Have you ever wondered about the meaning of beads at Mardi Gras? The various colors: purple, green, and gold – represent justice, faith, and power, respectively. Tossing these beads to parade-goers signifies sharing these virtues and promoting unity and joy.
The tradition of throwing beads during parades dates back to the late 19th century, and initially, they were made of glass. Don’t worry. That’s before people started throwing them!
Over time, plastic beads became more prevalent due to cost and safety reasons. The beads and other throws are not just random trinkets, but they actually hold a more profound meaning related to the festive spirit of Mardi Gras.
Moreover, the tradition of throwing and catching beads is also about having fun, connecting with others, and collecting as many tokens of the festivities as possible to remember the experience.
To understand the significance of these beads and the entire Mardi Gras celebration, let’s explore how Mardi Gras works.
⌛ History of Mardi Gras Beads
Mardi Gras beads have a rich history in New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter. The tradition of throwing Mardi Gras beads to spectators during the parade started in the early 1870s with an individual dressed as Santa Claus passing out gifts to spectators as he passed by.Wikipedia
Meaning and Symbolism Behind the Colors
The official colors of Mardi Gras were established in 1872 by the Krewe of Rex and represent justice (🟣), faith (🟢), and power (🟡).
If you’re curious about the deeper meanings behind these colors, you can discover more about what Mardi Gras colors signify.
These beads and other throws have become essential to the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.
📿 Types of Beads and Throws
During Mardi Gras celebrations, you’ll notice a variety of beads and throws being tossed around. These festive items play a significant role in the tradition and excitement of the event.
Let’s look closer at the different types of beads and throws you might encounter during the celebration.
Beads: Mardi Gras beads come in various materials, such as glass and plastic. Glass beads are often considered more valuable as they are intricate and delicate, while plastic beads are more common.
You’ll see beads in an array of colors, each with its own meaning. So, discover how to get beads at Mardi Gras to enjoy this carnival experience fully.
Throws: In addition to the iconic beads, Mardi Gras throws include a wide variety of other items. One popular throw is the doubloon, an aluminum coin often featuring a krewe’s emblem and theme. Doubloons are cherished keepsakes for many spectators.
Another unique item to catch your eye is the Zulu coconut, a decorated coconut handed out by members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club during their parade. It’s considered one of the most sought-after throws, so keep an eye out for those!
Cups are another popular throw during Mardi Gras. They are usually made of plastic adorned with the Krewe’s emblem or parade theme. Signal your cup-catching desire by holding your hand high in the air!
Lastly, you may also encounter various trinkets and toys during your Mardi Gras experience. These can range from homemade items to small stuffed animals. These fun novelties add to the excitement and are cherished memories of the celebration.
🎭 Role in Mardi Gras Parades
During Mardi Gras parades, various Krewes (social clubs) participate in the celebrations with their elaborate parade floats.
One of the most well-known Krewes is the Krewe of Rex, which has been around since the 19th century.
While watching the parades, you’ll see members of Krewes tossing beads, doubloons, and other trinkets from their floats to the spectators below.
Catching these items is all part of the fun and is seen as a way to interact with the Krewes.
Beads hold religious significance, representing the rich history and traditions of Mardi Gras. Most notably, green, which is the festival’s symbol of faith.
During the celebrations, both men and women dress up creatively and festively to fully embrace the spirit of the carnival. Women often wear colorful and elaborate outfits, accessorized with the traditional Mardi Gras beads.
♻️ Environmental Concerns and Alternatives
You might not know it, but those shiny plastic Mardi Gras beads can cause some serious environmental issues.
According to Greenpeace, many of these beads contain thousands of pounds of hazardous chemicals like flame retardants and lead, as well as other toxins linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity, and cancer.
So, when you’re celebrating Mardi Gras, it’s essential to consider the impact these beads have on the environment and your health.
One major issue surrounding the production of Mardi Gras beads is the fact that they’re often made in China and shipped overseas, which contributes to a significant carbon footprint.
Furthermore, since the beads are not biodegradable, they can last for many decades in landfills, wreaking havoc on the local environment and the health of Louisianians. It’s a pretty alarming picture, right?
Luckily, there are some eco-friendly alternatives you can consider for your Mardi Gras celebration.
Instead of using traditional plastic beads, try opting for those made from recycled materials or biodegradable substances. These beads will still allow you to participate in the festivities without causing harm to the environment.
Another option you can explore is supporting local artisans and purchasing handmade, sustainably sourced beads.
By doing this, you will contribute to a greener Mardi Gras celebration, help support the local economy, and reduce the demand for cheap, environmentally damaging beads from China.
🖼️ Collecting and Souvenir Culture
Mardi Gras beads have become more than just a fun trinket thrown during parades; they also play a significant role in the collecting and souvenir culture of the festival.
You might have noticed that people strive to collect as many bead necklaces as possible, flaunting their colorful collections around their necks. But why is this the case?
The tradition of throwing beads and trinkets can be traced back to the late 19th century.
Over time, the bead necklaces evolved into a symbol of the festivities and a sought-after souvenir to take home as a reminder of the fun times you had during Mardi Gras.
Collecting Mardi Gras beads has become a popular pastime and a way to engage with fellow parade-goers.
Participants often trade beads and trinkets, comparing their unique finds and jokingly competing to see who can collect the most. It’s all in good fun, creating a friendly atmosphere and fostering camaraderie among revelers.
The souvenir culture of Mardi Gras also involves other items beyond bead necklaces.
Some krewes throw out themed trinkets, such as doubloons, stuffed animals, and even coconuts, adding to the exciting variety of souvenirs to collect.
Plus, the more unique or rare an item is, the more valuable it becomes in the eyes of collectors.
🌯 The Final Wrap
Embrace the collecting and souvenir culture, but try do so in an envrionmentally concious manner. That goes for if you buy beads to throw or recycle them correctly.
Wear your most comfortable shoes, keep your hands free, and get ready to catch as many colorful bead necklaces and trinkets as you can!