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Thursday, November 24, 2016



(A Very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  As you enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend please comment on Jack's post

Louisiana being what it is—own language, parishes instead of counties, different legal system, best food on the planet—it should not come as a great surprise that there are unique ways of observing the Christmas season that are found only there.
You should understand that New Orleans and South Louisiana is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.  It’s the Christmas Season down there, not the “Holiday Season.” That doesn’t mean we leave out our Jewish friends, as you will see.
You should also understand that there is a difference between New Orleans and Cajun Country.  New Orleans is the cosmopolitan, almost European, major city in the state.  To the south and west stretch the swamps, farms, and prairies where the country folk—Cajuns—reside.  They are different from New Orleanians, and they will be the first to tell you that.
Because they are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is big there.  Really big.  Standing-room only big.  Go to Mass twice a year big.  Everyone goes home to prepare for the visit by Santa, otherwise known as Père Noël or Papa Noel. 
Christmas concerts are held at St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter and at the beautiful
plantations homes lining the Mississippi River, like Oak Alley.
Since this is New Orleans, food is all-important.  Réveillon dinners, special four and five course prix fixe menus served only during the Advent season, are available at most of the restaurants in town.  Lately, Bûche de Noel, a French Christmas cake shaped like a log, have become popular.
Our Jewish friends are not forgotten.  Traditional Israeli music is played at the annual ceremony of Lighting of the Menorah at the Riverwalk in Spanish Plaza when a 12-foot Menorah is lit.
The best thing about Christmas in Louisiana is that it is NOT done for tourists.  We put on these celebrations and displays for ourselves.  While we are very happy to share with visitors, we would do these things even if no one outside of our community came.  It is part and parcel of who Louisianians are.  It is real—just like the great people of the great state of Louisiana.

[Below is an excerpt from ELYSIAN DREAMS: Volume Two of CRESCENT CITY, my Jane Austen based trilogy about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. It contains elements of Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma. Even with the slight change of names, you can see the S&S influence here:]
December, 2004
One of the most beautiful and least known festival seasons in Louisiana is the local celebration of Christmas. Towns across the state hold charming, understated events to mark the end of the year. The north Louisiana city of Natchitoches is renowned for lighting its downtown along the Cane River the whole month long. Along the lower Mississippi River, families and groups build huge, fanciful bonfires on the river levees to light the way for Papa Noel on Christmas Eve. Plantation homes all across the state put on their holiday best and hold Christmas caroling concerts.
In New Orleans, the celebration is unique. The great mansions along St. Charles Avenue are
dressed in a charming Victorian style. Creole restaurants offer traditional Réveillon dinners—special three- and four-course dinners served only at Christmas. A subtle loveliness descends on the city as it prepares not only for the birth of the Savior, but the madness of New Year’s and the Sugar Bowl crowds.
City Park in New Orleans is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. At over thirteen hundred acres, it is home to the Museum of Art, three golf courses, two stadiums, the Storyland children’s area, nine athletic fields, eleven miles of lagoons, lakes, and bayous, and the world's largest collection of mature live oak trees.
A grand tradition every year is Celebration in the Oaks, when New Orleans’ City Park is turned
into a wonderland of lights hanging from the famous live oaks. Dr. Chris Breaux knew the charming display was best enjoyed by horse-drawn carriage, which was why he was bundled up with Marianne Dashwood on a chilly winter’s night.
His fiancée huddled close, her nose securely in his neck. “This is wonderful, sugar. Thank you for thinking of it.”
He held her tighter. “We locals sometimes forget we have things like Celebration in the Oaks. You warm enough?”
Her hand began exploring. “If I get cold, I’ll just heat up my ol’ hot water bottle.”
“Watch it, honey. We’re not alone.”
“Don’t mind me, folks,” chuckled the driver. “Y’all enjoy yourselves.”
Chris still thought it would be a good idea to change the subject. “Your mom is okay with you staying in the city for the holidays?”
Marianne nodded. “She knows my singing career is important. We have a lot of gigs between Christmas and New Year’s with the bowl game and all.”
“We’ll run up to Jackson in January,” Chris promised.
“What about your folks?”

He kissed her nose. “They know you’re important, chère. Besides, I’ve got a surprise.”
She jerked her head up. “What is it? Tell me!”
“My mom and dad are coming to the city Monday and staying in my spare bedroom through Christmas. They want to see one of your shows.”
“They are! Wonderful!” They kissed until they were both breathless.
“Chris, let’s go home after the ride, okay?”
“Sure. Are you cold?”
She whispered in his ear. “With your folks coming over, there won’t be any overnighters for a while. I need me some Cajun lovin’ to see me through the holidays.”
“Right,” he whispered back. Louder, he requested, “Driver, you can speed it up.”
The man laughed. “Happens every time.”

Unfortunately, carriage rides are no longer offered during Celebration in the Oaks. But I couldn’t resist sharing this except. It was fun while it lasted.

The CRESCENT CITY trilogy is available in print and ebook from your favorite on-line bookseller.
Jack Caldwell, born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, is an author, amateur historian, professional economic development consultant, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook.
His nickname—The Cajun Cheesehead—came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)
When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.
Jack's blog postings—The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles— appear regularly at Austen Variations.
Web site – Ramblings of a Cajun in Exile – https://cajuncheesehead.com/
Blog – Austen Variations – http://austenvariations.com/
It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story.


  1. Jack: I love New Orleans but have never been there at Christmas time. I need to take the time to do that sometime. Thanks for your fun post and look at a different holiday.

  2. I've always wanted to visit New Orleans, so I really enjoyed this post!