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The Ultimate Guide to Celebrating the 2021 Holiday Season in NOLA

From Celebration in the Oaks to Luna Fete and Reveillon, here are our favorite ways to celebrate the season.

by Matt Haines
December 15, 2021

We are in the homestretch of the holiday season (before, of course, our Carnival holiday season) and there are so many exciting things going on in New Orleans! Special seasonal menus, tons of merry events, and more holiday markets than you’ll know what to do with!

Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate the lead-up to Christmas and the new year!

Out to Eat

Réveillon is a well-known New Orleans holiday-time feast. I’ve covered the Réveillon menus around the city in great detail here, but Réveillon isn’t the only game in town.

Feast of the Seven Fishes, for example, originated in southern Italy and was brought to New Orleans when hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants — mostly from Sicily — moved here between 1884 and 1924. The meal traditionally includes at least seven different fish-focused dishes. In New Orleans, you can enjoy the Feast of the Seven Fishes at Donald Link’s Gianna on Wednesday, Dec. 15 or the following week on Dec. 22. Both meals begin at 7 p.m. The cost is $120 per person and includes featured table wines to complement the menu. You can make your reservation here

Red Gravy will also be hosting their own annual Feast of the Seven Fishes, costing $125 per person, on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are limited so make your reservation here.

Meanwhile, Chef Eric Cook’s two restaurants, Gris-Gris and Saint John, are hosting a unique Mangé Loa Holiday Menu. Mangé Loa means “the feeding of the Gods” and is a large, annual Voodoo feast. It typically features a variety of meats, drinks, and desserts, and Chef Cook and his team rise to the occasion with a three-course pre-fixe menu. The meal, plus a special holiday cocktail, are $60 per person. You can make your reservation by calling 504-581-8120 or via Resy.

Tujague’s is celebrating their 165th anniversary with events throughout all of December. But it’s their last one that’s especially festive. On Dec. 26, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m, New Orleans’ second oldest restaurant (and the third oldest continuously operating restaurant in the U.S.) is hosting a three-hour Christmas-themed Drag Queen Brunch with Poppy Tooker. The celebratory three-course meal is priced at $70 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). In addition to amazing food, you’ll receive bottomless mimosas and coffee. Check out the full menu here.

Catch a Show

Whether it’s the Nutcracker ballet or the musical, “A Christmas Story,” the performing arts have an essential role in our holiday celebrations. In fact, if the Nutcracker is your jam, you have one more weekend to catch the classic. On Dec. 18 (2 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and Dec. 19 (2 p.m.), one of the world’s most popular ballets will be at the Orpheum Theatre.

Le Petit Theatre always has a show around the holidays, and this year’s performance is called “Christmas Without Tears,” a two-night engagement featuring musician Judith Owen and her husband Harry Shearer, a voice actor known for — among many things — his work on “The Simpsons.” The night is packed with music, laughter, and special guests, and you can purchase your tickets here for shows on Dec. 21 or 22 at 7:30 p.m. 


Speaking of music, one of my favorite holiday shows is songwriter Kelcy Mae’s biennial Merry Songwriter Revue! Kelcy is a founding member of local band Ever More Nest, a music group rooted in Southern musical traditions and lush harmonies that can alternatively lull and rock you off the porch! Every other year, Kelcy gathers some of her favorite New Orleans musicians to perform their takes on holiday season tunes. The show will be at Carnaval Lounge and tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Carnaval Lounge opens for the show at 7 p.m and the music starts at 8 p.m. The bar will also have food and special cocktails available!

Let There Be Light(s)!

For those of us who love holiday light shows, some New Orleans seasonal staples remain this year.

NEW ORLEANS, LA – DECEMBER 03: A Christmas light display at Celebration in the Oaks at City Park on December 3, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Josh Brasted/Getty Images)

For example, this year is City Park’s 36th annual Celebration in the Oaks, that can be enjoyed through Jan. 2! The park’s famous oaks are decked out in more than a million twinkling lights. This year visitors can enjoy the 2.25-mile tour with some add-on activities in Carousel Gardens. Vehicle passes are $39.99, but on Mondays cyclists can ride the loop for just $5 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Buy your tickets in advance because they’ve been selling out!

If you prefer your lights on the water, head over to the lakefront for the Pontchartrain Conservancy’s Lights on the Lake. It’s billed as a family-friendly holiday boat parade in which the boats are decked out in Christmas lights! The aquatic parade takes place on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. (get there on time so you see the whole parade!). The address listed for your reference is 8001 Lakeshore Drive.

LUNA Fête is an annual festival of light, art, and technology created by Arts Council New Orleans. Now in its eighth year, LUNA Fête is the longest-running annual large-scale projection mapping festival in the country. The free festival takes place from Dec. 16 through Dec. 19, from 6 to 10 p.m. each night. This year, the event will explore a new space — along the recently constructed 7.2-acre Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Pedestrian Park. The park is on Convention Center Boulevard between Julia Street and Henderson Avenue.

And, of course, when you’re downtown, it’s always worth checking out lights inside the long lobby of The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Outdoor Holiday Markets


If you’re still looking for the perfect gift(s) for your beloved(s), check out one of the city’s many outdoor holiday markets:

  • The Chriskindl Market will be on Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Get your gifts while enjoying a cup of Gluhwein at Deutsches Haus along Bayou St. John.
  • This Saturday, Dec. 18 from 1 to 5pm is Zony Mash’s last Arts Bazaar of the holiday season. Drink a beer while you finish up your holiday shopping. There will also be a performance by The Crybabies, an all femme string band!
  • The Historic New Orleans Collection is hosting a holiday market at their popular Shop from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 18.
  • New Orleans Trap Kitchen has been holding its bi-weekly market at 1043 Poland Ave. Its last one of the season is Dec.19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • You can find a Holiday Art Market at Coffee Science on Dec. 18 from 5 to 9 p.m., followed by its regular Sunday market the following day from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • The French Quarter Museum Association is hosting a Quarter-wide holiday market at museums throughout the French Quarter on Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Disco Warehouse hosts a holiday market on both days of the weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Head to Freret Street for their Freretstivus Holiday Market on Dec. 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’ll be tons of great gifts to choose from (with the Big Easy Rollergirls there to wrap presents), beer from Port Orleans, and a performance by One Love Brass Band.
  • The neutral ground outside Uptown bar The Kingpin, and next door shop Fly Right Galaxy Gift & Studio will host the “Kingpin Holiday Art Bizzare” on Dec. 18 from noon to 5 p.m.

For the Whole Family

Photo courtesy JAMNOLA

I get it. Some of you with kids might be yelling, “Who the heck is going to the theater and fancy restaurants?!” 

Don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to celebrate the holidays with your little ones, as well. NOLA Christmas Fest, for example, is from Dec. 17 – 22 and again from Dec. 25 – 30. The event features a real indoor ice skating rink, ice slides, carnival rides, Santa and friends, gingerbread houses, decorated trees and more!

On Dec. 17, head to Spanish Plaza for the last installment of the Movies on the Mississippi series. At 6:30 p.m, they’ll be showing “Elf,” the holiday classic starring Will Ferrell. 

JAMNOLA is known for its 12-room exhibition of interactive, photogenic fun. During the holidays, the popular venue has unveiled WinterJAM! Visitors will experience over-the-top winter wonderland exhibits and holiday decor, including 6-foot tall Nutcracker installations, a winter feather forest made from recycled materials, a 7th Ward Santa tribute, a holiday-themed costume closet complete with JAMNOLA’s newest 360-degree rotating camera, a towering Cafe Du Monde exhibit with a powder sugar rainfall made for taking the perfect holiday pics, and much more. Santa or one of his many elves will be at JAMNOLA Wednesdays-Fridays each week in December. Guests wanting a picture with the North Pole visitors are encouraged to check the JAMNOLA schedule before booking tickets.

Speaking of Mr. Clause, Gentilly Santa is once again making the rounds! You can catch him 4 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 19th at Lizzie’s Boutique, and then again on Dec. 21 and 23 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Park Island Brew coffeehouse. To get your child’s photo taken, you’ll need to book an appointment before you arrive by emailing here or calling 504-535-5399.

Enjoy Holiday Tea in Le Salon at the Windsor Court Hotel between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from now until December 31. The elegant tradition includes delicate tea sandwiches, holiday-themed scones, desserts, and, of course, a variety of teas. The price for adults is $69.03 (tax included), while for children 12 and under, it is $49.12. Reservations are recommended.

Finally, reserve a spot for you and your child at the Royal Sonesta’s Santa Pajama Party featuring hot chocolate, warm cider and the opportunity to decorate your own cookies on Dec. 18 – 23!

————–

No matter how you decide to celebrate, make sure to do it like the Bingles: fun, smart and safe! Happy holidays!

Matt Haines is the author of The Big Book of King Cake. He lives in New Orleans and writes about history, food, and much more. Visit his website MattHainesWrites.com. Follow him on Social Media: FB: matthaineswrites TW: matthaineswrite IG: matthaineswrites

Matt Haines lives in New Orleans and writes about all the cool stuff. Visit his website MattHainesWrites.com. Follow him on Social Media: FB: matthaineswrites TW: matthaineswrite IG: matthaineswrites

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