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Confetti enjoys a fairly simple existence as a New Year’s Eve staple. Partygoers around the world will celebrate as organizers make it rain with colored paper and plastic this year, but it wasn’t always this way. Here are some quick facts about confetti’s history.
1. The first mention of confetti in literature exists in Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron novellas, which were published from 1313-1365. These were “candy-like confections originally made from honey and dried fruit as well as spices and, possibly, seeds or nuts.”
2. In the 14th century, various objects were tossed into crowds at Italian parades as part of an enduring tradition. These objects included candy, coins, fruit, eggs, and mud balls.
3. Mud and egg tossing (which were largely tossed as a statement against the upper class) were banned at Milan parades in 1597 by city governor Juan Fernandez, who also banned rudimentary squirt guns.
4. The ban was successful for a century or so but returned around 1700 in the form of candy and seed throwing. The particular type of seed tossed was called Coriander, and the Italian word for confetti developed into “coriandoli.” Less wealthy people were restricted to tossing chalk candy balls instead.
5. An Italian businessman, Enrico Mangili, developed the first paper confetti for use in Milan parades in 1975. He did so by gathering up the punched-out pieces of paper left over from silkworm bedding devices. This new paper confetti was much cheaper and safer than other objects tossed in Milan parades.
6. An Italian candy called Confetti is now a popular holiday candy. The white variety are served at weddings around the world, while pastels are reserved for Easter and baby showers.
7. In 1885, paper confetti was first used as part of a New Year’s celebration in Paris, France. This was done on the spur of the moment after a casino owner sliced up old New Year’s decorations and tossed them at the next evening’s celebrations.
8. By 1891, the first confetti-making machine was built. In recent years, launchers were developed and contained PVC barrels that empty via compressed air or carbon dioxide.
9. No surprise here: New Year’s Eve does hold the annual record for most confetti tossed on a single holiday. Other occasions include sporting events, graduations, weddings, and various parades.
10. Times Square drops more than a ton of confetti during its New Year’s celebrations. A full cleanup crew spends several hours cleaning up after the festivities die down.
11. Times Square doesn’t accept volunteers for the confetti-tossing task, as a special Confetti Master (Treb Heining) oversees all related duties. Heining has held the position for over 20 years, and he doesn’t use any special machines to complete his task. He and about 70 other people dump boxes of confetti from 8 different buildings for a full minute.