At precisely noon on Christmas Day 2004, snow began to fall on New Orleans as it did throughout most of southeast Louisiana. For locals who waited all their lives for a white Christmas it was a joyous moment. Christmas dinners were interrupted as folks scampered outside to toss snowballs at each other. While the cornbread dressing cooled, the ice flinging intensified. It was a Christmas to remember although no one suspected the way it would be remembered. Some people were only half-joking, others were outright serious but eight months later and beyond — as people dug through the moldy remains of hurricanes Katrina and Rita — local lore would blame the Christmas snowfall as an omen of what would happen. A joyous weather event signaled a tragedy to come.

Science could not back up the theory, nevertheless if it snows again on Christmas Day some natives with memory might get a little more anxious during hurricane season.

North Louisiana is more susceptible to polar blasts than the state’s southern part, though geography has usually protected it from tropical phenomena. While Shreveport is 383 miles closer to the North Pole than Grand Isle, there was one white Christmas that came from a different direction — Texas. That would be Christmas 1989 when frigid eastbound weather hit on Dec. 23. By Christmas day as the house pipes began to crack, the most anticipated arrival was not in a sled but in a plumber’s truck.

A truer image of Louisiana at Christmas is not white, but brown, as the foliage in the landscape that will be so lush in spring takes on a more sober tone. There is beauty in that too, as there is in the fresh cut sugar cane fields, the billows of smoke and tangy fragrances from boucheries, the Christmas Eve bonfires on the levees, and the bright lights reflecting off the Cane River in Natchitoches.

Our Christmas dinner is pretty much like what the rest of the continent has, although having a bountiful hot gumbo and oyster dressing as part of the menu makes it all the better. Keep the snow for another day. We have our own style of celebrating to do.

Award Winning

Louisiana Life won three national awards at the recent presentation of the International Regional Magazine Association. IRMA is the trade organization for state and regional magazines. Art director Sarah George won a silver plaque in the category of Art Direction for a Single Story (“A Fresh Take on Nostalgic Recipes”) for magazines with a circulation of 30,000 or more. Melissa Bienvenue won a bronze plaque in the column category for her Rural Life column and Stanley Dry won a bronze in the Food Feature category for an article entitled “The Lighter Side.”
Awards were presented at IRMA’s annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale.