Mardi Gras is well underway in New Orleans, so for those of us that didn't make it to Louisiana, here are 4 things you didn't know about Mardi Gras:
What are krewes? Krewes are the groups that organise parties and parades around Mardi Gras. They meet in secret throughout the year, then appear in masks on their floats. Rex and Zulu are the most famous, but each has its own style and traditions.
Why is everything green, gold and purple? The traditional Mardi Gras colours were inspired by Russian royalty. Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff visited New Orleans in 1872, and the Rex (the original Mardi Gras krewe) liked the combination so much they incorporated them. The colours symbolise justice (purple), faith (green), and power (gold).
What's the deal with kingcakes? Kingcakes have been a symbol of New Orleans since the 18th century, when French and Spanish colonists. The dough is braided before it is baked, and then filled with Bavarian Cream, apple or strawberry jam, and a trinket that one lucky person will find. Whoever finds it is responsible for hosting the next party!
Why do they throw beaded necklaces? One of the krewes dressed up as Santa and threw beaded necklaces at the crowd in the 1880s, and it was so popular other krewes started copying them. Back then the beads were made of glass. It was in the 1970s that they were replaced with the cheap plastic necklaces thrown today, which is about the same time women started flashing to earn them.