If you happen to be in New Orleans during the Christmas holidays you must go to City Park for the Celebration in the Oaks. The park itself is huge. There is a small amusement park, a sculpture garden, a botanical garden, and I’m sure much more that I missed on my evening adventure. The ancient oaks drip Spanish moss. It’s the kind of place the locals go and take their kids for some family fun. The addition of about a million lights completely transforms it into a magical wonderland.
But that’s just where the story begins. As we wondered around the paths we stumbled into a story behind a hedge. We might have completely missed it, except we heard some children’s laughter and were drawn to the light show. And that was how we discovered the Cajun version of T’was the Night Before Christmas. It involved alligators… And poor Santa getting burned in the chimney.
Here, I share this interesting twist on our old favorite.
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’!”
I hope where ever you are tonight, Santa comes with Rudolf and the rest of the reindeer gang. Merry Christmas!