Cajun Christmas Traditions / Laissez les bon temps rouler / by
C’est bon! That means “That’s good” in Cajun French. If you are around Cajuns much, you’re probably going to hear it because they say it quite a bit — especially when it comes to food. This gregarious culture tends to be positive whether they are talking about gumbo or Christmas.
Speaking of which, Cajuns have an interesting take on this holiday. Through the years they have paralleled the larger American traditions to create a unique southern Louisiana holiday experience.
If you don’t know about and haven’t met any Cajuns, just follow along and you’ll get a better idea about the history and customs of this distinctive people.
Christmas traditions for Cajuns are very similar to the traditions of the French because they have a French background. They were exiled from Nova Scotia (a French colony in Canada) in the 1700s. The French-speaking Cajuns moved to Maritime, Canada. Others moved to areas in the southern United States, primarily southern Louisiana. This area is known as Acadiana. Most Cajuns are Roman Catholic and religion is very important to them. Cajuns speak a dialect of French known as Cajun French.
One of the differences between American and Cajun traditions is the perception of Santa Claus. The Cajuns call him Pere Noel. In French, Pere Noel means Father Christmas. Rather than living at the North Pole like Santa, Pere Noel lives in the hot, humid, swampy bayous of Louisiana. Instead of being pulled in a sleigh by reindeer, Pere Noel is pulled in a pirogue (flat-bottomed canoe) by alligators with the names of Gaston, Tiboy, Pierre, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Renee.
Another difference from American traditions is bonfires on the levee. It compares to decorating the outside of houses with Christmas lights. The purpose of exterior decorative lights was to enable Santa to see a home from far away. That is the same purpose of bonfires on the levee.
In parishes along the Mississippi River, bonfires have been lit on levees since the mid 1800s. Before the tradition began, French priests lit bonfires on the levee on New Years Eve, because it was customary in France. In the following years the tradition began being celebrated on Christmas Eve. The bonfires are made from many types of materials, including old tires and trash. People use what ever they can find to have the most creative bonfire.
There are a variety of foods associated with Cajuns. One of the best known during the holidays is the praline, a type of candy made from nuts and sugar syrup. There are many types of pralines. French settlers brought the recipe to Louisiana. Plentiful in both sugar cane and pecan trees, Louisiana is the perfect place to make and enjoy pralines.
Cajuns have children’s stories about their Christmas celebrations. One of the most popular is “The Cajun Night Before Christmas,” by Trosclair. It is “The Night Before Christmas” story that most everyone has read, except there’s a twist: The story is told with a Cajun accent and from Pere Noel’s perspective. It’s a fun story not only for children, but also to anyone interested in a good read. Because of the Cajun accent, the story is best read aloud.
Twas the night before Christmas
An' all t'ru de house
Dey don't a t'ing pass
Not even a mouse
De chirren been nezzle
Good snug on de flo'
An' Mama pass de pepper
T'ru de crack on de do'.http://www.squidoo.com/cajun-christmas#module154854311
COOL SONG try it your feet will be tapping!Doesn't everyone think Tim Ryerson should give use a new adventure for Pere Noel &/or Cyndi? [Common little sis give us a dialect poem!]