San Diego, CA
Mardi Gras Beads New Orleans
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© Christine Till
What comes to your mind when you think of New Orleans' Mardi Gras? For some, it's the traditional fare of extravagant parade floats, exquisite masks, and beautiful beads. For others, the image that comes to mind is that of wild parties and the craziness that is NOLA's Bourbon Street.
Glass beads did not become a New Orleans Mardi Gras staple until the 1880s, after Anglo-American "krewes" had formed to organize the loose-knit festivities. Legend has it that the first parade participant to use beads was a man dressed up as Santa Claus; the ornamental strands were such a hit that other krewes picked up on the ritual. By 1900, when at least 100,000 tourists a year flocked to the Crescent City for Mardi Gras, beaded throws were ubiquitous.
Despite all of the other Big Easy souvenirs, colorful bead necklaces remain the most popular trinket passed out during the Mardi Gras celebration. They are now made with cheaper and safer materials like plastic and aluminum rather than glass. Traditional Mardi Gras beads are purple, green, and gold colors. The purple symbolizes justice; the green represents faith; and the gold signifies power.
Throw me something, mister!
January 13th, 2014
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