You may be familiar with the beads, the king cakes, and the masked celebrations — but you’ll never guess at the history behind these and other traditions.
On Fat Tuesday, revelers on parade floats and in the streets wear elaborate masks covered in sequins, jewels, and/or feathers to disguise their faces. This tradition dates back to the first Mardi Gras at the turn of the 17th century. In that era, there were strict rules about proper social conduct — and masks allowed partygoers to shed societal expectations, where upper class and lower class could mingle for a shared moment of merriment.
Throwing Beaded Necklaces
Credit for this colorful tradition goes to the first Rex, the elected King of Carnival. In 1872, the Mardi Gras theme had three symbolic colors: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power, all in honor of visiting Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia. The idea was to toss the glass beads to spectators who appeared to embody these traits. The colors stuck — and in the decades that followed, the Krewe of Rex (one of two social clubs that run Mardi Gras) threw colorful glass beads, doubloons, and trinkets to the crowd. Most modern Mardi Gras beads are made of plastic, but a few “throws” are still handcrafted glass beaded necklaces.
Is there any Mardi Gras throw more prized than a Zulu coconut? The Zulu coconut tradition began in the early 1900s with the first historically African-American krewe. Lacking the funds to buy and throw glass beads to the crowd, they opted for inexpensive coconuts. Over the years, this tradition has evolved and today the tropical fruits are brightly painted, embellished with glitter, and handed to spectators rather than thrown (flying coconuts = danger!).
During Mardi Gras, bakeries across New Orleans sell out of king cakes iced in official Mardi Gras green, purple, and gold. These round pastries commemorate the Christian Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which marks the day that the Wise Men visited the baby Jesus. Choose your slice wisely: The “lucky” person whose piece of cake contains the tiny plastic baby (representing Jesus) is responsible for buying next year’s cake!
Channel Mardi Gras Anywhere
Bring together the energies of justice, faith, and power with your own unique Mardi Gras. Start with either the Amethyst PRECIOUS THREADS Bracelet or the February Birth Month Charm Bangle with a Swarovski® Crystal. Next, add a splash of green with the gorgeous peridot stone in the August Birth Month Charm Bangle with Swarovski® Crystal. Lastly, layer two necklaces to create a signature statement, like the Amethyst Pendulum Necklace and the Sprout Expandable Necklace with a Swarovski® Crystal (green).
Written by Shannon O’Donnell