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Cajun Night Before Christmas

Updated on December 16, 2015
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Yvonne, a retired teacher/librarian, has written many multi-skilled thematic units and book recommendations for elementary school children.

Twas the Night Before Christmas in Louisiana

Did you know that Santa once moved to Louisiana and that there is a book called, the Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair and James Rice, that tells the tale? Since the 1970s James Rice has delighted readers with his fanciful illustrations, stories and poems. His first book, the Cajun Night Before Christmas is my favorite.

This book actually started the children's book division of Pelican Publishing Company. Many other books featuring Gaston the alligator followed. Join us as we enjoy James Rice's wonderful creations. You'll also find humorous Louisiana Christmas videos and information about Cajuns (Acadians) and alligators, as well as many Louisiana foods and other unique Christmas gifts.

Cajun Night Before Christmas

"Twas the night before Christmas

An' all t'ru de house

Dey don't a t'ing 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'."

When we first read the Cajun Night Before Christmas in the late 1970s we fell in love with it and the next Christmas, my sister gave us a copy as a Christmas present. Since then I have been reading it to my library classes and my nieces and nephews. Since I was raised in north Louisiana where French speaking people are scarce, I'm not bilingual, but I discovered that my half French background aided me in speaking with many different accents. If you've ever been around Cajuns, then reading the Cajun night before Christmas is fun. All you have to do is say the words the way they are written and think of Justin Wilson.

The Cajun or Acadian culture is rich with folklore. Even though James Rice was born a Texan, he was a Louisianian in his heart and he has provided us with so many glorious, entertaining books that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.

The Cajun Night Before Christmas and his other "Night Before Christmas" books should be included in all teaching units about Christmas customs. Other Night Before Christmas books that were illustrated by James Rice are included in the featured and listed books below.

Original Cajun Night Before Christmas

Cajun Night Before Christmas® (The Night Before Christmas Series)
Cajun Night Before Christmas® (The Night Before Christmas Series)

When you read this book to your child, if you are not from Louisiana, you must practice your Cajun accent. Try listening to some Justin Wilson cooking shows and you'll soon get the hang of it.


James Rice Biography

Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company

James Rice died of a heart attack in his home on Sunday, May 30, 2004. Mr. Rice was one of the South's leading illustrators of childrens books, with more than one-and-a-half million books in print, making him one of the top childrens' authors and illustrators nationally.

James Rice was born February 10, 1934 on a farm in Coleman County, Texas. Of his early interest in art, Mr. Rice said "I was raised in a rural background with no radio or television, so I had to rely on books and imagination for my entertainment. My heroes were the great pen and ink artists of the nineteenth century: Abby, Frost, Kemble, N.C. Wyeth, of course, Norman Rockwell, Remington, and Nicolades."

In 2003, Pelican Publishing celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of James Rice's classic Cajun Night Before Christmas. Cajun Night Before Christmas was a true collaboration between publisher Milburn Calhoun and Mr. Rice, who was then a professor of art at a local college. Mr. Rice visited the fledgling company on his motorcycle with a portfolio and Dr. Calhoun shared his idea for the book. One week later Mr. Rice returned with drawings of hundreds of alligators in all kinds of poses. Cajun Night Before Christmas was the beginning of the childrens book division and launched a close publishing relationship that endured for more than thirty years. At the time of his death, Mr. Rice was working on illustrations for a book he wrote, titled Santa's Revenge in which Santa gets back at him for getting him into all kinds of situations.

Several years ago, when the Children's Book Council asked Mr. Rice his thoughts on illustrating a classic - how he brought new life to an old tale: "The author (and illustrator) have to strike a chord in harmony with many ordinary people across time. Most successful authors/illustrators must become actors as they assume the roles of various characters in their stories. As for myself, I look at each project as a new challenge."

Cajun Night Before Christmas was also the beginning of Mr. Rice's The Night Before Christmas Series, which now numbers eighteen titles.

Mr. Rice moved to Hico, Texas in 1980. Over the years, he wrote and illustrated a number of regional children's picture books on subjects related to the states he considered home: Texas and Louisiana.

He also wrote historical fiction for young readers, and was a favorite at schools, nursing homes, and community centers in both states and across the country.

In the spring of 2004, Mr. Rice delivered two paintings commissioned by the Institute of Texas Cultures depicting Ren©-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle landing in Texas. One painting contains thirty-three historical errors that children visiting the museum can find, while the other is historically correct.

James Rice graduated with a bachelor of fine art from the University of Texas, a master of fine arts degree from Stephen F. Austin University and a master of arts in education from Howard Payne College. He taught art and music at both the high school and college levels, including eleven years at Southeastern Louisiana State University in Hammond, and positions at Louisiana State University and Dallas Baptist College.

An avid musician, Mr. Rice often brought his clarinet to school appearances, and enjoyed sitting in with local bands when he was on tour. As a young man, Rice traveled with the Jack Schultz Orchestra, which played big band music across the mid-west.

James Rice's work has earned several awards over the years, including

Gaston® Goes to Texas, Certificate of Award from Printer Industries of America, 1979

The Night Before Christmas, Certificate of Merit, Printer Industries of America 1990

Why Cowboys Sleep with Their Boots On, Certificate of Merit, Printer Industries of America 1996

Cajun Night Before Christmas, Not Just for Children Anymore Classics, CBC 2002

The Teachers' Night Before Christmas, Children's Choices, CBC/IRA 2002

Why Cowboys Need A Pardner, Children's Books Mean Business, CBC 2002

(Reference: Pelican Biography)

Den Mama in de fireplace

Done roas' up de ham

Stir up de gumbo

An' make bake de yam.

Den out on de by-you

Dey got such a clatter

Make soun' link old Boudreau

Done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit

To got to de do'

Trip over the dorg

An' fall on de flo'.

As I look out de do'

In de light o' de moon

I t'ink "Manh, you crazy

Or got ol' too soon."

Snowy Mailbox Card

It doesn't snow often in Louisiana, but when it does it is an event. A holly covered mailbox in a winter wonderland.
It doesn't snow often in Louisiana, but when it does it is an event. A holly covered mailbox in a winter wonderland. | Source

Cajun Night Before Christmas YouTube Video

A cartoon version which loosely follows the poem by Trosclair.

Alligator Stuffed Animal and Book

Cajun Night Before Christmas Readin' YouTube Video

It's a little silly, but the reader does a fair job.

Santa Claus Poll

What do you call that jolly old fellow who visits on Christmas eve?

See results

A Story About the Day After Papa Noel's Visit

"Cuz 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 and 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 and Renee!"

"To de top o' de porch

To de top o' de wall

Make crawl, alligator

An' be sho' you don' fall."

More Gaston Books

In the "sequel" to the first book, Gaston, the Green-nosed alligator was the main character in the picture book about how he came to lead Santa's pi-rogue that faithful night. This busy alligator is also featured in dozens of books about his travels. The author and this character have quite a fan following in Louisiana and also in his native Texas. Who wouldn't like reading about a fun-loving 6-foot talking reptile?

Like Tante Flo's cat

T'ru de treetop he fly

W'en de big ol' houn' dorg

Come a run hisse'f 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 with 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 a 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.

Rio Reindeer

Happy Holidays cher!
Happy Holidays cher! | Source

His eyes how dey shine

His dimple how merry!

Maybe he been drink

De wine from blackberry.

His cheek was like rose

His nose like 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 stomberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye

An' a shook o' his head

Make my confi-dence dat

I don' got to be scared.

Santa and His Reindeer Used to Live Right Here Video

Did you know that Santa and his Reindeer used to live in New Orleans?

He don' do no talkin'

Gone straight to his work

Put 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'!"

Other Night Before Christmas Books

James Rice illustrated many other versions of the "Night Before Christmas" set in various states with their own unique Santa such as the Pennsylvania Dutch and Cowboys as well as some stories about the Cajun Santa visiting different characters.

Texas Books

James Rice is a native of Texas. Here are a few of the many books about the Lone Star State that he wrote and illustrated including A Cowboy Christmas, Cowboy Alphabet and Texas Jack at the Alamo. There are several more that little cowpokes will enjoy.

Leave us sometin' in de sock.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      How funny - I loved it!

    • profile image

      huvalbd 5 years ago

      Your lens is my 900th SquidLike. You've made me smile with this one--I am Texan by birth and half Cajun by blood. Wonderful lens!

    • profile image

      enjoyecigs 5 years ago

      awesome lens! proud of my NOLA heritage<3

    • TopToysForKids profile image

      TopToysForKids 6 years ago

      Great lens, it looks very professional! :)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Blessed! Please add this to my Christmas Gifts and Blessings lens.This is shown to the right side under my profile.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 6 years ago

      What a fun lens! I never knew Santa lived there before.

    • denetraharris profile image

      denetraharris 6 years ago

      I'm from La and I forgot all about this book, thanks for the reminder. Love this lens!!

      checkout my lens at:

    • BrickHouseFabrics profile image

      BrickHouseFabrics 7 years ago

      Love it!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Simply wonderful! Of course there would be "gators" in Cajun country. Very creative and imaginative!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Simply wonderful! Of course there would be "gators" in Cajun country. Very creative and imaginative!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I Love this lens! It is wonderful! Thank you.

    • profile image

      rio1 7 years ago

      This is my favorite Louisiana Christmas book.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I love to hear and read Cajun as it is similar to our Gullah here in South Carolina. I really enjoyed my visit here. Thanks.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 8 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      What an exciting version of the poem! I love how you presented it. Thanks for an interesting lens.


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      thepartyanimal2 9 years ago

      Yahoo you are a winner in The Squidoo Home for The Holidays Lens Contest So Go Grab your badge.

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      AnnaleeBlysse 9 years ago

      Great lens! Some great links on here and great Zazzle products.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 9 years ago from PA

      This is a wonderf lens. I enjoyed it very much.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      Very nice lens you have here.

      Packed to the brim with all kinds of useful info.


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      Evelyn Saenz 9 years ago from Royalton

      Big Annieand the Alligators from the Bayou have been getting ready for the Cajun Night Before Christmas and are delighted to have found it here.

      Lensrolled to the above and to my Night Before Navidad lens as well.

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      MobyD 9 years ago

      I'm givin' dis de lensroll to Hay Visage form Sane Ticklish an' I give de 5 stars too!

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      Patricia 9 years ago

      Funny way to tell the story! Love this lens!

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      Robin S 9 years ago from USA

      You're great Christmas niches are being featured at the showcase today!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Sounds like a fun story.

      Great lens


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      GrowWear 9 years ago

      I loved being here and reading about James Rice -- and dass a fack!

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      almawad 9 years ago

      I have never heard about cajun ethnic group before -and it is nice to read about them !

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      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!