A Recipe for Holiday Magic

Christmas New Orleans Style offers music and food to celebrate the season



Richard Nowitz

When we think of holidays, often music and food is intertwined in their traditions. The Fourth of July means Sousa marches and hot dogs. Purim brings Klezmer tunes and hamantaschen. And of course, Christmas has its carols and figgy pudding.

As with most things, New Orleans has a unique way of celebrating Christmas. Beyond simply lighting a tree in the town square while the local high school marching band plays “Jingle Bells,” we do things a bit more dramatically here.

Two of my favorite NOLA traditions feature prominently in the Christmas New Orleans Style collaboration between New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) and French Quarter Festivals Inc. (FQFI).

The first is a free concert series that brings together some of the most talented contemporary musicians in two of the most historic and beautiful places of worship in the country.

“As New Orleans prepares to celebrate its 300th anniversary – and FQFI its 35th – Christmas New Orleans Style will celebrate our cultural heritage and showcase the best of NOLA’s emerging talent,” said Emily Madero, FQFI President and CEO, in a press release. “Our concert lineup at historic St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Catholic Church features the city’s most beloved, talented musicians.”

The two churches have each played a significant role in the religious and cultural life of New Orleanians. St. Louis Cathedral, located on Jackson Square in the French Quarter, is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States that has been in continuous use. St. Augustine Church is the oldest African-American church in the United States and features prominently in its historic Tremé neighborhood. They serve as inspirational settings for the free concert series.

After you feed your soul with sound, give your belly a treat too. More than 50 restaurants are participating in Christmas New Orleans Style by offering special menus and Reveillon dinners. Harkening back to early French inhabitants of New Orleans, the European tradition of feasting after Christmas Eve mass has grown to a month-long celebration of Creole and holiday foods.

“At restaurants all over the city, diners can take a bite of history with a traditional Reveillon dinner or enjoy our haute cuisine by selecting a contemporary menu,” said Madero. “From traditional to modern, we have so much to offer!” 

Typical Reveillon menus include three to five courses, averaging in price around $50. Favorite menu items include turtle soup, gumbo, grillades, crabmeat-stuffed flounder and bananas Foster. Participating restaurants include some of the oldest in the city such as Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, as well as neighborhood favorites like The Country Club and Café Adelaide. Make your reservations well in advance and tip generously.

The concert series lineup is as follows:

St. Louis Cathedral:

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 6:00 p.m.:  Beau Soleil Trio avec Michael Doucet (Cajun)

Thursday, Dec. 7, 6:00 p.m.:  Opera Creole (Classical Opera)

Sunday, Dec. 10, 6:00 p.m.:  The Boutté Family (Gospel)

Monday, Dec. 11, 6:00 p.m.:  Wendell Brunious (Jazz)

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 6:00 p.m.:  The Zion Harmonizers (Gospel)

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 6:00 p.m.:  Panorama Jazz Band (Jazz/World/Klezmer)

Thursday, Dec. 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Christmas Organ Spectacular featuring Davide Mariano (Classical)

Sunday, Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m.:  St. Louis Basilica Annual Christmas Concert (Classical)

 

St. Augustine Church:

Saturday, Dec. 9, 4:00 p.m.:  Betty Winn and One A-Chord (Gospel)

Saturday, Dec. 16, 4:00 p.m.:  Don Vappie presents a Very Vappie Christmas (Jazz)

 

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Tourism with Jennifer Schecter

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Once a tourist in New Orleans herself, Jennifer Gibson Schecter is proud to call NOLA home. Prior to New Orleans, she wrote for publications in the Midwest and New York City. She advises travelers to ask their cab/pedicab/gondola driver where their favorite restaurant is and to eat there.

 

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