**Read the updated version of this post here!
As with many holidays, New Orleans celebrates Easter in its own unique way. Catholics recognize Easter as the end of Lent; many others use the Easter celebrations show off colorful fashions and herald the arrival of the warm days of spring. Easter, especially in New Orleans, presents opportunities for both the religious and secular to enjoy the holiday. From Easter Mass to really big egg hunts, from Charoset to drag queens - New Orleans celebrates Easter like no other!
In New Orleans, many church services begin early on Easter morning and, when they are over, the celebrations begin. Easter Brunches are an old New Orleans tradition; a time to indulge in the food sacrifices that may have been made during the Lenten season. Many of New Orleans’ finest restaurants offer Easter Brunches, some even at discounted prices. While Easter brunches are a common tradition, New Orleans sweetens the deal with Easter cake, somewhat of a local rendition of Hot Cross Buns. Bakeries like Manny Randazzo and Haydel’s outfit each cake in bright pastel colors.
Click here for a list of restaurants offering Easter Brunches in and around New Orleans. We recommend calling ASAP, as many restaurants will be booked.
You'll want to head down to the French Quarter on Easter and catch the parades (of course, there are parades - it's New Orleans!) Easter Sunday’s parades starts early with The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade rolling from Antoine's Restaurant at 9:45 a.m. to St. Louis Cathedral for 11:00 a.m. Mass. The leisurely parade, consisting largely of mule-drawn carriages and old convertibles, rolls through the French Quarter, handing out stuffed Easter bunnies to the kids, along with other trinkets.
Following Mass, the parade heads to Jackson Square opposite the Cathedral for participants to show off their Easter bonnets and other finery before returning to Antoine’s. Awards are given out for the best Easter bonnets, Easter baskets and overall Easter attire.
Later, around 1:00 p.m. is the Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade. This tradition, which began back in the early 1980s, features renowned French Quarter singer, dancer and all-around entertainer Chris Owens as the Grand Duchess. She stands proudly on her elaborately decorated float, assisted by elegantly attired attendants while decked out in one of her glamorous dresses.
The parade starts at the corner of Canal and Bourbon streets and makes its way through the French Quarter with colorful floats and vintage convertibles.
Then, later in the afternoon at 4:30 p.m., is yet another parade, the Gay Easter Parade, put on by the city’s LGBT community. The family-friendly Gay Easter Parade takes a leisurely route through the French Quarter, passing every gay bar and many gay-owned restaurants and retail shops. The paraders ride horse-drawn carriages or floats while wearing showy versions of their Easter Sunday finest. Don’t be surprised if you see a gaggle of motorcycle dudes in leather and Easter bonnets roar by.
There is also an annual Easter Bonnet Contest at Good Friends Bar, a LGBT neighborhood bar at the corner of Dauphine and St. Ann streets in the French Quarter. Anyone can join in and some of the bonnet entries can get pretty outlandish.