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Why Do We Throw Beads at Mardi Gras?

Beads 2

While at a Mardi Gras parade recently I was posed the question by some folks from Quebec, “Why do they throw beads?”

I stopped for a second to ponder this tradition of every Mardi Gras parade known to man, and I absolutely had no clue. I was a little embarrassed that I could not rattle off the reasoning behind this oh so important part of the Mardi Gras season.

Then after I did some searching on the internet, I quickly figured out why I had no clue — it’s because there isn’t much of a reason! The following excerpt/explanation is what I read the most while perusing the internet.

The celebration of Mardi Gras started in Medieval Europe and eventually moved to New Orleans. In 1703, the small French-Canadian settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile held its first Mardi Gras celebration. Starting in the 1920s, “krewes” of parade organizers began the “tradition of throws” by tossing to the crowd cheap necklaces made of glass beads. The beads became so popular that they were adopted by all parade krewes, which number about 60 today

Beads and baubles function as a kind of currency in the world of Mardi Gras. According to Mardi Gras Unmasked, beads make Mardi Gras “interactive, turning spectators into willful participants.” For both float-rider and spectator, the beads become “ritual talismans that make possible an emotionally powerful experience.” Though the beads are practically worthless, they become priceless in this setting. They also establish a one-on-one connection between two perfect strangers, a connection that feels important and exhilarating.

Now can you see why most of us have no clue why we throw beads? It sure seems like it was something folks just started doing and it stuck! Or am I missing something?


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