When guests walk into Mary Ann Boudreaux’s home during Christmastime they learn why she’s known as the “Tree Lady.”
You won’t find a room in her Thibodaux house without a Christmas tree, and that includes her living room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, computer room and utility room.
The 74-year-old will be the first to tell you she is a Christmas addict. She had 32 lit trees the last time she counted and has since lost count.
“A tree for me is like an empty canvas,” Boudreaux said. “When I look at a tree, I try and figure out what to paint first. Always start with your largest ornaments first. I make sure it all jives.”
Boudreaux said she needs more than 50 bins to store her holiday treasures, and that’s after she downsized and donated trees to charities over the years.
“My car has no home because of my addiction,” she said. “Does that make me a Christmas hoarder?”
It takes 60 days for Boudreaux to decorate her home. Her husband, retired attorney Larry Boudreaux, said he starts unloading boxes in September.
“I have a huge attic over the garage where we store the trees during the off season,” he said. “I do most of the grunt work. She’s the designer. She has the imagination and talent to do it. There’s a tree in every room. I don’t think you’ll see another house in Thibodaux that has this much Christmas stuff.”
Mary Ann and Larry Boudreaux have shared their ornate tree collection with church groups, nursing homes, organizations, children and garden clubs.
“I open the home to everybody who wants to see the crazy lady and all her Christmas trees,” Mary Ann Boudreaux said. “We even have trees outside.”
“One of the people who toured the house recently said it was like walking into a Hallmark Christmas movie,” Larry Boudreaux added.
Born in December, Mary Ann Boudreaux said there is another reason behind her lifelong Christmas obsession.
“Some people who walk in ask, ‘What does this crazy woman do this for?’ Well, there’s a reason,” she said.
Back when Mary Ann Boudreaux was a little girl, her mother developed cancer. With her holiday spirit diminished, her mother decided to do away with Christmas trees as she battled her disease.
The thought of spending Christmas without a tree horrified the young Mary Ann Boudreaux.
“When I was a child I got upset because my mom didn’t want to have Christmas anymore,” she said. “So, I crawled beneath the branches of the tree dreaming whether that was going to be our last Christmas tree.”
Mary Ann Boudreaux said she made a vow to her mother. She told her when she grew up, she would have a tree in every room of her house. Her mother made her promise to make sure every tree had a Nativity set beneath its branches.
She made good on that promise.
“Enabled and having had the resources to keep my promise to my mom and to myself, I am grateful and satisfied that my goal of having a tree in every room was brought to fruition and resulted in me having a Nativity set beneath the branches of every Christmas tree,” Mary Ann Boudreaux said.
Fueling her Christmas tree passion hasn’t always been easy for Mary Ann Boudreaux. Her first Christmas in Thibodaux after moving from Houma took a little longer to prepare, she said.
“After a 2007 brain surgery and my husband’s open-heart surgery, also in 2007, we had doubts that we would be able to continue on with my passion and obsession with Christmas decorating,” she said. “As medical issues continue to mount, I thank God that each year finds me still putting together my 52 years of collecting items that reflect the joys of Christmas.”
None of the Christmas trees in the Boudreaux home is random and each ornament has a symbolic significance, Mary Ann Boudreaux said.
For example, the seven silver, white and gold trees in her front yard have an emphasis on snowflakes. The two trees in the formal foyer are adorned with crystal.
“This tree was my deceased husband’s favorite of any and all decorations,” she said. “Married 33 years, he gave me a crystal angel each Christmas – during good times and rough times – hence the various sizes. He made me promise that this tree would be the last one I would give up.”
Mary Ann Boudreaux also has a “new life tree” decorated in the pink and mauve wedding items and florals used in her wedding to Larry. There is also a silver stick tree adorned with dated silver crosses and snowflakes Mary Ann Boudreaux gave to her two sons until they reached 18.
She has two trees in what she calls her Santa/Nativity Room decorated with mostly teacher-given gifts.
“I was a school teacher for 36, years and the kids knew I was a Christmas addict. So, I got all kinds of things from them,” she said.
So many Christmas trees and decorations grace the Boudreaux house that it takes multiple visits to fully enjoy them all, Mary Ann Boudreaux said.
As she affectionately looked at a photo of her grandson sleeping beneath the branches of a Christmas tree, as both his father – her son – and she herself had done as children, Mary Ann Boudreaux said trees are symbolic of the love people share during the holidays.
“Trees are a way to express our creative love for Christmas,” she said. “Like shining trophies, they represent the most universal symbol of the holidays.”