Charlette Becnel admits that at first, she wasn’t quite in the spirit of the Christmas season.
“I was a bit ‘bah, humbug-ish,’ to tell you the truth,” the Luling woman quipped.
As it has for many, 2020 brought some hardships for Becnel. She was a flight attendant manager for American Airlines, and based in Dallas, but cutbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic cost her that job. The Ama native elected to move back home to St. Charles Parish and be near her family.
As the Christmas season kicked into gear in December, the situation made a family tradition less viable: an annual trip with her grandchildren to see Christmas in the Oaks was more costly than would be ideal. But as it turned out, that bit of sour news led to a creative solution – and with it, a renewed excitement for the Christmas season.
“I couldn’t take the kids to Christmas in the Oaks … they’re going crazy in the house,” Becnel said. “So I thought, let’s do something I used to do with my children when they were younger. And we went out to look at Christmas lights.”
They did more than that: they chronicled their adventure through video, driving through a few neighborhoods in St. Charles Parish and highlighting some of the fantastic Christmas displays in the community. Becnel, 8-year-old Sanaii and 3-year-old Sage starred in “Christmas in Da’ Hood,” and the feedback since posting the video has been tremendous and positive – hundreds of likes and numerous shares of the original post, as well as that of WDSU News, which featured the family’s story on their Christmas night newscast.
“That was amazing! I’m serious!” exclaimed Sanaii at one point of the video, the 8-year-old serving as the narrator and de facto tour guide for viewers. The children’s excitement was clearly apparent throughout, and that enthusiasm did more than rub off on Becnel.
“It turned out to be tremendously cute,” said Becnel. “Their excitement was so absolutely incredible. (Sanaii) was narrating about the beautiful decorations … for me, it brought back that sense of the meaning of Christmas and of life. With everything going on, people losing their jobs and their homes, and people are dying … so much has happened, but this brought a bit of light into my life.”
Ditto for others who have watched and enjoyed their trip, which took them through Lakewood and Willowdale among the areas covered.
“Reading the comments has been a joy. People are saying how it made them feel good to see the kids truly enjoying themselves and being in awe of the lights in the parish,” Becnel said.
Becnel herself was in awe at times, too.
“Some of these displays could be in Christmas in the Oaks,” Becnel said. “One that the kids absolutely loved … there was a blow-up snowman, about two stories high probably. The people put out a letters to Santa box right next to it. That was the kids’ absolute favorite. They were telling me, ‘please stop, please stop’ so we could take a closer look.”
For Sanaii, one might figure this might not be her last time narrating events on video. She has a make-believe “vlog” she calls Small Potatoes, one that might just become a reality when she gets a little older.
And who knows? The debut could come on another Christmas night someday down the line.
“I’ve heard from some people, ‘come out here, do this neighborhood and see what we have to offer next time,’” said Becnel. “I just thought the whole experience was wonderful. It inspired me to embrace Christmas just a little bit more.”