The Mardi Gras season officially opens on the Feast of the Epiphany when the Three Wisemen come to Bethlehem. Many are familiar with the English Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Traditions vary around the world, but in America The Twelve Days begin on Christmas and end on Twelfth Night, January 5. This ends the Christmas season and for many traditionalists, the Christmas tree comes down the following morning, January 6. This is the feast of the Epiphany when the Wisemen arrive. It is also the first day of the Mardi Gras season.
So in New Orleans and many other locations where Carnival is celebrated, The Christmas carols are over and Mardi Gras music begins to play on the radio. Retailers pack up Christmas decorations and holiday gifts. Out comes the masks, beads, favors, dolls, and Mardi Gras jewelry. Some remove the Christmas decorations from the tree and redecorate it in a Mardi Gras theme. The party begins.
LEADING MARDI GRAS ITEMS FOR RETAILERS
With the celebration of Mardi Gras spreading throughout the United Sates and into other countries, some retailers wonder what merchandise I need to capitalize on Carnival season. Early in the season, long before parades, parties, and balls, Mardi Gras jewelry is selling. When purple, gold, and green combine in jewelry, Mardi Gras immediately comes to mind. These are the colors of Mardi Gras and they have symbolism. According to Arthur Hardy’s book, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the colors as well as their meaning date back to the first Rex Parade in 1872. Purple symbolized justice, green faith, and gold was for power.
MARDI GRAS JEWELRY
Mardi Gras jewelry includes pins, earrings, bracelets, pendants, and necklace sets. Out of these, pins are most popular. The leading themes are masks, jesters, crowns, along with comedy and tragedy. Since gold is one of the Mardi Gras colors, customers prefer gold plating to silver plating. Pins provide gifts or favors by members of Mardi Gras courts as well as table favors shared with those seated at the same table at the ball. The krewes that retain historical customs also you pins as call out gifts for call out dances.
But it is your customers that want to get into the spirit of the season that buy most of the Mardi Gras pins. Often they want matching earrings to really deck out for work or a night out. Mardi Gras earrings use the same themes and colors. Often earrings will match the pins. On our site, the pins start with MGP and earrings with MGE. The number that follows the prefix will be the same if there is a match.
Close behind earrings in popularity is Mardi Gras bracelets. Some of the most popular are charm bracelets that have a theme telling a story. For example, the Mardi Gras mask bracelet has charms showing a variety of masks along with Boeuf, the white bull of the Rex Parade. Today the fiberglass bull is second only to Rex himself as a standard fixture of the parade. Originally a live bull was used signifying farewell to meat as lent would arrive at midnight.
Other styles like stretch bracelets with end to end charms using the most popular themes of Mardi Gras and designs with opaque beading supporting dangling charms add to the variety of Mardi Gras bracelets. Even some of your customers that don’t participate in any of the functions, want to show some spirit with Mardi Gras jewelry.
Especially in New Orleans, there are two sides to Mardi Gras. The first is revelry along the parade routes, in the French Quarter, and in some neighborhoods. It is exuberant fun that rarely gets out of control. Every form of costume, hat, and face painting fills the streets. Hands wave in the air as floats pass, “Throw me somethin’, mister”. What an atmosphere for novelty hats!
Mardi Gras crazy hats provide every look from crazy to almost classic. Colors are usually purple, gold, and green. Spiked jester hats seem like they have been around forever, but not really. The novelty hat business took of in a big way about 15 years ago with cottage industries producing felt stovepipes. They went over so big that soon every imaginable design in novelty hats was popping up. Spiked jester hats were one of the first and remain popular today.
But fun hats for Carnival are not limited to Mardi Gras colors. Just browse the novelty hat selection and you will see animals, sea life, critters, crowns, and every other imaginable design to add to the fun of a party. These are a must for Mardi Gras celebrations.
MARDI GRAS FAVORS
The other side of the coin is formal elegance. Many of the Krewes have formal balls. Only those with an invitation attend and the balls have a rich pageantry that has a long history. With jewelry we mentioned call out gifts, table favors, and favors given by royalty of the Krewe.
Other items that make popular gifts are small jester head magnets and ornaments—usually in purple, gold, and green. Ceramic cups and pewter spoons, thimbles, and shot glasses are memorable gifts.
Small ceramic wall masks and small jester dolls also make appropriate gifts for the ball. Many of these items are also popular in gift shops that cater to tourists that need something about the celebration to take home.
Masks have a huge connection to Mardi Gras. In New Orleans, masks are required for the riders on the floats. But long before that, masks were an integral part of Carnival—actually all the way back to the Renaissance with Carnival in Venice.
Today, the Venetian mask is making a tremendous comeback. Search images of Carnival in Venice and you will see masks so exquisite they are breath-taking. This is the inspiration for Venetian-style masks that are mushrooming in popularity. Venice originally used paper mache’ and this is the medium for many of the styles based on Venetian art today.
But feather masks are also a hit and provide vibrant color and pizzazz at a lower price point. They were the main style of mask for Mardi Gras before the rise of Venetian masks in recent years. The leading style is FM80, a feather mask on a stick that is a favorite of florists because it is so easy to add to centerpieces.
MARDI GRAS DOLLS
Mardi Gras dolls fit naturally into the celebration. For the most part, these are jester dolls dressed in purple, gold, and green. The can be sitting dolls, standing dolls, or poseable. Most have white glazed faces and they come in every imaginable size.
MARDI GRAS ACCESSORIES
Perhaps the economic woes of recent years have energized people more to joining into the fun of Mardi Gras. This is a season that culminates in a day of revelry, a fantasy that leaves the everyday worries behind. So if people are going to enjoy Mardi Gras season, they need to dress for the occasion.
Yes, women can don their Mardi Gras jewelry when going out or going to work, but Mardi Gras scarves and handbags add even more to the spirit of the season. Scarves have a print of masks on an ivory background for a classy accessory expressing the spirit.
Slouchy Mardi Gras hobo bags have large purple, gold, and green sequins on a gold knit background. This is a flashy expression for Carnival.
Polo-style Mardi Gras shirts have large bars of purple, gold, and green alternating as they run horizontally across the shirt. The shirts, shown at the top of the blog, are unisex and the colors let onlookers know this all about Mardi Gras.
Now for the guys, Carnival theme neckties let men also get in the act wearing a tie to work with themes from Carnival season. Masks, beads, and comedy/tragedy decorate the neckwear that are conservative enough for the office, yet spread the spirit.
Add some Mardi Gras beads to the selection above and your shop is ready for Mardi Gras. Beads in metallic purple, gold, and green are very popular and the next blog will go into new styles.
Also popular are theme beads—themes like crawfish boil, sea life, fleur-de-lis, nautical, and Americana. Set up a section with a mix of Mardi Gras items and generate some sales in January—a time when business without this celebration is usually slow.