One of the most recognizable aspects of Mardi Gras is the plethora of plastic beads strewn everywhere. So, how do you get beads at Mardi Gras?
To increase your chances of catching beads, stand near the front, wear festive attire, engage with float riders by waving or dancing, and avoid aggressive behavior.
Flashing for beads has become rampant in the French Quarter in recent years. But, this is considered controversial due to the family nature surrounding the event.
Now, let’s dig deeper into the topic of beads at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, starting with their significance.
📿 Beads and Throws of Mardi Gras
Significance of Beads
Mardi Gras beads are an iconic part of this famous celebration. These colorful plastic necklaces are tossed to revelers as they line the streets of New Orleans and other cities during Mardi Gras parades.
If you want to understand what Mardi Gras beads symbolize, you should know that they represent fun, friendship, and the spirit of the festivities.
The different colors of the beads also have specific meanings. To learn more, check out this article on the meaning of Mardi Gras colors.
Catching these beads is a time-honored tradition, and you’ll see people of all ages extending their arms to grab as many as they can. It’s not just about the beads themselves but the memories and connections they represent.
Other Popular Throws
While beads are the most well-known Mardi Gras throws, there’s a whole variety of trinkets that you might find flying through the air during a parade. Each Krewe, or Mardi Gras organization, has its unique set of throws, adding to the excitement of catching them.
- 🪙 Doubloons: These are large, shiny coins often made of aluminum and featuring the emblem of the Krewe. Doubloons are highly collectible; some even trade them after the festivities.
- ⚜️ Medallion Beads: A step up from the traditional strand of beads, medallion beads feature a large, detailed medallion displaying the Krewe’s logo or emblem. These are also sought after by collectors and make great souvenirs.
- 🥤 Cups: Don’t be surprised if you catch a branded plastic cup during a parade! These cups are fun and practical mementos that you can actually use.
The thrill of Mardi Gras comes from the festive atmosphere, lively music, colorful costumes, and, most of all, the excitement of catching these beads and other trinkets.
🥳 Krewes and Spectators
Role of Krewes
Krewes are the backbone of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, organizing and participating in parades. Well-known krewes such as Rex, Comus, and Zulu prepare all year long to bring the best experience for spectators during the Mardi Gras festivities.
They are responsible for the fantastic Mardi Gras floats you see parading down the streets of NOLA. Members of these krewes also dress up in elaborate costumes and perform for the crowds.
Bead Catching Techniques
As a spectator, catching Mardi Gras beads and throws is an essential part of the experience. Here are a few techniques to help you increase your chances of collecting more beads:
🔍 Get noticed: Make sure you’re visible to the Krewes and float riders. Wearing creative, attention-grabbing outfits or holding up eye-catching signs can make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd!
📍 Location, location, location: Choose spots near both ends of the parade route where the Krewes will likely have plenty of beads and throws left.
👁️ Pay attention to the floats: Keep an eye on the approaching floats so you can plan your bead-catching strategy. Look for riders actively engaging with the crowd, as they’re likelier to toss beads your way.
☂️ Use tools: This one is for the uber-keen! Consider using a net or an upside-down umbrella to maximize your bead-catching potential. Just don’t do a Ben Stiller in Meet The Parents!
💡 Pro Tip: Keep the atmosphere light and friendly, and put an emphasis on enjoying your time with fellow spectators. Don’t get too carried away trying to snatch everything in your radius.
😲 Controversial Practices
Flashing for Beads
Mardi Gras celebrations have evolved in recent years, and a controversial practice has emerged, particularly in the French Quarter: flashing for beads.
While this doesn’t represent the entire Mardi Gras experience, it’s hard to ignore that it’s become a common sight in certain areas.
You may (scratch that, you will) come across partygoers who expose their breasts to onlookers in exchange for beaded necklaces. This practice might be seen as a way for some women to get more beads, but it’s important to remember that there’s much more to experiencing Mardi Gras.
Don’t feel pressured to follow suit and flash for beads. Most Mardi Gras parades and celebrations throughout New Orleans are family-friendly and do not involve any flashing or indecent exposure.
To enjoy the festivities without participating in the flashing culture and more risquè elements, attend the various parades and events in other parts of the city.
🥥 Souvenirs and Mementos
These items come in many forms, including cups, plastic cups, New Orleans dinnerware, toys, stuffed animals, frisbees, coins, and even the highly sought-after Zulu coconuts.
Catching colorful beads is a big part of the Mardi Gras experience, but there’s so much more to it. In addition to beads, you’ll find that the golden, purple, and green throws also encompass an array of other items.
You may find yourself reaching for reusable plastic cups adorned with catchy Mardi Gras-themed designs or even collectible doubloons (unique Mardi Gras coins representing different Krewes).
As you walk through the streets of New Orleans, keep your eyes peeled for unique souvenirs like stuffed animals and frisbees.
These crowd-pleasers are perfect for sharing with friends or taking home as a memento. You might even get lucky and catch one of the highly coveted Zulu coconuts, hand-decorated by members of the Zulu Krewe and treasured by collectors.