Friday, December 31, 2010
Le Petit Bon Homme Janvier, the little man of January, visits on New Year's Eve to leave a gift for little Cajun children to find once they wake New Year's Day. The gifts left, usually in the form of fruit and small bits of paper wrapped candy, are sometimes hidden around the house, in stockings left from Christmas, or in the shoes that the children place outside.
(The following articles by Jim Bradshaw appeared in The Daily Advertiser, Lafayette, LA on December 28 and December 31, 2004)
Santa didn’t begin to visit Cajun children until the late 1800’s. Before then, le petit bonhomme Janvier, sometimes called the Little January Stranger in English, delivered gifts at New Year’s. If the children were good during the year, he left them fruit and perhaps a bauble
or two. But if they had been bad, he turned trickster and left them ashes.
There were also some remote places in Louisiana’s bayou country where, until relatively recent times, Christmas was not celebrated until February. Some people may still remember that February 25 was called “Trapper’s Christmas.” The real Christmas fell in the middle of the trapping season, when the men of the trappers’ families were out in the marsh. So the families waited until after the trapping season to celebrate Christmas. That way, Papa
was home for the celebration, and so was the money he got for his pelts.
It made for a better celebration.