Let The Good Times Roll: Mardi Gras Essentials

  • January 25, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

Okay, my party-loving friends, pay attention!  Mardi Gras is one of those funky holidays that happens on a different day every year.  Some years it is in February and some years Mardi Gras falls in March.  Why the big difference? Let’s try and simplify this for you.  Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) is always celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is always marked forty days before Easter.  Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday following the Paschal full moon.  Anyway, that was just a long-winded way of saying that Mardi Gras is coming early this year--so it’s time to start planning that Mardi Gras party…now!

You don’t have to live in New Orleans (or Rio...or anywhere exotic) to fully experience the spirit of Mardi Gras.  Essentially, Mardi Gras has always been a time to eat, drink and be merry before the traditional days of fasting that go along with Lent.  Whether you are a devout religious follower or not, there simply is no better excuse to party than Mardi Gras.  Although traditionally a religious holiday, these days, Mardi Gras is enjoyed on a secular basis by the masses.  And why not?  Mardi Gras (or Carnival) is renowned the entire world over for being one of the best parties ever. It’s also the perfect excuse to let one’s hair down and have some serious party-animal style fun.

So, what do you really need to have a fantastic Mardi Gras style party?  Well, your Mardi Gras style event can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose to make it.  There are, however, some essentials that are going to make your Mardi Gras party simply ROCK!

•    Masks.  Masks are an essential and traditional accessory for any Mardi Gras bash.  Hundreds of years ago, masks were worn during Mardi Gras to conceal one’s identity during a time of (what might be construed as) naughty or questionable behavior.  Nowadays, Mardi Gras masks are primarily worn just for fun and to get into the spirit of the event.

•    Costumes.  Dressing up in a costume is another essential part of Mardi Gras fun.  The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are bright green, gold and purple.  Outlandish use of these colors in any form is appropriate for Mardi Gras.  Dressing in costume looks such as Clowns, Jesters, Flappers, Kings, or Queens is perfect!  The truth is, pretty much any costume with lots of feathers, beads, crazy hat or wild makeup will do just as well.

•    Makeup.  If you have ever had a hankering to go simply crazy with makeup, Mardi Gras would be the time.  A Mardi Gras party is perfect for face painting, lots of glittery makeup, huge false eyelashes, or any other pull-out-all-the-stops makeup look that you may be wanting to try.  Ladies and Gents, it’s time to get creative.

•    Hats. Besides masks, hats are another important accessory that will help you to get you into your Mardi Gras groove.  How about a glittery top hat or a feathery Flapper headband?  You will find out very quickly that using wild headwear is a super easy way to get your Mardi Gras look going on in a hurry.

•    Beads…etc.  Accessories at a Mardi Gras party are absolutely essential!  You are going to want to have plenty of parade-style throws for your guests.  These accessory items might include traditional Mardi Gras style beads, doubloons (coins), confetti, glitter, feathers, etc. 

Mardi Gras 2015 is February 17th.  Start making your plans now for what could be the biggest night of celebrating--ever!

10 Little Known Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.

  • January 18, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell
10 Little Known Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.

This year we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday January 19th.  This holiday is set aside in order to honor the man who was likely the most influential voice of the civil rights movement.  Here are some of the more obscure facts about the life of this influential leader.

  • Martin Luther King showed signs of great brilliance at a very young age.  So academically advanced during his school years, Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to skip both the 9th and 11th grades, entering college at the mere age of 15 and obtaining his bachelor's degree in sociology at age 19.  At age 35, Martin Luther King was also the youngest male to be a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. 
  • Martin Luther King was originally named Michael King, Jr. after his father who was also named Michael King. Following a trip in 1931 to Germany, the senior Michael King decided to change his name to Martin Luther King, in tribute to the theologian Martin Luther.  Even though he was merely two years old at the time, Michael King, Jr.’s name was at this time also changed to Martin Luther.
  • Martin Luther King was a smoker, although he disliked being photographed while smoking.  Even in those days he felt that there might be some negative connotations associated with his habit.  Dr. King was careful never to smoke in front of his children as he hoped that they would not themselves pick up the habit.  It is rumored that Martin Luther King, Jr. was smoking when he was shot.  A close associate of his was said to have removed the pack of cigarettes from his pocket and then hid the cigarette butt so that it would not be known that he had been smoking when he died.  After his death, the coroner reported in autopsy findings that Dr. King’s heart appeared to be that of a sixty-year old man.  Dr. King was thirty-nine years old when he was killed.
  • Ten years prior to his death, another person had tried to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. at a book signing.  In 1958, a mentally ill woman tried to stab Dr. King.  The wound was said to have been alarmingly close to his aorta, thus it took over three hours to carefully remove the letter opener that had been used as a weapon.
  • Early in his career, Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t entirely sure about going into the ministry and once considered a career in law or medicine.
  • Although Martin Luther King, Jr. has always been remembered for being an amazing as well as gifted public speaker, while in school, he once got a C grade in a public speaking class.
  • When Martin Luther King got married, he was unable to stay at a white-owned hotel on his wedding night.  His wedding night was spent in a black-owned funeral home; arrangements had been provided by a friend. 
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. donated all the proceeds ($54, 123) from his Nobel Peace prize to the Civil Rights movement. 
  • In addition to many other honors and accolades, Martin Luther King also won a Grammy Award.  The Grammy was received in 1971 for “The Best Spoken Word Album.”
  • There are over 900 streets named in America named after Martin Luther King, Jr., with at least one street bearing his name in most major cities in the United States.

Halloween and New Year’s Day: What’s the Connection?

  • January 12, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

Not that long ago we welcomed in another new year on first of January.  January hasn’t always been the first month of the year, however.  Believe it or not, there was a time in history when welcoming in the new year had a lot more to do with Halloween than it did with making resolutions or watching the countdown in New York City’s Times Square.

Centuries ago, the ancient pagan Celtic people measured time by the seasons of the year rather than by the calendar we have become so familiar with in our modern day.  The Celtic calendar began anew on October the 31st, a time when it appeared that nature was beginning to go dormant during the harsh winter months. 

The new year was a time of great celebrating for the ancient Celts.  It was also a period surrounded with much mysticism, superstition, and ritual.  Back in those ancient days, the festival marking the new year was known as Samhain.  During the celebration of Samhain, these highly superstitious folks believed that that veil between the living world and the afterlife became very thin and blurred.  During Samhain, it was thought that the dead could come back and communicate as well as interact with the living--whether the spirits had good or in some cases, even very malevolent intentions.

Samhain not only marked the Celtic New Year, but it was also a time for the local villagers to thank their pagan god’s for a year’s bounty. The celebration also offered up an opportunity to pay due homage to the harvest gods that they felt watched over them.  Lighting huge bonfires and sacrificing livestock was one ritual that was done in hopes that the gods would recognize their gratitude and continue to provide for their needs.   These bonfires quickly became the focal point of the Samhain celebration, and it’s many traditions, which also included storytelling, dancing, and great feasting. 

During the celebration of Samhain, disguising oneself in a costume was a common practice.  Nowadays, children and adults dress up in costume for Halloween in order to temporarily become a character from the movies, a story or perhaps from pop culture.  Back in ancient days, however, costumes likely served a far more practical purpose.  These ancient costumes were likely donned in order to confuse and hopefully ward off any evil spirits that may be out and about during the time of the Celtic New Year.  Rudimentary lanterns carved out of turnips were also commonly lit during Samhain.  These earliest jack-o-lanterns were used not only to light one’s way, but also to scare off any evil spirits that might be lurking about.

So, as you can see, the ancient traces of Halloween history have a lot to do with ringing in the New Year.  Although our modern commercialized society has completely changed the way we celebrate most holidays, it’s still fascinating to remember where these old holiday traditions began.  When it comes to Halloween, long before there were costume parties, trick-or-treating and costumes there was a New Year’s celebration, and it was called Samhain!

Looking Back: The Top Costume Characters of 2014

  • January 07, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell
2014's Top Costumes

It’s that time of the year.  As we bid our final adieu to 2014, we would also like to take a moment to remember the best costume characters that 2014 had to offer.  Many of these characters were old stand by’s and tried and true favorites.  Other of these amazing personas rapidly became our new best friends as they won their way into our hearts.  There will never be another year exactly like 2014.  2015 will bring its own brand of fun and own set of new costume characters for you and your family to love and enjoy.  Let’s take one final look back at the top fifteen costume characters of 2014! 

Frozen:  Disney’s latest animated adventure offered up some very memorable characters that truly captured our hearts.  Elsa, Anna, and the beloved Olaf were all extremely popular this year both for dress up and of course, Halloween. 

Zombies:  If you think you’ve seen the last of the zombie, think again.  This decomposing, shuffling monster du jour seems only to be gaining in popularity although thankfully; he hasn’t learned to walk any faster! All you have to do is take a look around in popular television, movies and video games to understand that the zombie is likely here to stay.

Ninja: American’s are obsessed with these iconic Japanese warriors.  These days, the traditional ninja has been somewhat morphed into an Americanized mashup of street fighter combined with martial artist.  No matter how you look at him, however, the ninja still carries with him an air of mystery, fearlessness and absolute coolness. 

Pirate: Aye Matey!  The pirate is a classic costume look whose popularity has only been fueled by popular movies, television and other media--not to mention his uber cool and gravelly pirate lingo.  Arghhhhh.   

Clown:  Most people either love clowns or are oddly scared to death of them. The clown can be cute and funny and yet so creepy at the same time.  Depending on portrayal, the clown can reflect a very wide variety of emotions.  For this reason, the clown continues to be a classic costume look that is appropriate for a wide variety of occasions.

Witch:  The witch has been, and likely will continue to be, one of the most quintessential and popular of all the costume looks.  Witches come in all shapes and sizes. You can find a witch in many different varieties, too--from cute and whimsical witches to the truly dark and evil sorceress.  Sexy and seductive witches are also a very popular costume look.  Let’s face it, there’s a part of all of us that wishes we could get around via a broom.

Vampire:  The vampire will always be one of America’s most infamous monsters.  Easily a candidate for the ultimate “bad boy”, there is something oddly alluring about this seductive, captivating, yet oh so deadly and blood sucking character.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  These dudes are popular because, let’s face it.  They are bodacious, radical, gnarly, wicked and totally tubular.  (Just to name a few…)  The popular hit movie starring this dynamic foursome only spurned the popularity on.  Cowabunga!!!

Book of Life:  Hollywood influence was once again a huge reason for the popularity of the character’s that came from this epic film. 

Flapper:  A popular, as well as dynamic character to bring straight out of American history, the flapper will always represent youth, rebellion, and elegance, along with a heavy dosing of attitude and sass.

Batman:  Always one of the most popular and classic of the superhero genre, there probably isn’t a kid alive that hasn’t at one time or another wanted to utter the words, “I am Batman!”

Despicable Me:  Minions, minions, and more minions.  What more do we need to say?

Maleficent:  Who could have predicted how popular this truly dark and evil fairy would ultimately become--far more so than her lovely co-star, the little innocent Aurora.  It just goes to show that sometimes being the bad one is just more fun.

Monster High: Ragingly popular with female “tweenagers”, this cast of monstrously cool adolescents with fiendish pedigrees, combine cuteness and scariness into one powerful fashion statement. 

Star Wars:  Always a favorite, expect the Star Wars franchise to remain in the echelon of top costumes as 2015 will bring another exciting Star Wars adventure to a movie theater near you.

Crazy New Year’s Trivia We Bet You Didn’t Know

  • January 01, 2015
  • Jenna Maxwell

Every year we welcome in the New Year with many festivities, celebrating and lots of revelries.  How much do you know about the origins behind your New Year’s party?  Here are some fun facts about New Year’s that we’re betting you didn’t know! 

Thank Julius.  Julius Caesar was the first one to decide that January 1 would be the first day of the New Year.  Interestingly enough, January 1 seems to be a completely random day to choose as there is no real significance or meaning behind this particular day as would be the case for many other annual celebrations.  January was chosen to honor the Roman God Janus, the god of new beginnings.  The head of Janus traditionally has two faces--one looking backwards, one looking forward toward the future. 

It’s Not What You Know.  Ancient New Year’s tradition states that whom you hang out with when the New Year begins can make or break the next 365 days when it come to good fortune.  Most people choose to celebrate New Year’s with good friends and family, which is said to improve your luck in the upcoming year.  Kissing your significant other at midnight is also said to solidify the relationship for the upcoming year.

Eat Lucky.  There are certain foods that traditionally spell luck when eaten on New Year's Eve.  These fortunate foods include leafy greens for prosperity and various lentils for good fortune.  You might want to make sure your New Year’s spread is laden with some of these healthier foods; what have you got to lose?

Sing It, Baby.  The most traditional and enduring song to sing at midnight on New Year’s is an old Scottish tune entitled, “Auld Lang Syne”.  Do you know the words?  If so, you might be one of a very select few people that know the lyrics.  The song, written by Robert Burns in the 1700’s is a wistful tune about “the good old days”. 

New Year’s Is Old.  The tradition of celebrating New Year’s Day can be traced back 4000 years to the time of the ancient Babylonians.

Resolve to Make Resolutions:  The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions goes way back to the ancient Babylonians.  Today, about 45% of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions.  The most popular resolutions include resolving to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking, budget and save money, and get a better job.  

Party!  The most popular New Year’s destinations in the United States are Disney World, Las Vegas and of course, New York City.  Over one million people will celebrate New Year’s in New York City’s Times Square.  The famous ball in Times Square dropped for the first time in 1907, a tradition that was instituted largely because of a ban on fireworks.  The ball has dropped every year since, except during 1942 and 1943 because of WWII. 

New Year’s Toast!  Over 360 million glasses of champagne will be consumed in order to toast in the New Year. 

New Year’s Baby:  The traditional symbol of New Year’s, Baby New Year, began in Greece in 600 BC. Folklore states that the famous infant will age into an old man during the course of the year.

Random New Year’s Traditions We Love:  According to Italian tradition, it’s very important to wear red underwear as you welcome in the New Year.  This time-honored custom is said to bring the wearer good luck.  Another method of ensuring an entire year of happiness is to consume twelve grapes at midnight--this tradition comes from our Spanish friends.  In Switzerland, a New Year’s celebration would not be complete without dropping some ice cream on the floor.

Happy New Year from Your Friends at Halloween Express!