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CHRISTMAS ALL OUR OWN THIS TIME OF YEAR, I DON’T WANT TO BE ANYWHERE ELSE
Growing up in Oakdale, I experienced a traditional Louisiana Christmas. We sang songs like “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow,” and “Frosty the Snowman” in our living room, despite having lush green grass just a glance away on our front lawn. The weather doesn’t reflect the traditional Christmas card scenes, but there was something about the images of frosted lanes and sleigh rides that illuminated my soul as a young child. As I grew older, though, my perspective changed. Sure, we don’t experience white Christmases in this part of the country. But, while I’ve never had the privilege of building a snowman, I’ve experienced the wonder of a true Louisiana Christmas. “I’VE VISITED PLACES WITH TALL MOUNTAINS, FRESH SNOW, AND DENSE PINE-TREE FORESTS. THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL, BUT COME CHRISTMAS TIME, THERE’S NO PLACE I’D RATHER BE THAN RIGHT HERE IN LOUISIANA. ” Next to Christmas hams and turkeys, we have signature dishes. I’m sure many of you have had seafood gumbo and oyster dressing as part of your feast. Perhaps even Louisiana turducken, which is the best of all three worlds! My mouth waters when I think of the bread pudding, pralines, pound cake, and divinity that frequently grace our dining table during the holidays. You’d find very little of that in Christmas-card towns like Vienna or Berlin, but that’s one of the reasons it’s so special. On top of that, we have an ever-present Cajun influence that truly comes alive at Christmastime. Cajun sausage is a staple for many, as well as trips to the Cajun Christmas Festival in Lake Charles.
If you’ve never experienced the festival, I truly recommend it. It’s rich with tradition and atmosphere.
Have you ever read the Cajun “Night Before Christmas” to your
children? I know some who find it a little dense, but I’ve always found it charming. You can watch an animated version of the classic reading by Tee Jules — just run a Google
search. Other artists have celebrated the unique Christmas culture of the Pelican State, including the late Fats Domino with his song “Gumbo Christmas,” and John Lee Sanders with “Christmas Without the Creole.” In our town, we host a parade and decorate our homes. In the big city, riverboat-shaped light fixtures glow on certain streets, while the French Quarter is adorned with wreaths and Christmas lights. Visiting the city for a Christmas-themed night out is a rite of passage, as well as other wonderful events. (See our events article inside this issue for more places to take your family.) How a culture celebrates holidays and special occasions is one of its most defining characteristics, whether you’re from Berlin, Beijing, or Baton Rouge. I’ve visited places with tall mountains, fresh snow, and dense pine forests. They are beautiful, but come Christmastime, there’s no place I’d rather be than right here in Louisiana.
To you and those you love, may you find peace and joy this Christmas season and prosperity in the new year!
–Cra ig Jon e s
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