The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced all the way back to the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America's very first Mardi Gras. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans and is still celebrated today with amazing parties and festivals throughout the world. 

Mardi Gras - A Cultural Phenomenon

An exciting part of parades is the traditional throwing of beads. Before throwing beads people would throw food and dirt. In the '60s and '70s they started throwing tiny glass bead strands. Today most buy plastic beads, but some people are fortunate enough to catch vintage glass beads, which are very rare now!

Photo by: Ugur Arpaci

Mardi Gras - A Cultural Phenomenon

The colors you see at Mardi Gras are all symbolic. The official colors are purple, gold, and green. Purple symbolizes justice, gold stands for power, and green represents faith.

Tattoo by: Wild West Tattoo

Mardi Gras - A Cultural Phenomenon

Why do people wear masks? Wearing masks allowed Mardi Gras-goers to break away from their class constraints and conceal their identities. People still enjoy this tradition today because they're free to be whoever they want behind the mask and it adds to the magic of Mardi Gras. 

Photo by: Marc Vandecasteele

Mardi Gras - A Cultural Phenomenon

The people that organize Mardi Gras events are known as a Krewe. Krewes are also known as a secret society. They date all the way back to the mid-nineteenth century.

Tattoo by: Travis Chasez

Mardi Gras - A Cultural Phenomenon

Music is also apart of the celebration. In the founding years people would dance the waltz to classical orchestras. As time went on, brass music, rhythm and blues, and zydeco became the new sounds of Mardi Gras. Today, there is a large variety of music played.

Photo by: Sung Jin Cho

Mardi Gras - A Cultural Phenomenon

Flambeaux (a.k.a flaming torches) are also apart of tradition. The first Mardi Gras flambeaux happened in 1857. At first, they were used to see the Carnival parades at night but now they're used for entertainment; torches are twirled with dancing in the street. 

Tattoo by: Danny Elliott

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