Christmas in New Orleans is on par with Mardi Gras and Carnival season, in terms of grandeur and tradition. Here are some holiday traditions that are as unique as the city of New Orleans itself.
Celebration in the Oaks
Head to City Park for one of the grandest and most spectacular light festivals in the country! The Park's centuries-old live oak trees are illuminated with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights and breathtaking displays. You can even see the iconic Mr. Bingle! Admission is $9 for adults and Celebration in the Oaks is open now through January 1, 2018.
The tradition of the Reveillon dinner (pronounced REH-vēe-ŏn) began with French colonists during the mid 1800's. In French, the word “reveillon” means “awakening.” In preparation for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the Creoles would fast all day and then would return home and feast on big, family meals. Still celebrated today, the Reveillon tradition is most commonly celebrated by local families and/or friends in the French Quarter's old and storied restaurants. However, visitors to New Orleans can also savor the same memorable Reveillon dinner experiences at restaurants all over town. During the entire month of December, celebrate Reveillon with prix-fixe menus at New Orleans restaurants that consist of seasonal flavors and holiday dishes.
Roosevelt Hotel Lights
The Waldorf's Roosevelt hotel is the most Instagram-able spot in town this time of year! The lobby is adorned with thousands of lights, which transform the hotel into a winter wonderland. The block-long lobby display features 44 Birch trees and more than 22,000 twinkling lights. The Roosevelt also offers a luxurious Christmas Day Brunch. Menu and reservations can be found here. The Roosevelt is also home to the world-famous Sazerac Bar, so be sure to stop in and grab an iconic cocktail for sipping.
Christmas Eve Bonfires on the Levee
A Louisiana tradition like no other, head up the river on Christmas Eve to celebrate the arrival of Papa Noel. Forget Christmas lights - the night is illuminated by dozens of 30-feet-and-higher flaming pyramids of burning logs. The bonfires are up and down the river, but the highest concentration is in St. James Parish, in and around Gramercy, Lutcher and Paulina. The best viewing is by car along the east- and west-bank River Roads (La. Hwys. 44 and 13, respectively) and by walking along the levees.
Caroling in Jackson Square
One of our favorite holiday traditions, a few day before Christmas, residents and visitors of New Orleans alike join together to sing carols by candle light, lifting their voices high into the night. Sponsored by Patio Planters of the Vieux Carre, Caroling in Jackson Square attracts hundreds of people who gather in the square after dark, with the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral looming in the background.