New Orleans is renowned for its music, food and history. It is known as the city that finds any reason to party; the city that knows the “joie de vivre,” (joy of living). And when it comes to the Christmas Season nothing is more important than family traditions.
Every day of the month and in every area of the city, family fun can be found. The best part is many of the activities are free and feature popular local and legendary performers.
Holiday Music Events – Free and Open to the Public
There are outdoor concerts as well as more than a dozen Cathedral Concerts, Caroling by candlelight, Gospel Choirs, Jazz Musicians, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Quintet and the St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica Concert Choir and Orchestra. There is also annual caroling in Jackson Square.
- All Cathedral Concerts will be held in the St. Louis Cathedral, one of our Nation’s most Historic Churches, located in Jackson Square. Various artists and locals will perform.
- Caroling in Jackson Square is a tradition that goes back more than 60 years. It is always held the last Sunday before Christmas. Candles and sheet music are provided.
- The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Quintet performs at the French Market Holiday Happy Hours, which is held every Thursday throughout most of November and December. It is held at Washington Artillery Park while the Louisiana Living History characters stroll and carol in traditional costume.
- Traditional Israeli music is played at the annual ceremony of Lighting of the Menorah at the Riverwalk in Spanish Plaza. A 12-foot Menorah will be lit.
- An outdoor concert follows the Canal Street Parade. It is a typical parade complete with floats and marching bands. It will feature a celebrity Santa and our own Mr. Bingle.
Christmas Family Events – Free and Open to the Public
- Miracle on Fulton Street is a Winter Wonderland that excites both the young and the young at heart. There is a lighted tunnel where it snows, live reindeer, local performers and music all open to the public from the end of November to the beginning of January. There are other activities such as Holiday movies and dining for a fee of course.
- The Astor Crowne Plaza is sponsoring Kids on Canal Street featuring visits with Santa and refreshments. If one would like a picture with Santa in the St. Charles Ballroom, just donate a food item for the Second Harvest food bank or a toy to be donated to the Toys for Tots Program.
Family Fun in and Around New Orleans
- Celebration in the Oaks began 23 years ago in City Park with lights decorating the century old Oak Trees. Each year it has grown into the family tradition it is today. There are walking tours, laser shows, Cajun displays and rides on a miniature train and an antique carousel.
- Louisiana Children’s Museum teaches the science of snow and how it melts. One gets to make your own one-of-a-kind snowflake and build an igloo. The museum also hosts a Breakfast with the Cajun Gingerbread Man, including story-telling, pictures with the Gingerbread Man and the children will get to decorate their own cookie.
- Audubon Insectarium will welcome the holidays with Jingle Bug. It’s their special holiday themed program of fun with bug. One may even get to eat a Gingerbug cookie.
- The Lighting of the Bonfires Along the Levees is a tradition that goes back at least a Century. It was brought over by the French. One can drive down River Road in St. John The Baptist, St. James and Ascension parishes and see over 100 bonfires all being lit at 7:00pm on Christmas Eve. They are lit to light the way for Poppa Noel (Santa Claus).
Culinary Events during Christmas in New Orleans
No article on New Orleans is complete without the mention of food. During the Holidays the food is as important as the decorations. Families sit down to beautiful tables with mouth-watering delight. The local restaurants out-do themselves with culinary holiday events.
- Chef’s Holiday Cooking Demonstrations take place in the month of December at the Le Petit Theater. Famous Chefs from the area share their favorite recipes at this free demonstration with sampling included. Where else could one learn the secrets of fabulous New Orleans cuisine, but in the culinary capital of the world!
- Breakfast with Santa is a Holiday favorite for families. Many hotels in the French Quarter play host to Santa during the month of December. While it is kid-friendly, it is guaranteed to spice up your holidays.
- A Reveillin Dinner is a New Orleans tradition. It used to be held only twice a year, but now the upscale famous restaurants in the area celebrate it throughout the Holiday Season. Reveillion is French for awakening. The Creole familieirst celebrated this elaborate meal after midnight mass and then again on New Years Eve. Both nights in which one must stay awake beyond midnight