History of Mardi Gras Beads

Mardi Gras is right around the corner. On February 25th, Catholics the world over prepare for lent with one last day of debauchery; excessive drinking, school closings, costumes, and the piece-de-resistance, the Mardi Gras parade. Originally a religious holiday, Mardi Gras has developed numerous traditions and turned into a celebration for the masses, not just the devout. The currency of Mardi Gras is the lovely beads.

jewelry-history-mardi-gras-beads

These plastic baubles are sought after and hoarded like wealth during Mardi Gras week. Thrown from parade floats all over Louisiana to anyone who displays a surplus of joy-de-verve, the iconic Mardi Gras beads are inseparable from the celebration. The most popular beads are the colors of Mardi Gras; purple, green and gold. The colors were established by the 1892 parade theme chosen by The Rex Organization, “Symbolism of Colors.”  After that, the colors stuck; purple is for justice, green is for faith, and gold is for power.

In the late 1800s, some krewes threw beads, but by the 1920s all the krewes caught on and the fashionable flappers with their long twirling pearl stands helped cement the love of beads into a Mardi Gras tradition. Initially, the beads were made of Czech glass, and the necessity of catching them was part of the thrill. Over time plastics became more affordable and replaced the Czech glass. By the 1950s plastic beads ruled the Mardi Gras parades.

Today, the ire of plastics polluting landfills is on everyone’s mind. To make the Mardi Gras parades more eco-friendly, some krewes are switching to ceramic beads and baubles. Other krewes are, happily, returning to glass. With a less is more mentality, the Mardi Gras parades can continue to inspire joy-de-verve and love for parade season with well made Czech throws that double as everyday jewelry.

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