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Mardi Gras Beads - The Meaning Behind Them


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Mardi Gras Beads or throws are a fun part of the Carnival festivities in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Carnival season begins on Twelfth Night or January 6th. Carnival refers to the whole season from January 6 through Fat Tuesday, which is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday or the beginning of the Lent season. Mardi Gras generally refers to Fat Tuesday only, but many tourists describe the whole carnival season as Mardi Gras so locals began to refer to Fat Tuesday as Mardi Gras Day to alleviate any confusion. Festivities during the Carnival Season include parties or balls, parades, and king cake. Beginning two weeks before Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras Day, there is at least one parade daily. It is during these parades that the beads or throws are primarily used.

The New Orleans parades are organized by Krewes which are member sponsored communities. During the course of the parade, the krewe members toss out a number of different types of throws such as beads, doubloons, cups, and stuffed animals or small toys. Make sure you bring a large bag, pillow case, or any other sturdy container to bring your “catch" home in.

Prior to the 1960's, the beads were made from glass; however, they are currently being made from plastic. In the early 90's, people began to tire of the thin strands of plastic beads and would actually just leave them laying on the ground so some krewe members began to throw larger beads or novelty type beads with a theme. So why throw Mardi Gras beads? There is a school of thought that the beads or representative of the jewelry that was worn by royalty. People stand on the side of the road begging trinkets. “Throw me something, Mister" is a phrase you can hear over and over again. If you catch the eye of a krewe member, they will reward you by throwing a string of beads or more to you.

Mardi Gras colors chosen by Rex, king of carnival in 1892, are purple (for justice), green (for faith), and gold (for power). Generally, Mardi Gras beads are a thin strip of beads made from plastic in one color only, but the beads can come in every color under the sun. The most prized colors to receive are the Mardi Gras colors. Strands of bead also come in a wide variety of diameters and designs. The larger the beads and the more elaborate the design, the more desirable the strand of beads.

Carnival and specifically Mardi Gras Day is a fantastic way to spend time together as a family. You can pack a picnic lunch, play ball, watch the parades, and enjoy the festivities. Because Mardi Gras Day lasts the majority of the day, wear sunscreen, bring your lunch, and make sure you have enough bags to bring home a large catch. Mardi Gras Day parades are the biggest and utilize the largest number of throws. Have loads of fun and catch a lot of Mardi Gras beads.

Craig Thornburrow is an acknowledged expert in his field. You can get free information on numerous topics including beads at


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