Why are beads thrown at Mardi Gras? The history is actually really interesting
Some celebrated Galentine’s Day on February 13th, but others celebrated the beginning of Mardi Gras. Maybe a few people even had a combined celebration, which pretty much adds up to the best party ever. While you might think of the Mardi Gras tradition of throwing beads as problematic, in that it requires women to flash their breasts, that’s not at all how it started.
In fact, Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, has a long history that predates the colonization of the U.S., and actually started in medieval Europe. In New Orleans, the celebration of Mardi Gras started 300 years ago. People only started throwing out favors during the 1840s, though, and it wasn’t until the 1880s that glass beads became a staple of the Mardi Gras celebration.
The tradition of women flashing their breasts for beads began in the 1970s, which makes sense considering the hippie era’s proclivity for nudity. But the practice of throwing beads at Mardi Gras was inspired by Renaissance festivals that took place before Lent, where revelers would toss things into the air in celebration of the coming fast.
What started out as glass beads later became plastic beaded necklaces.
And you don’t have to flash anything to get them.
The typical colors of Mardi Gras beads, also called “throws,” were established in 1872. The traditional colors of the beads are purple, green, and gold, which represent justice, faith, and power, respectively.
Originally, partygoers were meant to toss the different colored beads to people who exhibited the colors’ qualities. For instance, if you have a loyal friend, you would toss a string of the green beads.
If you wanted to get beads, you could yell out, “Throw me something, mister!”
According to NPR, people aim to get as many beads as possible during the wild celebration.
As you can tell from the pictures, Mardi Gras festivals get pretty ornate. We hope everyone in New Orleans had a blast and is sleeping in today — and counting up their beads.