Today is Christmas Eve, a worldwide gala for Christians everywhere.
This column is about celebrating Christmas, leaving the religious part in the very capable hands of my fellow columnist Rev. Wilbur Todd.
For forty years, from 1947 to 1987, I spent every Christmas Eve on a bandstand somewhere between Houston, Texas and Mobile, Alabama, but mostly in Louisiana. The last 26 years with Vin Bruce and the Acadians, a partnership that lasted through good times and bad, prosperity or privation and rain or shine. (That covers about everything).
In the band’s final years we made our last stand at the Stagecoach Lounge in Galliano. Unlike General Custer, Vin and I survived, for now, but some of our musician friends did not … Harry Anselmi, Dudley Bernard, L.J. Foret, Les Domangue and Gene Rodrigue, just to name a few.
Today the Stage Coach stands closed and abandoned, yearning for the Christmas Eve dance that will never return.
Also gone are the Town Club (La Nige), The Ritz Garden, The Bellevue (later the Safari which was destroyed by fire).
In Raceland, it was Tee Mon’s and Sal’s; in Cheniere, the Lovely Inn and the French Casino; in Grand Isle, it was Tony’s and Smithy’s, and in Chauvin, (Tee Caillou), The Rose Room and Bright Star. I played music in them all, many times on Christmas Eve. Oh … what memories!
Christmas Eve was always party time. Our wives came along and at midnight the band played Silent Night. We toasted Christmas and were usually paid to play extra hours.
In the wee hours of the morning, we rushed home to set up the kid’s presents. They were usually awake and waiting. One time it took Dot and I three hours to set up a cardboard theatrical stage for our son Perry, while he sat and watched. Our kids knew who Santa Clause was.
That present has paid dividends. For his 130th professional production, Perry staged a run of the sold out play, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at the Bayou Playhouse in Lockport, and had to extend it an extra weekend.
My wife Dot and I saw it and it was a howl, or as Snoopy would bark it, a “Bow Wow!”
A local tradition for many years was “A Bayou Christmas”, an event I had written the theme song for. I sang it every year on opening night and it was such a delightful affair that even my singing couldn’t harm it.
The Christmas parades and decorations in various towns and communities still enhance the season.
We seldom experience snow, only four times in my life, and never on Christmas, so has Santa to arrive by pirogue hauled by 8 jolly (?) alligators. When it snowed in 1959, my Aunt Sarah said it hadn’t snowed in 60 years.
Christmas season delights young and old the whole world over, and what do I hear? Organizations are trying to stop us from celebrating Christmas. I guess they’re upset because being atheists, they don’t have any holidays, so they want to do away with ours.
My native land I write about was first populated by Cajuns. Later other races and nationalities added to the mix and they had one thing in common … the desire to celebrate Christmas.
The Cajuns had to tame alligators, wild boars and wildcats before they could settle the land, so taming Scrooge and Grinch wannabees who were trying to deny us Christmas would be a piece of cake.
I now paraphrase Francis P. Church, the author of “Yes, Virginia”, (sorry F.P.). “No Santa Clause? A thousand years from now, nay Evangeline, ten times ten thousand years from now, Christmas will still gladden the hearts of mankind, and Cajuns, too. Yes Evangeline, there IS a Santa Clause.”
Even taking religion out of the equation, how could anyone not take pleasure in the story of Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, the stable, the star, the angels and the three wise men?
No author, no matter how great could have imagined such a story, so let it be.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and bye now, or as many merchants would like me to end this column, BUY now!
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Posted on Tue, December 23, 2014
by The Lafourche Gazette