who don’t observe Lent or live in New Orleans.
How to Celebrate Mardi Gras Without Drinking Alcohol
If Mardi Gras is one of your favorite holidays, you might be able to find new ways to celebrate without alcohol. And chances are you will have friends or accountability buddies who are excited to join you. Here are some ideas to try out.
1. Seek Out Your Favorite Mardi Gras-Themed Dishes
There’s a lot of deliciousness going on during Mardi Gras that has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. Pancakes are a particularly popular item during the celebration, and of course, there are other yummy foods too. New Orleans is all about the sweet and the spicy, so you can celebrate by creating some Creole or Cajun-inspired dishes. There are a ton of options, from jambalaya to a host of shrimp dishes.
The other thing you can try is simply holding a dinner with friends, family, and sober buddies where you can all gather around your favorite dishes. Hosting your own alcohol-free event is a great way to avoid potential triggers and still feel festive.
2. Learn About The Land And Culture
If you’re exploring NOLA on Mardi Gras but don’t want to be caught in all of the hubbubs of the traditional celebrations, then why not do some exploring in Louisiana? The area is lush and green nearly year-round, which means it’s flush with options for the nature lover. Rich in history and culture, New Orleans is a great place to learn as well. Try going on a swamp tour or exploring one of the many museums.
If you’re not going to be in New Orleans for Madi Gras, you can still seek out some documentaries and podcasts about the origins and associated histories of the holiday.
3. Go To The Daytime Parades
If you still want to attend a ball or parade, you can find some less alcohol-centric options. There are many daytime parades made for all ages where there’s less pressure to drink and less drunkenness displayed overall.
It’s important to recognize where you are in your sober journey and remember it’s okay to avoid events with alcohol, especially in early sobriety. Alternatively, it’s more than okay to still go to parades, dance, and socialize while sober (if you feel ready)! And remember that you can always leave an event at any time if you start to feel triggered.
4. Participate In a Church Event Instead
If you observe Ash Wednesday, maybe the meaning of Mardi Gras will change for you without alcohol. You may decide to get more involved with a church event this year instead of the alcohol-centric parties.
The beauty of living without alcohol is that you get to create new experiences for yourself and you get to rewrite your stories. If you’re religious and want to observe the season in a new way, maybe you skip Mardi Gras altogether and instead find a new way to reignite your spirituality.
5. Enjoy Time With Loved Ones
At the end of the day, Mardi Gras is whatever you want to make of it. If you want to go to a parade or indulge in traditional foods, that’s great. If you prefer to stay home and watch movies, that’s okay too. There’s really no wrong or right answer here. One thing that might add more meaning to the day though, is spending it with people you love.
Whether you’re inviting your family over for a mid-week brunch or having your friends over for delicious alcohol-free cocktails, Fat Tuesday offers an occasion to reconnect with the people in your life that you treasure.
Staying Sober on Fat Tuesday
No matter what you decide to do on Mardi Gras or what part of the country you live in, remember that you can make this day as special or insignificant as you want. If you feel comfortable attending festivities while staying sober, you should feel empowered to still participate. But if you decide that ignoring the holiday altogether this year is what’s best for you, there’s no shame in turning down any invitations. Of course, you can always celebrate by relaxing and enjoying your favorite alcohol-free pleasures.