Cajun Night Before Christmas

by James Rice, 1973

Cajun Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house,
Dey don’t a ting 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’.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas’ up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an’ make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun’ like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do’,
Trip over de dorg an’ fall on de flo’.
As I look out de do’in de light o’ de moon,
I t’ink, “Mahn, you crazy or got ol’ too soon.”

Cux 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 an’ 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 an’Renee’!

To de top o’ de porch to de top o’ de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an’ be sho’ you don’ fall.”
Like Tante Flo’s cat t’ru de treetop he fly,
W’en de big ole houn’ dorg come a run hisse’s 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 wit’ 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 de 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.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose 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 stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an’ a shook o’ his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don’t got to be scared.
He don’ do no talkin’ gone strit to hi work,
Put a 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’!”


The Cajun Night Before Christmas® has been a part of Louisiana’s holiday traditions since it was first published. Now, more than forty-five years later, a new generation is discovering the charm of Gaston® the Green-Nosed Alligator. First conceived by J.B. Kling, Jr. writing as ‘Trosclair’, the CLIO award-winning sales jingle for the Bergeron Plymouth Company in New Orleans was based on the Clement Moore poem. The exclusive rights were purchased by Pelican Publishing Company and the illustrations of then fledgling artist James Rice brought the story to life. Beloved master storyteller Coleen Salley narrated the read-along CD. Radio personality and voice talent Tommy Joe Breaux became the voice behind the recordings at City Park and on the audio version of the adventures of Gaston®. The book also created what has become the largest segment at Pelican Publishing—the children’s book division.

With the passing of publisher Dr. Milburn Calhoun and his wife Nancy Calhoun, illustrator James Rice, and the loss of Colleen Salley, the people behind the creation of the story are mostly gone. What remains is a long legacy of delight. Each year at the Celebration in the Oaks light show featuring the classic cabin from the story, dedicated staff from Pelican Publishing collect memories of attendees as they flow through the premiere preview parties. From now grown children who remember it as the first Louisiana tale they ever heard to young parents who laugh about a non-Louisiana spouse reading it to their children in full-blown Cajun accent, the book is universally loved and remembered. Teachers talk about how they use it in the classroom, business people mention they send it to out of state clients, and children laugh as they try to mimic the dialect that has all but disappeared from everyday life. The classic tale has been interpreted in gingerbread houses in competitions as far away as California and in cakes at the Edible Book competition at NOMA in New Orleans. For years, the miniature book ornaments have appeared on Christmas trees across the country as a reminder of a faraway Louisiana home. Even the New York Times praised the lilt, the humor, and the rough-hewn drawings of the Cajun tale. At Pelican Publishing, a huge portrait of Gaston® and his bearded friend hangs in the boardroom watching over each new author and illustrator that joins the family.