Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday. It signifies the last day of celebration before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. The actual dates of Mardi Gras vary each year because the celebration is scheduled 47 days before Easter and the actual date of Easter varies by calendar year. In New Orleans, La., the traditions of Mardi Gras are the essence of the celebration. These traditions include specific foods, parades, costumes and the use of three colors.
Mardi Gras colors. The colors of Mardi Gras are green, gold and purple. Since about the mid-1800s, private groups called “krewes” organize parades throughout New Orleans during the Mardi Gras celebrations. The official Mardi Gras colors were introduced by the Krewe of Rex, one of the oldest krewes.
Krewe of Rex. Established in 1872, the Krewe of Rex introduced the green, gold and purple colors of Mardi Gras that same year. The Krewe of Rex was formed by New Orleans businessmen, charged with the responsibility for throwing a lavish Mardi Gras display for a visiting Russian grand duke. To honor Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich, the Krewe of Rex named green, gold and purple as the celebration’s colors and provided a spectacular parade. Today, the Rex parade is one of the most anticipated Mardi Gras traditions, still lavish with ornate costumes and hand-painted floats.
Meaning of Mardi Gras colors. According to the official New Orleans Mardi Gras website, the three colors have specific meanings. The color green represents faith. The color gold represents power. The color purple represents justice. The official meaning of the three Mardi Gras colors was unveiled at the 1892 Krewe of Rex parade featuring the theme, “Symbolism of Colors.”
Colors inspire university colors. Mardi Gras is said to have influenced the choice of school colors for Louisiana State University (LSU.) The many shops in New Orleans were stocked with Mardi Gras materials and fabrics in green, gold and purple prior to the celebration, which coincided with the time the university was trying to choose its colors. LSU decided on gold and purple, two colors in abundance because of Mardi Gras, while rival school Tulane University was left with the green, although the latter’s actual colors are olive and blue, not the emerald green of Mardi Gras.