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#Throwback Thursday: The History of Mardi Gras

Carol Daniel
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(Credit, Randy Yagi)

(Credit, Randy Yagi)

carol-daniel Carol Daniel
Carol A. Daniel is first and foremost a mother and wife. She and her...
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Soulard’s Mardi Gras celebration kicks it up a notch this weekend with the big parade. But as most know, Mardi Gras is an imported event. It was on this day in 1827 that a group of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations.

The celebration known as Carnival–between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian period of Lent–spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas.

New Orleans became famous for its over-the-top parades and parties for Mardi Gras, french for Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season. Once banned by spanish governors of the province, once Louisiana became part of the united states in 1803, residents convinced the city council to lift the ban on carnival. At the end of the 17th century, Spanish governors of the province banned the celebrations. After Louisiana became part of the United States in 1803, New Orleans residents convinced the city council to lift the ban and the party’s been on ever since.

The popularity of the parties in 1833 led a rich plantation owner to raise money for an official Mardi Gras celebration.

But Party goers became violent in the 1850s prompting the formation of a secret society of high-profile families called the Mistick Krewe of Comus who staged the first large-scale, well-organized Mardi Gras parade 30 years after the students danced in the streets.

The Meaning and Origin of Purple, Green, and Gold in Mardi Gras. Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. Gold Represents Power. Rex selected the official Mardi Gras colors in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. The 1892 Rex Parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” affirmed the colors’ meaning.

Mardi Gras colors influenced the choice of school colors for archrivals Louisiana State University and Tulane University. When LSU was deciding on its colors, the shops in New Orleans had stocked up on purple, green, and gold material for the Mardi Gras season. LSU decided upon purple and gold, and bought much of it. Tulane bought much of the only remaining color–green! (Their colors are blue and green.)

The historic French Quarter is not the heart of Mardi Gras festivities, the major parades, of which there are several, have not been allowed into the area since 1979 because of the narrow streets. in 2006,

New Orleans held its Mardi Gras celebrations despite the fact that Hurricane Katrina had devastated much of the city the previous August.

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