Another Dec. 25th has passed amid hopes for white Christmases across America that went mostly unfulfilled. There wasn’t much snow this year, even up North where white Christmases can be common.
We’d like to remind our friends beyond Louisiana that one doesn’t need snow — or even frost — to have a merry Christmas. We’ve put up Christmas decorations in many a yuletide season while swatting mosquitoes, and we’ve had our fair share of Christmases in short sleeves — or even shorts — playing a game of pickup basketball out in the driveway. If Christmas depended on cold weather and mounds of the white fluffy stuff, we’d have few yuletides in Louisiana at all.
Yes, we know that white Christmases are widely held as the gold standard for the holiday, thanks to a northeastern cultural and media establishment that assumes the rest of the country should be cast in its image. It’s why Louisiana children have grown up cutting out snowflakes for holiday classrooms and singing “Frosty the Snowman” in the campus Christmas pageant. It’s why renditions of “White Christmas” hum from our car radios, even as we drive across a south Louisiana landscape where, on many a yuletide, the sky is bright blue, with not a flurry in sight.
The only snow in south Louisiana this Christmas was the synthetic kind — the white flocking on holiday trees, the plastic snowmen adorning local yards. But Christmas memories can be built without snow, as author Anne Rivers Siddons reminded us many years ago. Siddons grew up in small-town Georgia, where the dominant color in the Christmas landscape wasn’t white, but brown.
In those Christmases of Siddons’ recollection, there “is a manger scene on the brown lawn of the Methodist church, with a manger of rough-sawn planks made by the Men’s League, a heavy cardboard Joseph and Mary, real straw, and an electric light bulb secreted in the straw to indicate the luminous presence of the Child. It is put up three weeks ahead of Christmas, our town’s official announcement that the Day will come again this year.”
Louisiana has had its share of brown Christmases, too — the color of yards asleep until spring, a drabness as striking as the earth-tones of a nativity set. That can make for a cheerless scene, but the real joy of Christmas rests indoors, anyway — in the kitchens that count as the center of celebration for south Louisiana families.
It’s another year now until the next yuletide, and already, we know, some Americans are starting to dream of a snowy Christmas. But good Christmases need not be white.
To those who doubt it, we say, come to Louisiana.