A Cajun Christmas

Celebrating the Holidays on the Bayou

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Christmas is my most favorite time of year. Food, family, and fellowship makes the holiday fun. I thought I would share a bit of our simple traditions here in Louisiana, starting with an old favorite, our annual reading of The Night Before Christmas. (My husband and I started dating at Christmas during our senior year of high school and this was the story we read together on our first date... I picked it up some years later and now we read it to our kids each year:)


'Twas the 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'!"

Author: J. B. Kling, Jr., 1973

Lighting the Way for Papa Noel

Christmas season bonfires, once popular in France, Germany, other parts of Europe, and the British Isles, continue to be part of the Christmas celebration in Louisiana. In fact, in south Louisiana miles of Holiday fires blaze along the levees "to light the way for Papa Noel." - Marcia Gaudet To ensure the big guy stops in our little piece of the swamp, we stockpile fallen tree limbs and sticks for weeks to create a massive light show on Christmas Eve. Each year after a healthy serving of homemade crawfish etoufee, friends and family gather near the water's edge to enjoy a roaring fire, reminisce of Christmases past, and await the inevitable jingle of Santa's bells.
Variations of recipes for a few of our holiday favorites are listed. Hope you enjoy!


Crawfish Etouffee from Brennan's

Recipe from Brennan's New Orleans


(Makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shallots (green onions), finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups crawfish meats

In a large saucepan melt butter and sauté onion, celery and shallots until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in flour and stir constantly until golden brown. Add tomatoes and brown. Blend in stock and simmer 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce and crawfish, cook slowly 15 5o 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with hot rice.


Pralines

Our New Orleans trip is not complete without a stop by Aunt Sally's Pralines. We always eat some there and buy a box for the road! Here is a recipe to get a taste of pure dee old sugar and a bit of Christmas goodness in your mouth:)


Pralines

Recipe via The Food Network


Ingredients
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light cream
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup pecan halves
Directions
Place both types sugar and the cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the temperature reaches 228 degrees on candy thermometer, stir in the butter and pecans and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 236 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until the candy coats the pecans but does not lose its gloss. Drop the pralines 1 tablespoon at a time onto a well-greased piece of aluminum foil or a slab of confectioner's marble. Allow the pralines to cool. They can be eaten as is, stored in tins, or crumbled over vanilla ice cream for a New Orleans - style dessert.

Cajun Gingerbread Boy

Gingerbread Boys based upon the book by Berthe Moss

Makes 12 -15


Ingredients

2 eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup light molasses
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 cup pecans, chopped

Directions

1 Beat eggs, brown sugar, molasses and melted butter together.
2 Mix together dry ingredients and add with the boiling water to first mixture.
3 Beat well, then pour into a well greased 13x9x2 inch baking pan.
4 Bake in preheated oven at 350F for 35 minutes.