Abbeville, Louisiana: Memories of Past Christmas Seasons










Below is an letter to the editor published in the Abbeville Meridional.  It was written by Ken Dupuy, Author of "Journeys into the Past,/Abbeville, Louisiana,/The Early Years." (Published in 2008).  The letter is published with the permission of by Ken Dupuy and the Abbeville Meridional.

 See several lessons below surrounding this article!

December 17, 1998

Dear Editor:

     The Meridional is to be commended for the comprehensive and laudatory article about Abbeville's annual Christmas event: Les Lumieres du Village d’Abbeville.  Mayor Broussard and the committee that conceived of the idea should be congratulated for a job well done.  Additionally, the city, the private citizens and the organizations that continue to improve on the concept each year should also receive our thanks.
    Guess what! According to our local newspapers, the idea of brightening the Christmas season in Abbeville with "holiday color lights" was originally implemented 70 years ago.  This revelation is not meant to detract from today's celebration. Rather, it is to confirm that great minds, even decades apart, can conceive of the same ideas. Naturally, what was done in 1931, and for several years after, was not as extensive or as creative as is our Les Lumieres. The town didn't have the resources to achieve what we do today.

     In 1931, one of the oaks on Magdalen Square--probably the one across from the bank, as it was described in 1934--was lit up with beautiful colored electric lights, beginning on December 22. It was so well received by the public that it was decided to leave the lights until after the holidays.

     In 1934, the oak tree on Magdalen Square across from the Bank of Abbeville was illuminated with 135 colored electric lights. Some of the lights on this square and on the courthouse square were also decorated with colored lights. I assume that these lights were the regular five-ball lights, the only existing one being on the northwest corner of the courthouse.
     For Christmas 1938, the city placed streamers of colored lights--some 700 of them--all around the courthouse square.  Additionally, another 277 lights were put on a Christmas tree at the Water & Light Plant, and 84 more lights were put on the plant's building. Even the "small trees" on Magdalen Square were decorated "for the season."  Also, local home owners put up indoor and outdoor Christmas trees. Finally, the "business places...decorated very beautifully."
     In 1939, the town had the "business sections lighted up with colored lights," and there were "decorated lawn Christmas trees" again.  However, in 1939, there was a $15 first prize, and a $10 second prize for the best decorated trees. First prize went to Mrs.
Emmett W. Henry, who lived on South Main Street.  The second prize was awarded to Mrs. Landry Stansbury, who resided on South State Street. 
     Also in 1939, a "community Christmas tree" stood on the courthouse square. Our previous courthouse was about a third of the size of our present one, so large crowds could gather on that square. Over 1,000 presents were distributed to the needy children who lived "within the corporate limits of the Town."  Pre-registration and proof of need were required. Each of the older individuals, who were eligible for gifts, were given a large bag of groceries.  These presents were dispensed on December 24th, on the courthouse square by Santa, "represented by Buck Guarino." These gifts were made possible "through the cooperation of the different societies...the Fire Department and town officials." As early as 1926, funds had been collected to provide toys and food to Abbeville’s disadvantaged children.  The celebration in 1939 had been enhanced by the singing of Christmas carols.

    In 1940 and 1941, the "Christmas lights" continued to be a special feature of the holiday season. In 1941, even though Pearl Harbor had been attacked only 18 days before Christmas, these bright and joyful lights were "crisscrossed through the business section" of Abbeville, and the merchants had their "stores and show windows fully dressed for the season."

   I would imagine that World War II must have curtailed such festivities after 1941, what with our men and boys dying on foreign soil--in yet another war--the nationwide rationing of essentials, and because of air raid restrictions. Was this yearly celebration of Christmas continued later?  I don't know. I'm also unaware of whether the distribution of presents to the needy continued after the war.

    Well, there you have it.  Perhaps the old saying is true: "There are no new ideas."  Be that as it may, let's hope that Abbeville--its city fathers and its citizens--continues a tradition that gladdens the hearts of all who see "Les Lumieres du Village d'Abbeville."


Ken Dupuy


1.Comprehension Interactive Quiz 1  (Self checking quiz)

2.  Interactive Timeline PowerPoint with the letter listed above. This PowerPoint includes the letter and an interactive timeline to complete. The students will read the story and complete slide 4 (Timeline).

  • Directions: Go to “Slide Show” in the top menu bar.  Click on “View Show” and read Ken Dupuy’s Letter to the Editor about past Christmas traditions in Abbeville.  (Slides 2 and 3 show the letter.) Then go to slide 4 and complete the interactive timeline using the dates and events stated in the letter.  Under Date, write the year and under event, write a brief statement explaining briefly what occurred that year. Note: For this powerpoint to work, you have to be in the “View PowerPoint Show” mode.   Then save your powerpoint with your name or initials (with an underscore) and add the title of the project. (Example Sam Jones would save his sj_abbevillechristmas).

3. More Timelines (Blacklines and interactives are included) Print story here

4. Compare and Contrast any of the past or current events with Abbeville's Christmas history.

5. Read Mr. Dupuy's letter and write about what you learned.

  • Download story to print (Reprinted with permission from Ken Dupuy and the Abbeville Meridional)  Students will explain what they learned after reading Ken Dupuy's Letter to the editor.

  • Student MS Word Interactive - Students can download and type in their information.

  • Printable information form - Students can download and write about what they learned.  MS Word or PDF File

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