The rich culinary, musical and festive atmosphere of New Orleans provides many options for party planning. A party that utilizes a Big Easy theme should feature food, music, costuming and dance styles that conjure up the vibrant celebratory spirit of the city.
Because of the diverse cultures that have comprised New Orleans since its foundation, food choices are abundant. Spanish, French, African and German flavors and ingredients have melded together over the centuries to produce iconic dishes such as gumbo and crawfish etouffee. Both of these dishes usually feature seafood, a spicy stock and rice. Another dish associated with New Orleans is jambalaya, which is made with rice, vegetables and meat. The Crescent City also has beignets, a powdered pastry that is good as a finger food. Another sweet delicacy associated with New Orleans is king cake, which is made with colored sugar and a cinnamon-filled dough baked in a circular shape with a hollow center.
The same cultural conflagration that produced a rich cuisine contributed to a strong musical history. Since the city is considered the birthplace of jazz, try playing some Louis Armstrong, who was born and raised there, or music by ragtime pianist Jelly Roll Morton. More recently, New Orleans has been home to "bounce," its brand of hip-hop music, which is ideal for late-night dance parties. Zydeco is another musical genre that could highlight your party, having originated with Louisiana's Cajun culture.
The type of dress most typically associated with New Orleans involves costumes worn during Mardi Gras parades. These often feature colorful beads, masks and feather boas. During the parades, women sometimes wear ruffled blouses while men wear long top coats and hats. Other costumes include harlequin dress or circus attire. A color combination of green, purple and gold typifies both New Orleans and Mardi Gras. Some costume styles not associated solely with the holiday include long ruffled gowns for women and military jackets with epaulettes for men.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
If you play zydeco music at your party, consider the Cajun jig, which is a one-step style of dance that requires one foot to step on the other, or Cajun two-step dancing -- both of which commonly are done during fais do-do dance parties. The latter dance style is similar to the country-western two-step, without as much turning and spinning. "Buck jumpin" or "secondlining" is another type of dance performed by those who follow secondline dance parades and involves alternating rhythmic walking and quick footwork with jerking hip movements.
Lee Millisaw has been writing since 1998. He's been published in "Beyond Baroque Magazine," "Bordercrossing Berlin" and the "Berkeley Poetry Review." His work has also been featured on National Public Radio. He has a Bachelor of Arts in rhetoric from University of California, Berkeley.