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Celebrate Christmas in New Orleans With These Festive & Fun Things to Do

a slice of orange fruit

The Christmas season is a magical time to visit New Orleans. The streets (and even the streetcars!) are lit up with twinkling lights, the ancient oaks in City Park dazzle under the night sky, and the whole city comes alive with the sound of Christmas carols. It probably comes as no surprise that New Orleans has some unique Christmas customs. Witness the lighting of bonfires on the levee to guide Santa Claus, and feast on a Christmas Eve Reveillon dinner rich in tradition.

This year, New Orleans Christmas celebrations look a little different because of COVID-19 restrictions, but there are still plenty of ways to join in on the merriment. If you have the opportunity to visit New Orleans during Christmas, get into the spirit with these festive things to do this holiday season.

Go Caroling in Jackson Square

Taking place on the Sunday before Christmas since 1946, Candlelight Caroling in Jackson Square is a congregation of hundreds of professional and amateur singers caroling Christmas favorites. Anyone wishing to participate in this free event in the French Quarter will be provided with a candle and song sheet to join in on the merriment. Candlelight Caroling is quite the spectacle, with Jackson Square illuminated by candlelight and overflowing with patrons.

Please note: This year, due to COVID-19 concerns, it is strongly recommended to join the event virtually at The only people allowed to attend in person are members of Patio Planters, the host of the event. Visit for updates.

a close up of a light

Attend the Celebration in the Oaks

Throughout December, experience 25 acres of holiday lights and displays in City Park. The 2020 season is the 35th anniversary of this popular New Orleans Christmas tradition! This year, see over a million twinkling lights on a 2-mile driving tour through the park.

Enjoy Family Fun at NOLA ChristmasFest

The annual ChristmasFest at the Convention Center usually features ice skating, arts and crafts, ice sliding, and other winter activities. This year, in keeping with COVID-19 guidelines, the event has gone virtual with a whole week of fun activities families can enjoy in their own home. Things to do include baking, Christmas crafts, holiday story readings, and more.

Feast on a Reveillon Dinner

Some of New Orleans’ most serious traditions feature food. One holiday example is the Reveillon dinner, originally a meal served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Today, dozens of New Orleans restaurants serve up special Reveillon menus throughout the holiday season. Sink your teeth into bread pudding, oyster chowder, and Christmas King Cake. Look for restaurants that offer Reveillon meals to go and celebrate the season with family at home.

Go on Your Own Christmas Lights Tour

Set out with members of your household to find all the amazing Christmas light displays around the city. Check out the decorated mansions of the French Quarter and Garden District, and be sure to stroll down St. Charles Avenue, one of the most festive streets in New Orleans during the holiday season.

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Annual Christmas Traditions to Look Forward To

Many of New Orleans’ most beloved Christmas traditions have been postponed to next year – but it’s never too early to plan for next season! Some favorite events to look forward to include the Running of the Santas, when thousands of pub goers dressed as Santa take to the streets, and the lighting of the bonfires, when bonfires on the Mississippi River are set ablaze to light the way for Santa. You can also look forward to holiday concerts at the St. Louis Cathedral and catch a performance of The Nutcracker at the Orpheum Theater.

Of course, if you just can’t wait to spend some time in New Orleans, be sure to check out the tours and activities you can enjoy all year-round. They even make great gifts for friends and family if you’re still looking for a last-minute Christmas present.