Tessie and Kevin Alfred of Pointe-aux-Chênes finally restored power to their property in early December, more than three months after Hurricane Ida destroyed their home.
As Christmas approaches, they live in a trailer they bought during the reconstruction.
The motorhome is adorned with a Christmas tree and candy cane lights. In the yard is a restroom, its bowl filled with poinsettias and above it a sign that reads “Santa Stop.”
Tessie says Christmas lights offer practical benefits.
“At night it’s so dark you just need a little light,” she says. “It’s not just for me, it’s for the neighborhood kids and my godchildren, nieces and nephews.”
But she and her husband say they decided to decorate to maintain a sense of humor and a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
“I just have to take it day by day,” Tessie says.
Christmas atmosphere: These inhabitants of the Houma-Thibodaux district are the winners of the SLECA Christmas lights competition
Similar stories abound in the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche as residents recover from one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the region.
In Thibodaux, Kristen Anselmi decorated the exterior of her house with Charlie Brown characters for her sons.
Anselmi recounts how she was nine months pregnant when they evacuated to Tennessee to give birth to her son Harry. Her husband, a maritime inspector, had to return before everyone else and work without electricity. Then their eldest son returned to school, and three weeks after the storm, Anselmi was allowed to return home with their baby.
“I’m so happy that we’re all together for the holidays,” she said.
Anselmi makes the decorations for the boys because the family loves Christmas so much.
“I love when people bring kids in to admire them,” she says. “And we’ve stopped a few times for people to take pictures with it and we love it.”
In Dularge, Stacey Price placed decorated Christmas trees inside and outside her home. Price’s mother, Mary Champagne, lost her home next to the storm.
“I wanted to bring some spirit to my mom and my daughter,” Price said.
Price says her favorite decorations are the lights she put on the tree outside. Her 10-year-old daughter, Lillie Price, agrees.
“It’s nice,” said Lillie.
In Cut Off, Daisy Folse placed a decorated Christmas tree outside the FEMA trailer next to her heavily damaged home.
“The kids lost their dad to COVID, then the hurricane hit, and then it was one thing after another,” Folse says. “I just put up a little Christmas tree to have some spirit for them.”
Christmas in Houma: For more than four decades, a tradition continues
In Chauvin, Hope Lirette has planted a Christmas tree every year since her marriage in 1991.
“I love decorating for Christmas, and I usually put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but this year I put it up in mid-September because Ida knocked everyone off, and I wasn’t going to not let it break our spirits,” Lirette says. “I decided to set it up early so we could enjoy it a bit longer.”
Lirette pays particular attention to the appearance of her tree, taking photos along the way to ensure the process is going smoothly.
“I have to have a certain feeling to know it’s perfect and that’s how I want it. I try to do a different theme and color every year. This year I did the Grinch for the first time,” Lirette explains. “My family and friends know they can call on me to help them with their tree, and I do it with a smile on my face because it’s something I love to do.