It’s always nice to be able to stretch the life and usefulness of things in today’s world, and Christmas trees are no exception here in the Tri-parish area.
“People think I’m crazy,” says Judy Chiasson, of Bayou Blue. “They ask me, ‘Why do you want to keep that old dead Christmas tree?’ It’s my old, dead Christmas tree, and I’ll do what I want with it and make the tree last a little longer.”
Chiasson, a member of the Krewe the Aquarius in Houma, has been extending her Christmas tree’s life each year for almost a decade by adorning the tree with Mardi Gras décor after the holiday season has passed.
“This is the first time I’ve gotten to put up my tree in three years, since our house was badly damaged in a fire,” Chiasson says. “I do it for my grandkids. I have been decorating my tree for Mardi Gras since my oldest grandchild was 2 and now she’s 12. When they first saw my tree, they says ‘Maw-Maw, what is that?’ ‘It’s my Mardi Gras tree,’ I’d tell them. Then they would ask, ‘What’s a Mardi Gras tree?’”
As Chiasson’s Christmas decorations come off her 6-foot Douglas fir, up go her Mardi Gras decorations, which include an assortment of beads, porcelain dolls, tinsel, a large Mardi Gras-colored swag and feathered and beaded masks.
“I don’t really change the theme from year to year – I go with what I have,” Chiasson says. “We have secret sisters in the krewe, and we give each other gifts that I use to decorate my tree. I also use the regular white Christmas lights too, not Mardi Gras lights. I think they look nicer.”
Many of Chiasson’s beads reflect the krewe’s float themes over the years – little cups of coffee with plates of beignets in honor of Café du Monde; platters of boiled crawfish, potatoes and corn, with matching crawfish earrings for the year the crew dressed as chefs; seashells in honor of the krewe’s name; and black and gold fleur-de-lis for the New Orleans Saints.
Chiasson, who also collects Christmas decorations, extends her decorating flair to the shelves in the living room of her home. Porcelain dolls and masks line the spaces to the left and right of her home’s large entertainment center.
“Decorating my tree relaxes me, and I like to do it myself because I can do it my own way,” she says, laughing “I’ve always liked Mardi Gras. My friends know I am die hard about decorating for Mardi Gras.”
According to Chiasson, starting off small is the way to go when decorating a tree for the Mardi Gras season.
“Don’t go expensive,” Chiasson says. “Find odds and ends on sale. Get a little artificial tree and move up from there. Don’t go big at first. You’ll soon have more stuff than you know what to do with. I don’t knit and I don’t sew – this is my hobby.”
Those looking to follow Chiasson’s advice can pick up items like wreathes for doors, table settings and mantle pieces at Outside and In in Houma.
“Our customers come for little simple, low-key wreathes – they stay with the basics,” says Outside and In sales associate Kathy Telano. “Just about everyone coming in for Mardi Gras items is looking for gold fleur-de-lis to incorporate into their décor. They are not asking for anything extremely elaborate, mainly Mardi Gras-colored mesh, ribbon and feathers and little jesters and masks.”
Even with a steady stream of customers coming in for purple, green and gold accents, the business draws more clientele searching for gifts for maids, dukes, kings and queens of local krewes.
“Kings, queens, dukes and maids come in and register for gifts, just like a bridal registry, but the décor sales are starting to catch up with the gift sales,” Telano says.
Judy Chiasson, a member of the Krewe of Aquarius, decorates her Mardi Gras tree. After taking off her Christmas decorations, Chiasson adorns the tree with beads, masks, tinsels, lights and figurines.