Stephen F. Austin State University

The Mardi Gras Tree (January 2016)

The Mardi Gras Tree
By Jeff Campbell

The weather's cold and drizzly , Fillin' me with misery
No sign of the sun, Breakin' through
My resolution's crumbling, Bank account is tumbling
It's all down to, The January Blues
And they're gone, all the good times are gone
Now it's time to pay for your Christmas fun

- January Blues by Bernie Lamb

After all the presents have been opened, New Year's Eve celebrated and the cornucopia of bowl games are over many Americans suffer from SAD. SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as the January Blues, Winter Depression or The Winter Blues. SAD impacts over 10 million Americans every January. Research has revealed that up to 20 percent of our population wrestle with SAD. Some people even refer to the first two months of the year as Januweary and Febuweary. However Louisiana has an antidote for the SAD Blues.

In Louisiana, along with the Mississippi, Alabama and East Texas, a new Mardi Gras tradition has taken hold, the Mardi Gras tree. I first became aware of the Mardi Gras tree the year I lived in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The story goes that after Christmas someone removed all of the ornaments off of their artificial Christmas tree but left the tree up. Why they left the tree up is unknown; were they too busy, too distracted or just too lazy?

Anyway, after attending the first Mardi Gras parade of the Carnival season, they arrived home with their green, purple and gold beads and got the bright idea to throw them on the bare tree. More parades meant more beads and by the time Mardi Gras rolled around there stood a fully decorated tree.

As this new tradition spread, green and gold Christmas ornaments were added along with Mardi Gras masks and a few Fleur De Lis. Now a huge selection of Mardi Gras ornaments are available from merchants like Toomey's Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama. Instead of waiting to accumulate Mardi Gras beads over the Carnival season, the Mardi Gras ornaments can go up as soon as the Christmas ornaments come down!

Our heritage and traditions, whether they are music, literature, art, food or holidays, are not dusty museum artifacts. They are living things that should be passed on and added to by the current generation for future generations. The Mardi Gras tree has become a new tradition that adds flavor to an existing one.

More than that, the Christmas Holidays can become the pinnacle of a mountain for some folks with nowhere to go but down. The Mardi Gras tree helps brighten those dark days of winter. It also reveals, that in this wonderful life, there's always something to look forward to. Les Bon Temps Roule!