Laurie Barber | When confetti consisted of eggs, coins and fruit


Very few ministers of religion these days encourage the throwing of confetti in the church, or even in the near grounds.

Their argument is that confetti is difficult to eradicate from all sorts of places – which seems reasonable.

But imagine their argument if confetti consisted of eggs, lollies or fruit. Then they would really have something to complain about.

HOW WE KNOW IT: These days confetti consists of small pieces of paper and nothing else - a far cry from the old days.

HOW WE KNOW IT: These days confetti consists of small pieces of paper and nothing else - a far cry from the old days.

Confetti wasn’t always the little pieces of paper we see these days.

 Years ago confetti consisted of almonds, eggs, coins, fruit, candles or even flowers.

Some people might even say they were the good old days, when we could aim a projectile at the enemy down the road and get away with it.

The word goes back to Italy in the middle ages. Think of confectionary and you will get an idea of confetti’s origins.

In the middle ages participants at carnivals used to throw objects, sometimes rotten eggs and sometimes eggshells filled with perfume, at the watching crowd.

That reminds me of the school bus from Cardiff, with the boys downstairs and the girls upstairs, and the smell of rotten egg gas throughout the bus, but don’t let me be distracted.

In 1597 a bloke called Juan Fernandez de Velasco banned the throwing of eggs and other activities that we needn’t mention here and the custom went into recess for about 100 years. Anyway, eggs were expensive.

When the custom was reintroduced they were still throwing things that were likely to hurt, so mud balls became popular. 

Milan was a popular centre. “Go to Milan and become covered in mud.”

Milan was also a silk manufacturing centre, so mud gave way to silk.

Throwing things became popular at weddings and those Italians who couldn’t afford mud or silk began throwing lollies (and this is where we get the word confectionery, but this column isn’t about confectionery).

Then some bright spark hit on throwing paper.

By this time the custom had extended to places such as the USA and UK, where people used to throw things to bring good luck and fertility.

They decided to abandon the idea of throwing almonds, various nuts, rice and dates and instead of this threw coloured paper.

It is not true that mothers-in-law threw paper still in the boxes.

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say “not true”, because I believe it has happened.

But the custom of throwing confetti spread to many parts of the world.

Now we don’t throw rice, or even money, but we throw bits of paper instead.

It’s a silly custom, I agree, but they have to do something on their wedding day.