Tag Archives: decoration

Decorating “Easter Trees”


Decorating “Easter Trees”

“For some reason, we used to decorate the trees around our house like most people would Christmas trees.  Many people in the south have egg-like ornaments and easter colored string lights, like purples and yellows and greens and bright blues.  It was much more prevalent in South Carolina when I lived there.”


This informant, HA, was born in Pensacola, FL but has lived in a few different parts of the American South for awhile, specifically the Floribama coastal area.  His family has stayed in the south for as far back as he can remember.  He has learned this piece of folklore from when he moved to the suburbs of Charleston and his family were the only ones on the block that didn’t do it in their first year there.


I talked to HA by inviting them onto a zoom call with a few other friends we both knew from summer vacations where I used to live in Panama City, Florida.  After the call I asked if he could stay and chat and we shared stories about our lives while I asked him questions about sayings and activities he remembered from his childhood.


There is a very heavily held belief among Americans that Southern culture is a bit more gentile and ornate than the rest of the country so it’s fascinating to see a piece of folklore that supports this idea.  What interests me is how this decorating differs between people of different financial statuses.  Looking more into it, it seems like a competitive game as well as it seems articles state that people can try and outdo other people’s easter trees.

Mardi Gras Cups

Main Piece:

SG has been to Mardi Gras almost every year since she was a little kid. Decorated plastic cups are a typical throw in every Mardi Gras Parade. Parades, known as Krewes to the locals, each have a unique name and theme to them. Riders in each parade have “throws”, which are items riders throw off of floats. These commonly include beads and doubloons, but what is solemnly talked about is cups. Cups are a collectible item during Mardi Gras as they have more value than most other throws. Not only can you keep it as a memorate of a parade, but you can use it for years to come. Families collect these and use them as normal drinking vessels in their homes and lives. Go in any cabinet and next to the glass cups you will find various Mardi Gras cups themed to each parade.

A Swig of History: The Mardi Gras Cup | Where Y'at


SG is my mother and has been to Mardi Gras with kids since I was born. She is from New Orleans and attends every year. This was taken during a conversation with her in our backyard while reminiscing Mardi Gras. She still collects cups and send me them each year.


As a New Orleanian and a avid fan of Mardi Gras, as I have been many times before, I did not realize that this was not much of a practice outside of New Orleans, collecting cups to use throughout the years. For instance, after my first year at USC, I missed Mardi Gras for the first time in my life. As a response I got my parents to ship me a King Cake and some decorated cups. In the house I was living in, I used them frequently, and people always commented on the designs on the cups calling them unique. I was so used to using the cups that I never took a moment to think about the designs. Each design reflects the idea of that parade. Krewe D’etat, a parade devoted to a satirical take on the previous year, would have cups that mock events from the last year. Krewe of Muses, an all female parade, would have cups with feminine symbols such as the iconic red lips symbol of the krewe. Each design is unique and can only be gotten if one attended that parade in that year.

鏡餅 (Kagami Mochi) — Japanese Foodways

鏡餅, literally translated from the Japanese, means “mirror rice cake.” This name, though thought to have originated from the mochi’s resemblance to a old-fashioned kind of round copper mirror, has no relevance at all to its folkloric aspects. 鏡餅 is a traditional Japanese New Years decoration, consisting of two round mochi (rice cakes), the smaller placed atop the larger, and a Japanese orange with a leaf placed on top.

鏡餅 -- Traditional Japanese New Years decoration

My informant is a student in Nagoya, Japan, and has had 鏡餅 decorations every year for New Years, for as long as she can remember. Recently, however, she said that her family has settled on buying the cheaper, mass-produced 鏡餅, which are often pre-moulded into the shapes of stacked discs and sold in plastic packages at the supermarket. A plastic imitation bitter orange is substituted for the original. In some cases, there are actual rice makes within the plastic casing; however, even if there is, she said she has not heard of many families who actually enjoy eating the mochi. “Because it’s been there for so long,” She said. “It gets all stale and gross and no one wants to touch it.” The plastic casing, however, is preferred by most contemporary people because it keeps the mochi inside free of rot and germs. They break open and eat the mochi usually on January 11th, in a ritual known as 鏡開き (which literally means, “breaking the mirror”), in order to celebrate the breaking of the old year, for the arrival of the new. By this point, the mochi has become so stale that it usually has cracks on the surface; however, because cutting it with a knife has negative connotations (cutting off ties), they usually crack it open with their hands or some other heavy object.

The two mochi discs are said to symbolize the coming and going years, as well as the balance of yin and yang, although most people, including my informant, do not know exactly how those two concepts apply to the structure of the 鏡餅, or why it has to be mochi at all–it is simply something a ritual they have performed in the past, and so they repeat it, to end their year on the “right note,” and to enjoy a sense of camaraderie with the rest of Japanese society.

That most contemporary 鏡餅 is mass-produced in plastic casings is significant because it indicates the widespread performance of a folk ritual that seems to have no inherent personal meaning in the lives of most households. If there was inherent meaning, they would perhaps be more keen on performing it the traditional way–making the rice cakes themselves or even just buying them and stacking them together, placing the bitter orange on top. As it is, however, it has become for my informant “something my mom just picks up from the supermarket when she realizes it’s almost New Year’s.”