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The Fascinating Truth About Mardi Gras Colors

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It’s Mardi Gras!

From beads to masks and even to delicious king cakes, the purple, gold and green combination is everywhere. But what are the origins of those well-known colors? These colors go back to 1872 with the first daytime parade, the Rex parade, where the King of the Carnival was to preside. 

Every king must have a flag to represent his kingdom, right? Purple seemed to be an easy choice, being widely associated with royalty, as well as Catholic Lent.  According to heraldry (the system that regulates and describes coats of arms, insignias and recording genealogies), there should be colors as well as metals to represent a kingdom. What better metal to represent a kingdom than gold?

Inspiration was drawn from the flags of the United States, France, and Great Britain, all great nations with tricolor flags. Thus, it was determined that the flag would have 3 colors as well.  However, there seems to be some disagreement over the origin of the final color, green. Some have said that it was added as a nod to a Russian monarch who was visiting that year.

It should be noted, however, that although the colors may be described as “purple, green and gold,” rules dictate that metal can only be placed next to colors and that colors cannot be placed on or next to other colors, so technically, the colors are purple-gold-green.

To further boggle your mind, Mobile, where Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the United States, doesn’t even recognize green as a Mardi Gras color!

Bonus:

Why all the masks? Masks were initially worn for rituals, celebrations, and performing. In the beginning, the masks allowed people to mingle with other classes and thus escape their society. Later, it became law that riders on floats wear masks, but on Mardi Gras day, anyone could wear them… and laissez bons temps rouler!

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