Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Mardi gras with kids Seattle

Celebrate Mardi Gras at Ballard Community Center February 22

Mardi Gras is the "feast before the fasting" in some traditions

Let’s face it, Seattle is not New Orleans, where each year one of the nation’s most colorful and wild Mardi Gras masked parades takes place. Still, local families love a good Mardi Gras celebration — America’s version of festive Carnival seasons elsewhere.

The costume parades, dancing, revelry and foods of Mardi Gras are considered the feast before the fasting. That’s because Mardi Gras ends on Ash Wednesday, the day before the 40-day fasting and discernment period known as Lent begins in some Christian communities. 


Ballard Community Center invites families to get into the spirit of celebration at its 2023 Mardi Gras party. The event happens Wednesday, February 22, 6-8 p.m. at the community center.


Family Mardi Gras

The Ballard Mardi Gras party is made for kids – it will include ax throwing, face painting, balloon animals, mask making, buttons, bucket stilts, the center’s “Table of Wonders,” golf putting and more. Costumes are welcome and encouraged. Consider bringing purple, gold and green metallic or colored beads that are a marker of Mardi Gras in New Orleans to pass out to others. The colors have meaning in the world Mardi Gras – purple represents justice, gold is power and green is faith according to tradition. 

Mardi Gras and Carnival seasons in other parts of the world hold many traditions and symbols. Here are the most popular:

Mardi gras with kids Seattle

Petit Pierre Bakery King cake.

King cakes

During Mardi Gras, families buy, make and sometimes exchange King cakes – which represent the gold, frankincense and myrrh that Christian tradition says the three Magi (or kings)  brought to the Christ child as he lay in the manger in Bethlehem. Braided or round, these sweet cakes are usually decorated in purple, green and gold. Often a coin, small toy baby or other small item is baked inside to represent the Christ child.

Many bakeries in Seattle sell King cakes during Mardi Gras. Here are two of our favorites:

  • Petit Pierre Bakery in Magnolia is offering New Orleans Style King Cakes. Bright, tasty and moist, they come in three flavors (apple cinnamon raisin, Nutella, and almond frangipane). They also include festive, colorful beads and a baby figurine on the side. Orders must be placed two days in advance. Serves 6-8; $32 per cake.
  • Sugar Bakery on First Hill bakes king cake with a buttery brioche dough and offers a choice of fillings: bourbon pecan, vanilla cream cheese, or brown sugar cinnamon. Cakes come adorned with colored sugar and beads as well as a plastic baby inside. Whole cakes, which serve 10-12 people, can be pre-ordered online and are available through February 25. Serves 10-12; $50-60.

At most Mardi Gras celebrations, participants often wear masks, sometimes elaborate affairs that are meant to create real mystery around the wearer. From a historic perspective, masks represent hidden identity and are an invitation to lay social constraints aside for an evening. In other eras when social casting and power systems separated communities in more ways more obvious than segregation still at work today, the masks allowed people young and old to mingle with groups from which they might otherwise be excluded.

Shimmery beads

Beads have been thrown from parade floats and handed out at Mardi Gras celebrations since the 1920s when New Orleans parade organizers started handing out tiny trinkets like beads and candy coins to parade followers. Although the original beads were glass, today’s “throws” are usually plastic.  

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at