The Mardi Gras is a festival celebrated world over today, especially in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s one of the most vibrant street festivals in the world, with lots of characteristic features that are unique to it alone. The festival comes down from the ancient Roman tradition of Lupercalia; their word for a carnival based festival in honor of the Roman God Lupercus. Later on, Christian influence in the Roman Empire converted the festival into a religious time of merrymaking before the 40 days of abstinence during Lent. Thus, the festival became a time to prepare for the 40 day Lenten period by feasting and generally making merry in every imaginable way. It was a time devoted to the complete removal of social stigmas, with masks and costumes put on, dancing in the street, drinking…pretty much a festival devoted to partying!
The Mardi Gras tradition reached the Americas with the European settlers in 1699, and from then onwards, it is a ritualistic festival, most popular in the city of New Orleans. The festival also has great emphasis laid on color symbolism, and the three well-known Mardi Gras colors are green, purple and gold. The interesting thing is that these colors only came to represent the festival in 1872, wherein the people decided to name an influential person King or Rex of the celebration. Each year, the Rex would decide the theme of the parade.
It so happened, that in 1872, Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia was in New Orleans—so he was named the first Rex of the Mardi Gras. The theme for that year was “The Symbolism of Color,” so the Duke was to choose three colors to be the thematic decoration of the festival. For his own reasons, the Rex of the Mardi Gras decided on the colors gold, green and purple.
Since then, the celebration has continued to evolve; with the colors slowly become representative of the festival itself. Today, the meaning of the three colors is clear to all—purple, green and gold shout “Party Time!” for the New Orleans public. But along with their festive cheer, the colors also have specific meanings: purple stands for justice, green stands for faith, and gold stands for power. These three colors also happen to be the school colors for some of the Louisiana state universities, where the Mardi Gras is more of an obsession than a celebration!
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