If you have ever attended any sort of Mardi Gras (literally, "Fat Tuesday," in French) celebration, then you know that the colors consist of purple, green, and gold. You also know that everyone dresses up, wears a costume or mask, and indulges in rich food and alcoholic beverages to the point of gluttony. Maybe you have wondered why Mardi Gras is this colorful, Bacchanalian celebration. Here are some explanations behind the Mardi Gras decorations, colors, and traditions.
Each Mardi Gras color stands for something associated with greed, gluttony, and exorbitance. For example, purple is the color of royalty, because only royalty could afford the very expensive indigo dyes and the extraction process to produce the dye that colored their regal garments. Green stands for luck, as in luck in gambling, money, and good fortune. The gold, of course, stands for the precious metal sought by wealthy patrons of all things rich.
The idea of this festival is to remain anonymous to those who might chastise participants for their revelry (e.g., the Church). If participants could not be identified by clergy, they would not have to face their sins. Also, if neither the occupants of Heaven or Hell could identify party-goers, then party-goers would be neither condemned by Heaven nor tempted by Hell.
Likewise, the masks served to protect one's identity and grant full immunity to revel as one pleased. Some of the earliest Mardi Gras masks were intentionally horrific to ward off evil spirits who might ruin the fun. The masks have since become much more lighthearted, but the roots of the reasons for such are usually the same.
The beads, of course, are meant to garner favor with someone. They originally bought time, dances, intimate moments, and whatever else the giver wanted from the receiver. Instead of plastic, they were polished gems. Presently, the beads still get something for the giver from the receiver, which is often a drink or physical exposure of one's anatomy.
The King Cake
The king cake is the centerpiece of any Mardi Gras food table. It is made of rum, spices, and, some would have you believe, pure decadence. A figure of baby Jesus is baked into the cake, which now symbolizes good fortune for the coming year. However, it used to symbolize absolvement of all of the sins you committed during the Mardi Gras festivities.
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