Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" and alludes to the over-indulgence of this day. The word "fat" may also be referred to the fattened ox that was paraded through town before being sacrificed at a mid-winter, pagan fertility celebration. Purple, green and gold are the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. Purple represents justice, green is faith, and gold symbolizes power! One of the most popular traditions of Mardi Gras is the King Cake, which is a coffee cake pastry with a plastic baby inside. Traditionally, whoever finds the baby in his or her piece of cake is said to have good fortune throughout the year and must provide the King Cake for next year's party.
Also, apparently the tradition of bead throwing didn't come about until the 1880s. One of the Krewes (an organization that puts on a parade or ball for the carnival season), originally dressed up as Santa Claus, and tossed out glass beads! It was a great hit and by the 1900s, beaded necklaces became the throw of Mardi Gras. Then around the 1970s, the glass beads got replaced with cheap plastic and aluminum beads, and earned the thrower a flash of flesh. The obsession with the flesh links back to the original celebration by the Romans. The Romans celebrated the Lupercalia festival in honor of the fertility and agriculture gods, and had Mardi-Gras like qualities that include drinking, feasting, and "pleasures of the flesh". Eventually, this holiday because adopted as a "last fling" of indulgence before the 40-day Lenten period of Penitence.
So next time you celebrate some with traditions, be curious and ask questions as to how they come about. It'll give you another perspective to the festivities and you'll be able to enjoy it like it's the first time! Learn something new everyday don't we? Happy Mardi Gras!