HAMMOND, La. — He’s the jolly fellow in the big red suit and you may know him as Saint Nicholas, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, or Santa Claus, but in south Louisiana he takes on a different name.
That name is Papa Noel, or “Pere Noel,” which means Father Christmas.
Author Terri Hoover Dunham knows the tale very well.
In 2006, she wrote the children’s book, “The Legend of Papa Noel: A Cajun Christmas Story.”
“He’s a Cajun Santa Claus, and he rides in a pirogue, or cajun canoe, pulled by alligators down the Mississippi river on Christmas Eve,” says Dunham.
“He does like to eat Christmas cookies, but they are called “ti gateaux,” which is a Cajun sugar cookie.”
Dunham also did research on the well-known bonfires that can be seen during Christmas celebrations on the river levees.
Story goes, the bonfires are set so Papa Noel can find the houses of the good Cajun boys and girls.
“If you don’t believe in Papa Noel, you wont get a toy pirogue for Christmas or a cypress baby doll,” jokes Dunham.
The story is chopped full of french words all to keep the tradition of Papa Noel alive and original.
Another fun fact of the story is that of the eight alligators that pull the Cajun canoe, only one of them is female.
It’s a snowy white one named Nicollette in the lead.
Author Terri Dunham is bringing her book to the New Orleans area on Friday, December 14th.
She’ll be at the Little Toy Shop on St. Ann in the French Quarter from noon until 3:00 p.m.