Known as Carnival around the world, “Fasching” is German for the winter celebration. It is the time before the Christian season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and is a period of preparation for Easter Sunday. Until about 100 years ago, Fasching started on January 6th (Epiphany). These days, the official start of Fasching in the German-speaking region of Europe is on November 11. The most active day of the season is Shrove Tuesday, usually in February – early March.
I learned to celebrate Mardi Gras as Fasching while living in Vienna, Austria. The customs and traditions differ on a regional level and from state to state. While in Tyrol, it is common practice to throw glowing logs from a hill on carnival Sunday; in Styria, it is a long tradition to join the annual carnival race. In Vienna, the capital city of Austria, the famous Viennese ball season is synonymous with Fasching and starts in January. The pedestrian zones, especially the famed Kärntnerstraße, are covered in snow and the windows are filled with ball gowns and extravagant jewels. Street vendors sell glühwein (hot spiced wine) and roasted chestnuts or potatoes. What would normally be a dreary time of year turns into a romantic and festive season.
Mardi Gras colors are traditionally gold, green, and purple. However, I decorated the Dining Room using mainly Black and Gold. My normal decor theme in this room is Venice. The oil painting of a gondola moving through a canal hangs over the fireplace. We have collected the Venetian masks over the years and keep them displayed on the mantel and walls. High above the entry into the room is an arched art plaque of Italy. These items are the perfect backdrop for a Mardi Gras theme. The only color added is on the charger plates.
When I saw these chargers, I fell in love with them. The vibrant colors, feathers and the lace mask definitely say “Mardi Gras” to me. My table bases and arm chairs have lions on them, and I have always liked animal print and decor items, so the animals on the chargers brought additional appeal. I was so excited to find lion and giraffe decor in gold and black to finish out the theme!
Note: I found the charger plates, lion and giraffe decor early last year. I am so glad I ordered them when I did. With all of this year’s supply chain issues and shortages, some items barely got here in time. Maybe I’m NOT crazy to plan my decor themes so far in advance after all!
To give drama to the room and bring the feel of the traditional Mardi Gras costumes and head wear, I created two ostrich feather arrangements.
I started with 28″ black glass Eiffel Tower vases. I filled them halfway with black pebble vase filler to weight them for stability. Using foam bouquet holders, I placed a total of thirty two 17′-20′ Ostrich Drab and twelve 24′-27″ wing feathers. (I sourced the feathers on Etsy.) It took more feathers than I thought would be needed. I thought I had enough for three arrangements, but used them all for only two. I didn’t want the feathers to be in anyone’s face, so I used the shorter Drab feathers for the bottom layers. The longer feathers were at the top. I actually needed a few more large feathers for the very top center of the arrangements, but I had on hand some floral stems with tufts of feathers to fill in the space. This was my first time making these feather arrangements, so I watched some tutorial videos before jumping in. They make it look really easy. It is easy, but there is a learning curve to getting the angles of the feather placement. Despite a little frustration in the beginning, I’m happy with how they turned out.
I purchased additional masks to use on the table and side tables. Black silk hydrangea and black faux allium spheres (2 sizes) fill around the Giraffe and Lion head decor pieces. The lion heads are actually meant to hang on the wall, so I secured them with ribbon to 12″ plate stands. I already had the Victoria candles and votives and used those for a little gold glitz here and there.
For the place settings, I used black shimmer placemats behind the chargers, black glass wine and stemless glasses (bought these years ago from Target for about $1 a piece), black flatware, black napkins, and black napkin rings. I also used black laser cut place cards. I will hand write the names on white inserts when needed. As the chargers are the decor feature, I did not set out plates.
It was actually a very quick and easy seasonal look to achieve. Other than the two feather arrangements, everything was just set it in place or create small groupings. Give Fasching decor a try!
We will be having a Fasching Dinner Party in early February. Check back later for pictures and details about the special event!