11 weird things we do in New Orleans at Christmastime | Entertainment/Life

Bonfire on the dyke 2021

Bonfire lights the night of Christmas Eve 2021 on the Mississippi River levees in Gramercy. More than 200 bonfires in St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes lit the way for Papa Noel, a Christmas Eve tradition from the 18th century.

1. We set things on fire. For fun.

Christmas fires elsewhere are usually sad and unfortunate events involving faulty holiday lights or burning oil spilling over a turkey fryer. Here in southern Louisiana, we set fire to stacks of wood to light the way for Pere Noel.

Haven’t you been to the Christmas bonfire? See the Algiers bonfire on December 3 from 4:30 PM to 8:00 PM on the Mississippi River near the ferry dock. Or go to the Christmas Eve bonfires in the River Parishes.

Sir.  Bingle

2. Who needs Frosty? We have Mr. Bingle.

Even New Orleans newcomers have probably seen Mr. Bingle somewhere, maybe as a giant display at City Park’s Celebration in the Oaks or as a doll they can buy at Dillard’s — though he was the mascot of the now-defunct Maison Blanche department store. Mr. Bingle was born in 1948 as a cute little snowman with an ice cream cone for a hat, holly leaves and Christmas ornaments for eyes.

3. And who needs Prancer? We have Gaston.

From “The Cajun Night Before Christmas” by James Rice:

“Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an’ Alcee’!

Hello, Ninette! Hi, Suzette! Celeste and Renee!

4. We were the first to serve the turducken.

Hey, who wants a drumstick!

The first mention of the turducken in The Times-Picayune was in 1994. Chef Paul Prudhomme patented the word in 1986. The invention was also claimed by Hebert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice.

5. We import fake sneaux.

Kind of like a trip to the Super Bowl, once in a while we get snow in New Orleans. But you can count on at least one or two pseudo-snowfalls every year.

If you want to dabble in fake flakes, you have options. Velvet Cactus promises non-toxic foam instead of snow when you rent a private dining bubble tent as part of its Christmas-themed dining experience until December 30. Loyola University schedules Sneaux on Dec. 6.

6. We drink eggnog frozen daiquiris.

Nothing says Christmas like eggnog — eggnog you can get from a drive-through daiquiri shop, that is. Or make your own at home.

Christmas parade

7. We throw things at our Christmas parades.

In other cities, your Christmas parades are very nice, but you’re lucky if you catch a mini-Tootsie Roll at one of these affairs. Here in New Orleans, we throw beads and toys and other things at our parades – Mardi Gras or not. This year you can choose between the Krewe of Krampus parade or the Children’s Hospital parade, both on December 3rd.

Christmas trees for the marsh

8. We dump our Christmas trees in the bog.

After Christmas, of course.

Every year, to combat the constant drumbeat of coastal erosion, we put our trees out on the curb on special days for collection, to be delivered to special Santa’s helpers who dump them into bogs and swamps. They are on Santa’s good list.

Bourbon Milk Punch

9. We drink bourbon milk punch.

Milk punch has always been a New Orleans favorite, but it wasn’t until 2002 that it was perfected by Bourbon House and became a staple. The French Quarter restaurant’s frozen bourbon milk punch is the perfect over-the-top Christmas brunch or dessert drink.

New Year's Eve meal

Daube Glace with roasted garlic crouton, horseradish cream and Hollygrove arugula from the Reveillon dinner menu at Mat & Naddie’s restaurant in 2012.

10. We eat a New Year’s Eve meal.

The celebration is a rich taste of New Orleans’ holiday history as some of the city’s most famous restaurants roll out Reveillon menus inspired by the 19th-century Creole Christmas tradition.

Creole families began celebrating Christmas Day in the early hours of the morning with lavish feasts to break what was a traditional fast day on Christmas Eve. These days, Reveillon meals are especially popular on Christmas Eve.

11. We have our own Christmas tunes.

Benny Grunch & The Bunch released a trilogy of New Orleans-themed Christmas songs in 2009. They remain staples of the local holiday season.

“12 Yats of Christmas,” “Ain’t Dere No More” and “Santa and His Reindeer Used to Live Right Here” can put any New Orleans family in the Christmas spirit.

Melinda Daffin wrote this article in 2017 and Gabriella Killett updated it in 2022.


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