Little people – or big ones – might wonder how the jolly fat man makes his way across the bayous of South Louisiana. My friend Terri Dunham, in her book The Legend of Papa Noel: A Cajun Christmas Story, gives us the answer. It seems Santa has a colleague way back in the darkest deepest part of the swamp named Papa Noel who makes toys for good little Cajun boys and girls. Travelling by a pirogue pulled by alligators with names like Renee and Alphonse and led by the magic white alligator named Nicollette, he delivers his wares on Christmas Eve. He has only mild difficulties until the night the fog rolls in so heavy the alligators can’t see where they are going. The night is saved, not by a reindeer named Rudolph, but by the Cajuns who are “some kind of smart. Yeah.” With the event saved, Papa Noel calls out to the bayou children as he finishes his deliveries and heads back to the dark part of the swamp for some rest, “Joyeux Noel to ya’ll and to all a good night.”
The story is told with such authenticity that I decided Terri must have had a doll or toy pirogue delivered by Papa Noel in her own childhood. Of course, my two grandchildren under two needed the book. Since they are not reading my blog yet, they won’t know unless one of my other readers spills the secret that they’re getting a copy signed “Joyeux Noel to the two Butler boys.”
The story is one that children will ask for again and again. Thankfully, it is also one that their adults won’t tire of rereading. The book was first published in 2006 by Sleeping Bear Press, and Terri is making as many book signings this Christmas as ever – nice longevity in book terms and a sign of a good addition to a child’s Christmas collection.