Mardi Gras kicks off with masks, beads, parades and colour

Feb 9, 2016 | Arts

Larry Johnson/Flickr

Larry Johnson/Flickr

Mardi Gras kicked off Tuesday with a wild and colourful celebration in New Orleans — as well as other places around the world.

The largest celebration is found in New Orleans of the day which traditionally comes before the start of the Christian religious holy season of Lent.

But Jeoff Waszek, Owner of Toronto costume store Candy Costume said Mardi Gras’  popularity is also tied in general today to the lack of excitement in February.

“It’s a fun event to throw and people are looking for an event,” Waszek said.

“There isn’t much else to do during this month.”

Waszek told Humber News that although costumes aren’t as popular, beads and masks are his top sellers.

Diane Hamilton, Director of Sales and Marketing for Amazing Party & Costume Superstore in Toronto, said she thinks there are a few reasons why so many people love the event.

“It’s another celebration,” Hamilton said.

“It’s a new theme [in terms of everyday life],  it has good music and good food.”

Hamilton also said beads and masks are her top seller. Unlike other stores, however, she sells Mardi Gras decorations year round.

“We have people decorate their birthdays in this theme,” she said. “High schools sometimes do a Mardi Gras party. It’s no longer just about an event in February.”

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a huge event that motivates millions to visit the city each year.



One question some have is why beads are thrown during the parade.

Laure Wilkie, an archaeologist at the University of California, told Forbes Online that this began as “one person’s material joke”.

“A carnival king threw fake strands of gems and rings to his ‘loyal subjects’ sometime in the 1890s, and by the early 1920s, one of the Krewes, probably Rex, started as a group regularly throwing strands of glass Czech beads,” Wilkie said.

“The throws were popular and others quickly copied.”

She said that by the 1950s, floats were redesigned to hold more beads and that people liked the beads simply because they were shiny.

“Beads, particularly the metallic, are darn pretty as they twirl through the air at you,” Wilkie said. “Some psychology studies demonstrate that humans are drawn to ‘shiny’, so that is probably a part of why beads continue to reign supreme among throws despite their lack of real function.”

To see what kind of shows and entertainment are available, visit Mardi Gras’ official website.