For the six kids who grew up in Rosie’s house, Christmas officially began on the Eve with the reading of a “Cajun Night Before Christmas,” because you know, chere, dem dere flyin’ reindeer what you call dem, dey can’t fly low through dem cypress kness and Spanish moss, no!
Who better to share that story with y’all than my grandpartners, Baby Kay and Dr. Rosie? Here’s an audio recording.
Shortly after the reading and our second glass of Southern eggnog is when we’d hear Santa Claus on the roof of our Scottsdale home, stomping around in his big, black, cowboy boots, jingling a string of holiday bells and shouting, in a curiously familiar Cajun accent, “Ho, ho, ho!” into the chimney so we’d be sure to hear him as he unloaded our presents from his sleigh.
We were always already tucked into our beds, eyes wide open, hoping that our parents, Rosie and Jennifer, had been wrong when they warned us that Santa never entered the homes of boys and girls who weren’t asleep.
That stompin’ Santa, of course, had Rosie cheeks and a big Rosie voice. And he really did climb up onto the roof every Christmas Eve yelling, “Ho, ho, ho!” to get us kids to go to sleep.
We didn’t. Once the noise trailed off, we raced to the Christmas tree to see what he left. We were up so early, in fact, that our parents had to make a rule: We couldn’t wake them until 5 a.m. and we had to have the coffee ready when we did.
Then we unwrapped our toys and gag gifts before chowing down on what we’ve always called a “Joe” breakfast: a skillet of potatoes, onions, eggs, bacon and cheese, watching whichever movie Santa had left us that year and taking a nap. Then it was off to Mama Kay and Papa Rosie’s house, where we spent the rest of Christmas with aunts, uncles and cousins — sometimes 30 or more of us gathered for the day — and more presents and food and singing with Uncle Pierre playing Linus & Lucy from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on the piano complimented by the rest of the great family pianists including Aunt Karen and Baby Kay herself!
Like all family Christmases, ours has changed as we’ve gotten older, welcomed new family members and said a sad goodbye to others. But the memories are so crisp, and our traditions — food, music, family — all remain.
I’d like to share some of our Romero family Christmas traditions with you. Starting first with some of my favorite Christmas songs always heard around the holidays (If you are like my sister Rachael, you stared listening to Christmas music back in August).
• Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers, Once Upon a Christma, “Once Upon a Christmas”
• Elvis Presley, Elvis Christmas, “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
• Amy Grant, A Christmas Album, “Heirlooms”
• Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Linus & Lucy”
• Alabama, Christmas Volume I, Christmas in Dixie & Volume II, “Little Drummer Boy”
• Alan Jackson, Let it Be Christmas, “Let it Be Christmas”
• The Carpenters, Christmas Portrait, “Carol of the Bells”
• The Nutcracker, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, “Waltz of the Flowers”
And what would a Romero Christmas be without some good pecans? By popular demand, here’s Mama Kay’s recipe for her famous Cajun-spiced roasted pecans, along with Rosie’s Buttermilk Biscuits and the family secrets on deep-fried turkeys! But make sure you read the safety tips for deep-frying your Christmas turkey first!
I hope your holidays will bring back warm memories for you, too, and that you’ll put a little Cajun spice in this year’s celebration!
Rosie on the House.