Unveiling the Significance: What Do Beads Symbolize at Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is a grand carnival celebrated in many parts of the world. One of the major highlights of the celebration is the showering of beads on the crowd, which has been an integral part of the tradition since the early 1900s. Beads come in different colors, designs, and sizes, and they all hold significant meanings. Whether you’re a first-timer at Mardi Gras or a seasoned attendee, understanding the significance of beads is crucial to fully immerse yourself in the festivities.

The tradition of beads originated in the medieval period when French and Spanish colonizers brought it to New Orleans. The colors of the beads – purple, gold, and green – are said to represent justice, power, and faith, respectively. However, over the years, other colors have been added to the mix, each with their own symbolism. For instance, red beads represent love, white beads symbolize purity, while black beads signify death or mourning. The use of beads at Mardi Gras began as a playful exchange between revelers, but it has evolved into a way of celebrating life in all its colors and diversity.

While bead throwing is a fun activity at Mardi Gras, it also highlights the values of generosity and inclusivity. Beads are thrown to everyone regardless of race, gender, or age, and it’s considered bad form to refuse a bead thrown at you. In essence, the gesture encourages us to celebrate our differences and to appreciate the unique qualities that make us who we are. The beads become a symbol of joy and freedom, reminding us to embrace life to the fullest and to never take it for granted.

History of Beads at Mardi Gras

The tradition of throwing beads from parade floats during Mardi Gras can be traced back to the early 1900s. The practice was started by the Rex Organization, a prestigious Mardi Gras Carnival Krewe in New Orleans.

Initially, the beads thrown from the parade floats were made of glass and imported from Czechoslovakia. However, during the 1920s, the production of these beads was shifted to domestic manufacturers in Louisiana. This change led to the production of less expensive and more durable plastic beads.

Over the years, the practice of throwing beads has evolved into a quintessential part of the Mardi Gras experience. Beads are now an indispensable aspect of Mardi Gras celebrations all over the world. They are used as a way to connect people, promote unity, and showcase the unique personality of each individual wearer.

The Symbolism of Beads at Mardi Gras

  • Beads symbolize the colors of Mardi Gras: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.
  • Beads serve as a means of exchange – participants can trade beads with one another, or trade them for something else.
  • Receiving beads is a sign of goodwill, friendship, and the initiation of a new connection.

The Role of Beads in Modern Mardi Gras Celebrations

Today, beads are widely used at Mardi Gras celebrations all over the world. The annual Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans has become an iconic festival that symbolizes the city’s culture, celebration, and unique way of life. The tradition of throwing beads continues to be an essential aspect of the parades, and thousands of people flock to the streets to catch these colorful and shimmering objects.

In addition to the traditional use of beads, many modern-day Mardi Gras celebrations involve elaborate bead-based art installations, bead-making workshops, and fashion shows featuring unique bead designs.

A Brief Overview of Bead Manufacturing in New Orleans

The manufacturing of beads in New Orleans is an important part of the city’s economy and culture. The region is home to several major bead manufacturers, many of which have been in operation for decades.

Company Name Year Established
Bevi Seafood Company1987
High Voltage Mardi Gras Beads and Party Supplies1978
Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World1946

These companies employ thousands of people in the New Orleans area and are an essential part of the city’s vibrant economy. Many of these manufacturers use traditional bead-making techniques, such as glass blowing and hand-painting, to create intricate designs that are unique to New Orleans.

Cultural Significance of Beads at Mardi Gras

The tradition of throwing colorful beads at Mardi Gras parades is a beloved custom that has gone on for many decades. Long strings of beads with bright shades of green, purple, and gold are given to paradegoers as a symbol of luck, goodwill, and good fortune. However, the significance of beads at Mardi Gras goes beyond the visual appeal and the joy of catching them during the parade.

The Symbolism of Bead Colors

  • Purple: Symbolizes justice and royalty. During the early days of Mardi Gras, purple beads were only given to members of elite societies and were considered a sign of prestige and power. Today, purple beads are often the most sought-after of all the bead colors.
  • Green: Symbolizes faith and hope. Green beads are considered a sign of good luck and are said to bring prosperity and success to those who possess them.
  • Gold: Symbolizes power and wealth. The most valuable and rarest of all the bead colors, gold beads were once exclusively given to individuals who made significant contributions to the Mardi Gras festivities.

The Tradition of Trading Beads

One of the most unique aspects of Mardi Gras bead culture is the tradition of trading beads with fellow paradegoers. This tradition harks back to the early days of Mardi Gras, when participants would exchange trinkets and other small items as a way of showing gratitude and goodwill towards one another.

Today, trading beads has become a beloved ritual that embodies the spirit of Mardi Gras. Children and adults alike engage in friendly competition to see who can accumulate the most beads and trade them with others in exchange for souvenir cups, toys, and other treasures.

The Role of Beads in Mardi Gras Float Design

In addition to being tossed to paradegoers, colorful beads are also an important component of Mardi Gras float design. The majority of Mardi Gras floats are decorated with hundreds of strands of beads, which are used to create elaborate patterns and designs that reflect the spirit and history of the celebration.

Bead TypeFloat Design
PurpleUsed to create intricate designs and patterns on floats
GreenUsed to create a verdant background for Mardi Gras floats, mimicking the lush landscape of Louisiana
GoldUsed sparingly to add accents and highlights to float decor, to represent the wealth and power of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras beads are more than just colorful trinkets thrown into the crowd. They are cherished mementos, souvenirs of a joyful celebration of friendship and community. They represent the traditions, history, and spirit of Mardi Gras, and are beloved by all who participate in this stunning festival.

Different Types of Mardi Gras Beads

Mardi Gras is a festival that is famous for its colorful parades and the tradition of throwing beads to the crowd. Mardi Gras beads come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. In this article, we will talk about the different types of Mardi Gras beads that you will see during the festival.

  • Singles: Singles are the most basic type of Mardi Gras beads. They are a single strand of beads that come in different colors and sizes. Singles are typically thrown out to the crowd in large quantities.
  • Doubles: Doubles are two strands of beads that are twisted together. They are often seen in metallic colors like gold, silver, and bronze. Doubles are considered to be more valuable than singles.
  • Triple Threats: Triple Threats are three strands of beads that are twisted together and are, as their name suggests, considered to be a threat. They are usually thrown out during the later part of the parade and are highly coveted by the people in the crowd.

The number 3 holds a special significance in Mardi Gras culture. It is believed that throwing out beads in threes brings good luck, wealth, and health to the person who catches them. This is why Triple Threats are considered to be so valuable. Catching them is a symbol of good fortune and prosperity.

In addition to the traditional Mardi Gras beads, there are also specialty beads. These are beads that are made to commemorate a specific event or theme. For example, some beads may have the name of the parade or the year printed on them. Others may be shaped like a particular object like a shrimp or a crawfish. These beads are highly sought after by collectors and are often saved as souvenirs.

Type of BeadDescription
Glow BeadsGlow beads have a special coating that makes them glow in the dark. They are a popular choice for night parades.
Animal BeadsAnimal beads are beads that are shaped like different animals. They are a fun addition to any Mardi Gras bead collection.
Fleur-de-Lis BeadsThe Fleur-de-Lis is the symbol of New Orleans and is often seen on Mardi Gras beads.

In conclusion, Mardi Gras beads come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. They are an essential part of the festival and are often used to symbolize good fortune and prosperity. Collecting and trading Mardi Gras beads has become a popular hobby and tradition for many people who participate in the festival.

Role of Beads in Mardi Gras Parades

When we think of Mardi Gras parades, one of the first things that come to mind are the colorful and shiny beads that are thrown from floats to cheering crowds. But what do these beads actually symbolize in the celebration of Mardi Gras? Let’s explore their role in the festivities.

  • Throwing beads from floats – One of the most iconic traditions of Mardi Gras parades is the throwing of beads from floats. Crowds of people eagerly wait for these trinkets to rain down upon them as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year.
  • Color psychology – Beads come in a variety of colors, each with their own symbolism. Purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power. The combination of these three colors is often seen as a symbol of the Holy Trinity in the Catholic religion, which played a big role in the history of Mardi Gras.
  • Cultural exchange – Mardi Gras has always been a melting pot of cultures and traditions, and beads are no exception. The earliest versions of Mardi Gras beads were made from glass and brought over from France. Today, the beads are made from a variety of materials and often incorporate themes from different cultures, adding to the diversity and richness of the celebration.

But how many beads are actually thrown during Mardi Gras parades? The number is staggering – it’s estimated that over 60 million beads are thrown each year during the festivities. To put this number into perspective, it’s enough to stretch out from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and back again!


It’s clear that beads play a significant role in the celebration of Mardi Gras, symbolizing everything from good luck to cultural exchange. So the next time you catch one of these trinkets, remember the history and meaning behind this vibrant tradition.

Colors of Mardi Gras Beads and Their Meanings

Mardi Gras beads are an iconic symbol of the carnival season, but what do the colors of Mardi Gras beads actually represent? Here is a breakdown of what each color stands for.

  • Purple: Purple is perhaps the most recognizable color of Mardi Gras beads. It is said to symbolize justice, and also represents royalty and power. In the early days of Mardi Gras, purple was only used by royalty and the wealthy. Now, purple beads are widely available and often given to people who have shown leadership or strength in the community.
  • Gold: Gold represents power and wealth. It is also associated with the sun and symbolizes good fortune. Gold beads are often thrown from floats during Mardi Gras parades, and people who catch them are deemed lucky.
  • Green: Green represents faith and is also associated with rebirth and nature. Mardi Gras is often celebrated during the beginning of spring, when nature is coming back to life after a long winter. Green beads are typically the most common color thrown during Mardi Gras parades.

In addition to these colors, there is another number that is significant in Mardi Gras bead culture: 5.

The number 5 is said to represent the three colors of Mardi Gras, as well as two additional attributes: magic and luck. Some people believe that if you catch a strand of five beads during a parade, it will bring you good luck throughout the year.

Color CombinationMeaning
Purple, Gold, and GreenRepresents justice, power, and faith
Gold and GreenRepresents good fortune and nature
Purple and GreenRepresents justice and nature
Purple and GoldRepresents justice and power

Whether you are a seasoned Mardi Gras veteran or a newcomer to the carnival season, the colors of Mardi Gras beads and their meanings add an extra layer of fun and symbolism to the festivities.

Collecting Mardi Gras Beads

One of the most popular traditions during Mardi Gras celebrations is the throwing and collecting of Mardi Gras beads. These colorful beads are an important part of the celebrations and symbolize different things depending on their color and design. Collecting these beads is not only a fun activity but also a way to take home a piece of the Mardi Gras experience. Here are some things you need to know about collecting Mardi Gras beads:

  • It’s all about the quantity: The more beads you collect, the better. In fact, some people come to Mardi Gras with the sole purpose of catching as many beads as possible. So don’t be shy about shouting “Throw me something, mister” to parade floats, which will almost always result in beads being thrown your way.
  • Know the colors and their meanings: Different colors of Mardi Gras beads have different meanings. For example, gold beads symbolize power, while green beads symbolize faith, and purple beads symbolize justice. Knowing these meanings can add another layer of significance to your bead collection.
  • Trade with others: Once you have collected a good amount of beads, consider trading with others to diversify your collection. This can be a fun way to interact with other people at the celebration and score some unique beads.

The Number 6

One interesting thing to note about Mardi Gras beads is that the number six is considered lucky. This is because the three colors associated with Mardi Gras (purple, gold, and green) each represent two virtues: justice and power, faith and wealth, and loyalty and hope respectively. These six virtues together represent the perfect balance that each person should strive for in their lives.

ColorVirtue 1Virtue 2

So, when you collect six strands of Mardi Gras beads, you’re considered lucky and have achieved a perfectly balanced collection

Bead Throws and Catching Techniques

Mardi Gras is known for the throwing and catching of beads. The exchange of beads is one of the most important traditions that happen during Mardi Gras. These colorful and shiny beads are more than just trinkets caught up in the excitement of the festival. Instead, they hold significance and symbolism that has become ingrained in Mardi Gras culture.

The Number 7

The number seven is highly significant in Mardi Gras culture. It is believed that catching seven beads in a row brings good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year. Many Mardi Gras goers put a lot of effort into attempting to catch seven beads in a row, with some even going as far as strategizing their catching techniques to increase their chances.

  • One popular technique is to make yourself noticeable to the person tossing the beads. By waving your hands, shouting, or catching their attention, you will increase the likelihood of them tossing the beads in your direction.
  • Another technique is to position yourself in a strategic location that is closer to the float or person tossing the beads. This will give you a better chance of catching the beads before they are intercepted by other festival-goers.
  • Lastly, practice makes perfect. The more Mardi Gras you attend, the better you get at catching beads. A trick to catching multiple beads is to catch one, hold it in your hand, and use it to catch the next one. This technique increases your chances of catching multiples in a row.

Bead Symbolism

While bead-throwing and catching during Mardi Gras is an exciting activity, these beads hold a deeper significance beyond just being trinkets. In Mardi Gras culture, the different colors of beads symbolize different things. Purple beads represent justice, green beads represent faith, and gold/yellow beads represent power. In some instances, the color of a bead can also signify the type of throw it was caught with, as krewes often throw special or unique beads to commemorate a certain event or milestone.

Beads and Community

The throwing and catching of beads during Mardi Gras is more than just a fun activity. It is a time for community members to come together to celebrate and share their culture and traditions. Not only do these beads hold personal significance and meaning to those who catch them, but the exchange of beads also represents the collective spirit of the Mardi Gras festival.


Overall, the throwing and catching of beads during Mardi Gras is a treasured tradition that has become a symbol of community and togetherness. By understanding the significance and symbolism behind these shiny trinkets, we can better appreciate the rich culture and history behind Mardi Gras.

Beads in Mardi Gras Costumes and Accessories

Mardi Gras is a festival of vibrant colors, flamboyant costumes, and extravagant accessories. Beads, in particular, have become an iconic symbol of this celebration. For decades, these eye-catching ornamental objects have been widely used in Mardi Gras customs and traditions. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, each carrying its own unique significance. From ceremonial to decorative, beads add an extra layer of jubilance and spirit to the festivity.

The Number 8: A Lucky Bead

While different colored beads that represent different things, including power, love, and prosperity, the number 8 is a lucky bead. Wearing a string of 8 beads during Mardi Gras is believed to bring good luck to the person. If you get 8 beads from someone, it means they want you to have good fortune, success, and happiness throughout the year. The number 8 is associated with the mythical sign of infinity, paying homage to the magic treasures of nature. It’s said to protect against negative energies and evil spirits, and bring about transformative change in one’s life. Furthermore, the number eight stands for balance, harmony, and stability, making it a deeply rooted symbol in Mardi Gras culture.

Beads in Mardi Gras Costumes and Accessories

  • Necklaces: Necklaces are the most popular way of wearing beads during Mardi Gras. They come in all sorts of colors and styles, with some being longer or more elaborate than others. Most necklaces are made of plastic, but some can be found made of precious metals or stones, adding a touch of luxury to the festivities. Some Mardi Gras krewe organizations will create custom bead necklaces to commemorate their own parade.
  • Wristbands: Wristbands are a great alternative to necklaces. They can be more comfortable if you find necklaces heavy, and they won’t get in the way of your dancing. They can also come in a wide range of colors and styles to match your costume.
  • Headbands: Headbands are another popular accessory for Mardi Gras that people often decorate with beads. They are an easy way to add a pop of color to your outfit while keeping your hair out of your face.

The Mardi Gras Bead Table

Below is a table of common colors of Mardi Gras beads and their symbolic meaning:

ColorSymbolic Meaning

Wearing beads during Mardi Gras has become a beloved tradition. From their colors to their numbers, each aspect of these festive beads carries a unique meaning and adds a layer of significance to the celebrations. Whether you are wearing them around your neck, on your wrists, or even decorating your home, these beads are a playful and meaningful way to celebrate the carnival season.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact of Mardi Gras Beads

Aside from being a symbol of the festive and colorful spirit of Mardi Gras, beads also have a significant impact on the environment and sustainability. Here, we delve into the sustainability and environmental impact of Mardi Gras beads, specifically focusing on the number 9:

  • Nine million pounds of Mardi Gras beads end up in the streets, storm drains, and landfill every year.
  • Nine out of every ten beads are made in China, contributing to a large carbon footprint from transportation and production.
  • It takes nine gallons of freshwater to produce just one strand of Mardi Gras beads made from virgin plastic.

These statistics underscore the need for more sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways of celebrating Mardi Gras. Here are some potential solutions to address the environmental impact of Mardi Gras beads:

First and foremost, reducing bead waste through recycling and reuse is a crucial step towards sustainability. Some local organizations have implemented bead collection points in order to collect and recycle beads for future parades. Additionally, there are initiatives exploring the use of biodegradable beads made from plant-based materials, which degrade naturally when exposed to the environment.

Secondly, sourcing Mardi Gras beads from local vendors and manufacturers can significantly reduce transportation costs and energy consumption related to shipping beads from overseas. These locally-made beads support the local economy, too. As consumers, we can also make more conscious choices by opting for eco-friendly bead alternatives such as beads made from recycled materials, ensuring that our celebrations don’t come at the cost of the environment.

The table below sums up the sustainability and environmental impact of Mardi Gras beads:

Environmental ImpactStatistic
Bead waste in landfills9 million pounds each year
Carbon footprint from transportation and production90% of beads are made in China
Water usage in production9 gallons per strand of virgin plastic beads

As we revel in the festivities of Mardi Gras, it’s important to keep in mind the impact our celebrations have on the environment. By incorporating sustainability and eco-friendliness into our traditions, we can help preserve the environment and continue to celebrate Mardi Gras for years to come.

Bead-related Controversies at Mardi Gras

While Mardi Gras is a time of celebration and revelry, it hasn’t escaped controversy over the years. One area of controversy surrounds the beads that are commonly thrown during parades, as they have become associated with certain behaviors and actions that some find problematic. Here are some of the bead-related controversies that have arisen at Mardi Gras:

The Number 10

One of the lesser-known controversies surrounding Mardi Gras beads actually has to do with the number 10. Some new krewes or parade floats will create custom beads with a 10 on them, which has come to signify that the wearer is willing to exchange the bead necklace for a kiss on the lips. However, this practice is not universally understood, and some people have reported feeling uncomfortable or even assaulted by someone who has misinterpreted the meaning behind the 10 beads.

These controversies highlight the need for clear communication and respect for personal boundaries during Mardi Gras. While the beads may be seen as a fun and harmless part of the festivities, it’s important to remember that they can carry different meanings and implications for different people.

FAQs about what do beads symbolize at mardi gras

  1. What are Mardi Gras beads?
  2. Mardi Gras beads are colorful necklaces that are thrown and exchanged during the carnival season in New Orleans and other parts of the world.

  3. What do beads symbolize at Mardi Gras?
  4. Beads are a popular form of currency during Mardi Gras, and they often represent the spirit of celebration, joy, and free-spiritedness.

  5. What do different bead colors mean?
  6. Different colored beads have different meanings. For example, purple beads represent justice, green represents faith, and gold represents power.

  7. Why are beads thrown during Mardi Gras parades?
  8. Beads are thrown during Mardi Gras parades to spread joy and excitement among the revelers. It is also a symbol of generosity and community spirit.

  9. Can you buy Mardi Gras beads?
  10. Yes, you can buy Mardi Gras beads from local stores, online marketplaces, and souvenir shops. However, most people prefer to collect beads by participating in parades and festivities.

  11. What happens to all the beads after Mardi Gras is over?
  12. Many organizations and charities collect the discarded beads and recycle them to make new beads or other small souvenirs. This is done to reduce the amount of waste generated during Mardi Gras.

  13. Is it appropriate to wear Mardi Gras beads at other occasions?
  14. Yes, you can wear Mardi Gras beads at other festive occasions such as Halloween, parties, and festivals. They are a great way to add color and cheer to any event.

Closing: Thanks for joining the Mardi Gras celebration!

That’s all for this article folks! We hope you found it interesting and informative. Mardi Gras beads have come to symbolize a spirit of celebration, community, generosity, and joy. So next time you attend a Mardi Gras parade, remember to catch as many beads as you can and spread the fun to others. Thanks for reading and feel free to visit again for more exciting updates.