Holiday Traditions in New Orleans That Will Make You Feel Right At Home

During the holidays, the city transforms into a visual and cultural wonderland that delights locals and visitors alike. Many of the New Orleans holiday traditions and activities originate from religious practices that are centuries old.

These are a few amazing ways to spend the holiday season in New Orleans if you are new to the city.

Big ol’ bonfires

Bonfires are one of the most exciting New Orleans holiday traditions, and they have been going on for centuries. These bonfires take place a few miles outside of New Orleans, mainly in St. James Parish. They are meant to light the way for Cajun Santa Claus, known as Papa Noel.

The bonfires often stretch up to twenty feet high and are constructed in different shapes such as pickup trucks.  You can also see the bonfires from the Algiers Levee in Algiers Pointe in New Orleans. You can also take a tour bus to visit the various bonfires.

It’s gumbo season

A Reveillon dinner is an old Creole tradition typically served after Christmas Eve Mass. Presently, the meal takes place throughout December at several local restaurants. Dishes typically include gumbo, bisques and a Gulf fish stew. Gumbo is soup or stew, famous for its many seemingly random ingredients including seafood, meats and vegetables.

This meal represents “the awakening” before Christmas Day. It is a time for families to gather and enjoy each others’ company. Several local restaurants offer traditional Reveillon Dinners, making it one of the most time-honored New Orleans holiday traditions.

Caroling through the French Quarter

On the Sunday before Christmas, residents and tourists alike gather in Jackson Square in  the French Quarter to sing Christmas songs by candlelight. The event represents togetherness within the community. Once everyone in the vicinity has received a candle, the caroling begins and lasts through the night.

Get into the holiday spirits

New Orleans is known for its amazing drinks and creative cocktails year round, but things get extra special during the holidays. Many restaurants and bars serve Christmas-themed cocktails that use traditional and not so traditional ingredients. Napoleon House, The Bombay Club and The French 75 Club usually offer the the most inventive drinks around.

Cafe Brulot, which can be found at Galatoire’s, Arnauds and Antoine’s, is one of the most famous holiday drinks. The drink consists of dark coffee, orange peel, lemon peel, cognac, brandy, cloves, cinnamon, sugar and a big old fireball.  Often prepared table side, watching the preparation is an experience in and of itself.

Go to LUNA Fête!

Luna Fete is a gorgeous  festival of lights and projections that takes place during December. The event will take place this year from December 7th-10th on Lafayette Street.

This event is a truly amazing spectacle, taking up several blocks of the street with 3D Projections, great food and art installations. This is one you definitely don’t want to miss!

Jessica Johnson