T’was a Cajun Night Before Christmas

Published 6:56 am Wednesday, December 4, 2019

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


WEST ORANGE — From the young to the old gathered at the West Orange Community Center on Monday night for the 31st annual lighting of the Christmas tree and the tradition of West Orange Municipal Judge Carl Thibodeaux reading A Cajun Night Before Christmas.

As Thibodeaux read the delightful tale, children sat memorized, some with blinking Christmas light headbands.

The narrator in “Cajun Night Before Christmas” spies St. Nick with his flying skiff and eight flying alligators. Historically, though, only some inhabitants of Louisiana have referred to Santa Claus as St. Nick. For the people of German descent, he was Kris Kringle or St. Nick, while the descendants of French settlers called him Papa Noel. Cajuns celebrated a visit by a woman they called La Christianne, according to www.nola.com.

Forget Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Blitzen in this story as St. Nick does not have reindeer but eight alligators named Gaston, Tiboy, Pierr, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Renee.

First published in 1973, it was written by penned by J.B. Kling Jr. and illustrated by James Rice. Rice is originally of Texas.

After the last page was read and the book closed, families left the Community Center to meet at the Christmas Tree in the city park next door. 

Gathering under the glow of the lights upon the tree, the community joined in singing Christmas Carrols as the children awaited the anticipated and promised the arrival of Santa Claus himself.

Afterward, neighbors and residents meet in the community center once again to enjoy hot chocolate and refreshments while visiting.