Saturday, December 25, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
By PAM BORDELON
Advocate staff writer
Published: Dec 20, 2010
Louisiana celebrates three Christmases
That was the shocking tidbit State Archivist Florent Hardy shared with those attending the YWCA Connections luncheon earlier this month at Juban’s Restaurant. He discovered this interesting fact while researching Louisiana Christmas traditions for his presentation.
There’s the traditional December 25 Christmas celebration, then there's St. Nicholas Day on December 5th and the Trappers Christmas on February 25th.
Hardy also discovered that the first Christmas in Louisiana was celebrated in “La Nouvelle (New) Orleans” in 1718. In fact, according to http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com, Louisiana was among the first states, all in the South, to make Christmas a legal holiday: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana in 1837 (by Gov. Edward Douglass White Sr.) and Arkansas in 1838. Louisiana first decorated its capitol in 1944, when Jimmie Davis was governor.
Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870. Prior to then, many Northerners thought celebrating Christmas was a sin. Celebrating Thanksgiving, they thought, was more appropriate. Not so in the South, where Christmas was an important part of the social season.
In New Orleans, the original Christmas celebrations included attending midnight Mass, “La messe de minuit,” on Christmas Eve.
“At that time, Christmas was a very religious experience,” said Hardy. “After Mass was la Reveillon, a big feast that featured a menu of wild game (duck, venison and turkey), daube glacé (a jellied meat), eggs, oyster dressing, chuck roast, homemade raisin bread and cakes.”
While everyone was at Mass, Papa Noël paid a visit and filled the stockings of the children with a trinket and some fruit and sweets.
“On Christmas day, you visited la crèche — the manger scene. Gifts were exchanged on New Year’s Day,” added Hardy.
While most of Louisiana celebrated on Dec. 25, families of German descent living in Robert’s Cove in Acadia Parish celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 5. For many generations, extended families have gathered at homes in the cove to await Kris Kringle (St. Nicholas) and Black Peter to bring treats for the good children.
According to the website http://www.louisianafolklife.org, people were afraid of this impressive bearded figure in white robes with a shepherd’s staff, who was said to punish children who had not been good since last Christmas.
Around World War II, the St. Nicholas Day celebration was suspended, but has seen a revival in recent years. Today a choir accompanied by St. Nicholas, Black Peter and Santa Claus visits homes in the cove. All the children are given treats, the choir sings German Christmas carols, and sweets and beverages are served.
And then there is the Trappers’ Christmas in Barataria. Because Christmas was a very busy time of year for the fur trappers, the celebration was postponed until Feb. 25.
The jolly old elf today referred to as Santa Claus was known by several other names depending on what part of Louisiana a person called home. To those of French heritage he was Papa Noël, to those of German heritage he was Kris Kringle or St. Nicholas and to the Cajuns he was always a she called La Christianne.
“Along the River Road plantations, St. Nicholas arrived on a donkey and left goodies in the shoes of the children left out on the porch,” added Hardy.
The familiar Santa who arrives via a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donner, Prancer and Vixen) was created by best-selling author Washington Irving in 1819.
“He couldn’t figure out a way for St. Nicholas to travel around the world in one night, so he came up with this idea of him flying through the trees,” said Hardy. “Now in Louisiana, we know Santa, Papa Noël as he’s called, comes in a pirogue pulled by eight alligators (Gaston, Tiboy, Pierre, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Renée) from reading the ‘Cajun Night Before Christmas.’”
Another longtime tradition in Louisiana’s River Parishes is the Christmas Eve bonfires on the levee, lighting the way for Papa Noël.
“The tradition of the bonfires began with the Marist priests at Jefferson College in Convent (what is now Manresa),” explained Hardy. “It was originally celebrated on New Year’s Eve.”
What started out as simple bonfires in the 1800s has grown into massive creations constructed by multiple generations who join together with family and friends and thousands of complete strangers for a huge celebration.
Further north in Natchitoches, Louisianans have been celebrating the Festival of Lights since 1927. Begun by the city’s superintendent of utilities, today’s celebration runs from Nov. 20 through Jan. 6 and draws more than 100,000 visitors. It features more than 300,000 Christmas lights, more than 100 displays and a parade as well as a candlelight tour of homes sponsored by the Natchitoches Historic Foundation.
Natchitoches isn’t the only city with a Christmas parade. In fact, most cities and towns celebrate the holiday with a parade including Baton Rouge, Amite, Baker, Clinton, Denham Springs, Gonzales, Hammond, St. Francisville and Walker.
“Everybody celebrates Christmas,” said Hardy, “but in Louisiana Christmas is a colorful, diverse and unique celebration.”
Friday, December 17, 2010
Cajun Night Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas an' all t'ru de house,
Dey don't a ting 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'.
De Mama in de fireplace done roas' up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an' make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun' like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.
I run like a rabbit to got to de do',
Trip over de dorg an' fall on de flo'.
As I look out de do'in de light o' de moon,
I t'ink, "Mahn, you crazy or got ol' too soon."
Cux dere on de by-you w'en I stretch ma'neck stiff,
Dere's eight alligator a pullin' de skiff.
An' a little fat drover wit' a long pole-ing stick,
I know r'at away got to be ole St.Nick.
Mo' fas'er an' fas'er de' gator dey came
He whistle an' holler an' call dem by name:
"Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an' Alcee'!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an'Renee'!
To de top o' de porch to de top o' de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an' be sho' you don' fall."
Like Tante Flo's cat t'ru de treetop he fly,
W'en de big ole houn' dorg come a run hisse's by.
Like dat up de porch dem ole 'gator clim!
Wit' de skiff full o' toy an' St. Nicklus behin'.
Den on top de porch roof it soun' like de hail,
W'en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.
Den down de chimney I yell wit' a bam,
An' St.Nicklus fall an' sit on de yam.
"Sacre!" he axclaim, "Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma'se'f on dem red hot coal."
He got on his foots an' jump like de cat
Out to de flo' where he lan' wit' a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An' his clothes is all dirty wit' ashes an' soot.
A sack full o' playt'ing he t'row on his back,
He look like a burglar an' dass fo' a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.
His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon' t'ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit' snow-white chin whisker an' quiverin' belly,
He shook w'en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!
But a wink in his eye an' a shook o' his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don't got to be scared.
He don' do no talkin' gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt'ing in sock an' den turn wit' a jerk.
He put bot' his han' dere on top o' his head,
Cas' an eye on de chimney an' den he done said:
"Wit' all o' dat fire an' dem burnin' hot flame,
Me I ain' goin' back by de way dat I came."
So he run out de do' an, he clim' to de roof,
He ain' no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an' crack his big whip,
De' gator move down, An don' make one slip.
An' I hear him shout loud as a splashin' he go,
"Merry Christmas to all 'til I saw you some mo'!"
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This has to be one of the most versatile and popular appetizers around....Holiday Baked Brie. It's so easy and simple to make, yet so delicious that even children like it! I've even prepared it and given it as Christmas gifts to my managers and co-workers, and it was such a hit that I received requests, not only for the recipe but to gift it again the following year!
Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 large (13 oz, 8" round) wheel of Brie
1 stick butter
Apple and pear slices, assorted crackers
Place brie wheel in a baking dish which will also be the serving dish. I use a nice ceramic pie pan. Generously pat brown sugar on top of brie wheel so that it’s about 1/2 - 3/4 inches thick. Sprinkle pecans over the top, slightly pressing them into the brown sugar to keep them in place. Completely cover pecans and brown sugar with pats of butter all over. Bake at 400° until pecans are brown, sugar is melted and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve warm with apple and pear slices, and assorted crackers.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Depending on what side of the family we are spending Christmas with or what our plans end up being otherwise, we will sometimes forego the traditional Southern Christmas and instead have a Cajun Christmas! Cajun Christmas traditions are celebrated somewhat in our household every season but some years we go all out and go full blown Cajun.
We have some wonderful Louisiana traditions that may seem crazy to the rest of you and are very different than the way you celebrate Christmas yet, they are so incredible and unique!
Instead of Santa Claus we have Papa Noel. Papa Noel lives down in the hot, humid, swampy bayou of Louisiana. He's a Cajun legend and you'll often find momma’s (Mère’s) and daddy's (Père’s) reading such books as The Legend of Papa Noel or Cajun Night before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
While Santa is pulled in his sleigh by eight reindeer, Papa Noel is pulled in a Pirogue (pro: Pea-row) by eight alligators: Gaston, Tiboy, Pierre, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Renee.
On Christmas Eve we follow a tradition dating back hundreds of years....the lighting of bon fires on the levees of the Mississippi River and in the bayous to guide Papa Noel and his alligators to the swamp to deliver gifts to our children in Bayou Country.
Christmas in South Louisiana is so unique and magical with the Cajun decorations, traditions, food and Christmas Zydeco and Jazz music.
The following are a few of our traditional Cajun dishes we serve at Christmas.
4 lbs shrimp with shells on (heads on, if possible)
1/2 lb butter
3-4 tbl Worcestershire sauce
3 tbl pickapepper sauce
1-1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 lg lemon
1 tsp tabasco
4 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic sliced
Melt butter in large casserole dish and add all ingredients except lemon. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice, add to mixture. Bake in oven at 350 until done. Serve in large soup bowls with lots of sauce and toasted french bread for dipping.
Copeland's of New Orleans Hot Crab Claws
2 teaspoons garlic
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
2 tablespoon scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
6 ounces fresh crab claws, crawfish tails or shrimp
3 ounces chicken stock
1 ounce Italian dressing
Place seasoning, herbs, garlic and half the butter in a preheated skillet; saute until butter is melted. Add seafood, chicken stock and Italian dressing; increase heat to high and toss until seafood is cooked through. Add remaining butter; swirl into the sauce. Do not boil. Serve immediately with buttered and toasted French Bread slices.
Cajun Cornbread Casserole
2 pkgs Pioneer Yellow Cornbread Mix or homemade cornbread
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 lb of Louisiana crawfish tails, chopped
1 lb shrimp, peeled
1/2 lb chopped hot sausage
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream style corn
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parsley
Bake cornbread as directed per package instructions or make homemade cornbread. Crumble into a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan; add onions, celery, and bell pepper sauté mixture until the onions clear. Add crawfish tails, shrimp, sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add milk and cream corn, stir until mixture is fully blended. Fold all ingredients into the bowl of crumbled cornbread, along with eggs, cheese, and parsley. Mix well, season with Tony’s to taste, transfer to a baking dish, and bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Additionally, we also have dishes from previous posts such as Crawfish Stew, Creole Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Creole, and Spinach Madeline. And, of course, we have a smoked or fried turkey!