Pappa was one of the last holdouts. Every New Year’s Day we would all get together at my grandfather’s home in Bayou Portage. Like all of his French-speaking neighbors, our grandparents would slowly simmer a big pot of black-eyed peas promising next year’s good luck. There also was one of smothered cabbage, guaranteed to bring us money, also on Grandma’s kitchen table.
What separated us from most of the other families getting together that day was that we had presents for one another! Pappa made sure of that. It was a tradition he wanted continued. Funny, people of his parents’ generation would not have thought those presents odd at all.
New Years day was planned around a large midday meal (called diner in those days), with the accompanying black eyed peas and cabbage, and multiple dessert dishes and demitasses of café noir. After the extended meal and multiple exchanges of “Bonne Année” presents were exchanged among the members of most Cajun families.
I just googled “Cajuns exchanging New Years’ Gifts” and the couple of hits I got suggest this Cajun tradition was one that was brought over from rural France, and was practiced there since Roman times. Pappa did not like the way most of his neighbors (and his own grandchildren) were forgetting this old custom. To him, we were adopting the ways of les Américains (what he called English speakers, a term more insulting than Yankees).
You see, we were getting presents on Christmas – and to the older folks that practice was sacrilegious on one of the two most holy days of the year. On Christmas, past generations in Acadiana would stay up for Midnight Mass, and then prepare for a thoughtful day celebrating our Saviors’ birth– and a very large midday meal in his honor.
By the way, this year in Arnaudville, Father Brown’s Christmas Mass rocked. He’s the best.
The last fifteen or so years my father has renewed the New Years’ custom his father so stubbornly held on to. My wife and I still exchange presents on Christmas – we do have a son and daughter who would move out if we did not. And they look forward to New Years at my Mom and Dad’s house (and a second round of gifts for them), continuing a Cajun tradition that goes back centuries.
We would like to thank everyone who has helped us start up the brewery this year – all of our family, friends, the supporters we have met during our travels around Louisiana, the retailers, bar and restaurant owners who continue to believe in us, folks at all of the distributors, the three people who read my blogs, and everyone who has stopped by the brewery to say hello. We appreciate all of the help more than we could ever express.
And for those lucky enough to try one of the few cases of our most outlandish beer yet (a test batch of a very high alcohol Christmas seasonal ale, squeezed out of a single oak barrel and spiked with a very secret, and in many States, illegal ingredient), don’t worry, it will be available next year in larger quantities. If I get my Christmas wish and the fine folks at the Federal Offices of the TTB approve the formula in time.
My brothers and I, our wives and family would like to wish everyone in theBayou Teche Brewing community a Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année.