Southerners have a special knack for getting “lagniappe,” or a little something extra, out of life. So why should their Christmas trees be any different.
After the traditional holiday season passes this year, many Islanders will be re-adorning their trees in purple, gold and green to create festive Mardi Gras trees. These glitzy, gaudy symbols of Mardi Gras madness will be appearing across the Island in homes and businesses from the east end to the far west end.
Although no one is quite sure how this tradition began, it seems likely that it started with the ritual of revelers taking the beads they’d caught from the parade floats and flinging them up into the outdoor trees on the way home. The old oaks on many New Orleans streets drip with this festive look by the morning following the big night.
Mardi Gras celebrations officially start on the twelfth night after Christmas which fall on January 6, which is about the time most people are taking down their Christmas trees. By repurposing the tree for the season of parties and parades, its life can be extended right through Fat Tuesday, which for 2023 is February 21.
There are a number of ways to turn your Christmas tree into a beautiful Mardi Gras decoration. Start off creating a brilliant base layer by replacing serene white lights with some in purple or green colors. Then toss beads onto the tree in a carefree manner - just pretend you’re on your way home from the parade - or cut and glue end-to-end to create true garlands.
There are many varieties of Mardi Gras ornaments, but begin by going through your existing collection of glass balls and ornaments to pick out those in the traditional Mardi Gras colors. From there, check out local party and novelty stores for small masks, beads, fans and hats to add to the branches.
Bunches of colored netting can be tucked into the tree, as well as glittery floral sprays, wire mesh ribbon, harlequin figurines, and festoons of peacock or ostrich feathers. Candy, doubloons, and anything else that you might see tossed from a parade float would look perfectly at home on your tree, too. The more bling the better!
As with Christmas, the tree topper needs to make a fabulous statement. Consider a large, feathered mask, sparkly fleur de lis, glittered top hat, or even a jester’s hat.
Some Creoles add a bit of humor to their Mardi Gras trees by hanging moon pies on them. Just leave the beloved southern treats individually wrapped and pass an ornament hanger through the cellophane. Voila! A tree to make Paula Deen drool.
Make your tree the life of the party by personalizing your decorations to Galveston. Spray paint starfish gold and nestle them in the branches. Or hang a few purple flip-flops for a surprise factor.
Just remember that if it glitters it’s good. If it gleams, it’s better! Your only limit is your imagination. Those who take the season seriously can also adapt these techniques to transforming wreaths and mantle garlands to reflect the Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler feeling.
The internet is a great resource for decorations, including trees already made in metallic Mardi Gras colors. Two popular sites are www.mardigrasoutlet.com or www.toomeys-mardigras.com. Also, many of the retails shops in downtown Galveston have a wide assortment of Mardi Gras themed merchandise that you can purchase to use on your tree.
You might try your hand at a tabletop size Mardi Gras tree your first year. But if you do, don’t be surprised to find yourself creating a full-sized version next time. It’s a fun way to bring the party inside and extend the holiday happiness.
Mardi Gras trees are the next best thing to a parade float in your front room, so join in the fun and think bling!
If you plan to transform your Christmas tree into a Mardi Gras tree, we want to see it. Share your photos with us on our Facebook page.