Many things come to mind when thinking of Mardi Gras; floats, marching bands, king cakes, and public drunkenness to name a few. But without the beads, and the people who are willing to raise their hands high and shout, “Throw me somethin’ mista’!”, Mardi Gras just wouldn’t be the same.
Everyone thinks of throws when they think of Mardi Gras; however, beads didn’t come into the picture until the 1920’s when Rex float riders began throwing inexpensive handmade glass necklaces to revelers. Hence, a tradition was born. Beads have gotten more elaborate over time and come in all colors of the rainbow, and believe it or not, it’s not uncommon for Carnival krewe members to spend from $800.00 to $2,500.00 on bead throws, with the most popular length being 33″ long.
When I was a little girl, Mardi Gras trinkets were made in Japan. They were fun to catch and everyone knew they were junk. Now, of course, they are manufactured in China, and are still considered junk, expect by the Chinese. Chinese factory workers are under the impression that these necklaces are valuable and sold in jewelry stores in the United States.
Dan Kelly, owner of Beads by the Dozen, and also a major seller of Mardi Gras throws has said about his suppliers, “The owners of the factory have asked me numerous times not to tell the workers that we throw their things into the street.”
Evidently, the truth that beads are considered trinkets of little or no value would hurt Chinese workers feelings.
For me, the value of Mardi Gras beads is that they keep the spirit of Carnival alive for my family and me. Montana is now our home and we are far away from our roots, but our Mardi Gras traditions continue.
Mardi Gras beads decorate the house and the King Cake is baked.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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