Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Homesick for Christmas

Southeast Louisiana is rich in its people, food and traditions. So it's no wonder that people who've had to move away for jobs or other reasons become homesick at this time of year. The Houma today dot com website carries this story about cajuns yearning for home:


Published: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 11:21 a.m.

HOUMA — There’s no place like home for the holidays, and Louisiana natives who’ve moved away for jobs, love and adventure say there are always things that make them blue for the bayou, especially near Christmas.

“I miss the traditions,” said David Chiasson, a former Thibodaux resident. “The nostalgia is hard to get over. There are some things you just take for granted.”

Chiasson, 41, left the swamp for the desert two years ago to move to Phoenix for a job. Thanks to the wonders of modern shipping, the family has taken to ordering things they miss from their home state over the Internet and by phone, like beef jerky from Bourgeois Meat Market in Gray, Community coffee and king cakes.

But there are some things about the bayou that just can’t be replicated.

When Chiasson tried to introduce his new Arizona friends to a south Louisiana tradition, the crawfish boil, he said he was met with challenges and confusion.

Chiasson had 50 pounds of crawfish shipped live by plane from Lafayette to Phoenix and invited his neighbors to a crawfish boil at his house. Stores in Phoenix didn’t carry crawfish pots, so he had one shipped from a Sam’s Club store in Louisiana.

After all that trouble, when his neighbors spied the live crawfish, he said, they were turned off.

“Nobody ate them,” he said. “They said, ‘What are these things?’ I think they didn’t like the fact that they were alive just a few minutes ago.”

Troy LeBoeuf, a former resident of Montegut, Houma and Thibodaux, moved to South Carolina after meeting a girl from Charleston and following her home.

“Halloween night on Bourbon Street in The Famous Door I met a girl and danced until the wee hours of the morning,” LeBoeuf said. The two spent a whirlwind weekend together, and a few days after he dropped her off at the airport, she invited him to come visit her in Charleston. He loved it, and decided to relocate. But, especially this time of year, he finds his mind drifting back to the bayou.

“I miss the Christmas boat parade passing in front my Dad’s house in Montegut,” LeBoeuf said. “Cajun eggnog daiquiris, going from one house to another on Christmas Eve, having snacks and drinks with friends, and most of all, the food.”

The food is one thing most relocated Louisianans mention missing from their lives elsewhere.

“The food is not the same,” said David Toups, a former resident of Thibodaux who now lives in Juneau, Alaska. “They have seafood up here, but it’s bland.”

About a year-and-a-half ago, Toups found himself getting restless at his job at Fort Polk in Leesville and applied to a hospital lab job in Alaska on a whim. He got it, and decided to move.

He acknowledges that living in the cold tundra of Alaska is about as far removed from Louisiana as you can get.

“You don’t have to wish for a white Christmas up here,” he said.

Toups said he misses houses decorated with tons of Christmas lights and popping firecrackers out in the streets with his friends. People in Alaska also enjoy hunting and fishing, he said, but “the people up here bring back moose meat, bear meat and caribou meat.”

When he lived in Thibodaux, he said, during the holidays he and his family would have big get-together. One year he invited a friend from Illinois to join his family during a Louisiana State University football game.

“Boy, he was scared,” Toups said. “Everyone in my family was hooting and hollering at the T.V., even my grandma. I think it was a little too much for him.”

But it’s the packed houses, the gregariousness and the hospitality that many away from the bayou area miss most around Christmas.

“I miss that kind of tradition,” Toups said. In Louisiana, “it’s a little bit more lively. People are a little bit more reserved here,” he said.

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