Mardi Gras throws are strings of beads, doubloons, cups, or other trinkets passed out or thrown from the floats in the New Orleans Mardi Gras, the Mobile Mardi Gras and parades all throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States, to spectators lining the streets. The “gaudy plastic jewelry, toys, and other mementos [are] tossed to the crowds from parading floats”. The ‘throws’, consist of necklaces of plastic beads, coins called doubloons, which are stamped with krewes’ logos, parade themes and the year, plus an array of plastic cups and toys such as Frisbees, figurines and LED trinkets. The plastic cups that are used as throws are sometimes referred to as New Orleans dinnerware.
Beads used on Mardis Gras (known as Shrove Tuesday in some regions) are gold, purple and green, with these three colors containing the Christian symbolism of power, justice and faith, respectively. Traditionally, Mardis Gras beads were manufactured in Japan and Czech Republic, although many are now imported from mainland China. As Fat Tuesday concludes the period of Carnival (Shrovetide), Mardis Gras beads are taken off oneself on the following day, Ash Wednesday, which begins the penitential season of Lent. As such, one of the “solemn practices of Ash Wednesday is to pack all the beads acquired during the parade season into bags and boxes and taken them to the attic”.
Spectators have traditionally shouted to the krewe members, “Throw me something, mister!”, a phrase that is iconic in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras street argot. Some women expose their breasts to invite throws in the French Quarter, although this is not required or even classed as a true Mardi Gras tradition, it is however quite common during French Quarter parades.
Some krewes have specialty throws; for example, the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club hand-painted coconut or the Krewe of Muses hand-decorated glitter shoes.