A dying Cajun Christmas tradition...


So yesterday I was thinking about an old Cajun tradition that my mom did for us during Christmas. On New Years Eve our house was visited by Papa Lon (spelling?). He was a man who visited kids and left fruit, nuts, and a small toy if they were good all year. He brought healthy things to start the New Year off in a healthy way. He was married to a woman named Madame Grand Nuit (something like this) who had long fingers (why - who knows) and she sometimes visited my cousins' home and brought the same gifts.
As I was researching the tradition I couldn't find ONE person who mentioned Papa Lon. I saw people mentioning versions of him and his wife but they had different names. The most common tradition I saw was that of "Le Petit Bonhomme Janvier" - the littel man January. Here's an article about that tradition.

(The following articles by Jim Bradshaw appeared in The Daily Advertiser, Lafayette, LA on December 28 and December 31, 2004)


Santa didn’t begin to visit Cajun children until the late 1800’s. Before then, le petit bonhomme Janvier, sometimes called the Little January Stranger in English, delivered gifts at New Year’s. If the children were good during the year, he left them fruit and perhaps a bauble or two. But if they had been bad, he turned trickster and left them ashes.

There were also some remote places in Louisiana’s bayou country where, until relatively recent times, Christmas was not celebrated until February. Some people may still remember that February 25 was called “Trapper’s Christmas.” The real Christmas fell in the middle of the trapping season, when the men of the trappers’ families were out in the marsh. So the families waited until after the trapping season to celebrate Christmas. That way, Papa was home for the celebration, and so was the money he got for his pelts. It made for a better celebration.


If anyone has any other Cajun Christmas traditions please let me know. I know we can't be the only family who gets visited by Papa Lon :)

Comments

kay rayan said…
Yes I still practice this with my college graduates and my yankee husband. It's hard to practice a tradition that no one else practices.
For us it was also called Mrs Santa Claus, and she brought practical clothes and food.
Hello Kay, My name is Cornell P. Landry. I am a children's book author who lives in the greater New Orleans area. My most popular book is titled "Goodnight NOLA". I am just about complete on my newest book "Le Petit Bonhomme Janvier: The Little January Man". Marcelle Bienvenu (who is famous for writing "Who's your Mama? Are you Catholic? and Can you make a Roux?", is contributing the foreword to the book and 7 recipes for parents to make with their children. This book is dedicated to my grandmother who taught this tradition to me and my family. We still celebrate the tradition to this day. I hope that this book will help to keep the celebration of the T-Bonhomme alive for many future generations to come.

Please email me at blackpot70054@ymail.com . I would love to show you what we have come up with. The T-Bonhomme looks great. I hope you will like him too. I would love for you to help me to get the word out by blogging about my new book.

Sincerely,

Cornell P. Landry

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