With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start enjoying all of the seasonal cheer that the city has to offer. Local favorites have returned this year, spreading holiday joy throughout the city and lighting up the night.
Christmas is an annual Christian celebration on Dec. 25 that honors the birth of Jesus Christ.
The holiday is a religious event and cultural phenomenon, with popular celebrations ranging from going to church to decorating trees and asking for gifts from Santa Clause, according to Christianity.com.
Celebration in the Oaks
Since the 1980s, Celebration in the Oaks has been a New Orleans holiday classic. City Park lines a two mile driving tour with over a million lights, putting on a dazzling display of Christmas festivities. Separate from the tour is the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, complete with unlimited rides, toasted marshmallows, and hot chocolate.
“We’re just so excited to see the tours and people come through,” Keith Claverie, marketing and communications coordinator said. “We missed it.”
For those of drinking age, the botanical gardens has an outdoor bar and kitchen that serves alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and snacks. The event runs from Thanksgiving through Jan. 2. Tickets for the driving tour are $39.99. Tickets for the amusement park are $34.99 or $24.99 with the purchase of a driving tour ticket. Mondays are bike nights.
Running of the Santas
For those that want to enjoy the Christmas spirit with some spirits, the Running of the Santas is back in town on Dec. 11 from 3 p.m. to 10 p. m. The annual bar crawl raises money for the “That Others May Live” Foundation, a national charity dedicated to providing college scholarships for veterans and their families.
The event features live music, costume contests, and lots of drinking. General admission tickets are $20 and include admission into the music venue and costume contests, a donation, and drink specials. The VIP tickets are $75 and include all general admission activities on top of an open bar package at Generations Hall, free beer, and access to the VIP lounge.
Caroling in Jackson Square
A New Orleans favorite returns to full capacity this year, spreading holiday cheer throughout Jackson Square. Since 1946, the Patio Planters of the Vieux Carré have organized the community event, bringing together up to 8,000 people together to sing Christmas carols. A warm and family-friendly event, carolling in Jackson Square is a top Christmas event for tourists and locals alike. Carollers come dressed in holiday attire and are provided with complimentary songbooks and candles. The event is on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. and lasts for roughly an hour. For those who can’t attend in person, the event will be virtually live streamed on WLAE and the Patio Planters website.
For the eighth year, the Christmas Fest is bringing the Christmas spirit to New Orleans. From Dec. 17-22 and 25-30, come enjoy indoor ice skating, carnival rides, ice slides, and gingerbread houses. The festival has new events every day, such as holiday choirs, talent shows, crafting workshops, and dance showcases. Each day brings a new showcase of holiday cheer with family-friendly activities and hours of fun. From ice skating lessons to stories with Santa, the Christmas fest has something for everyone. Tickets are $20 on weekdays and $25 on weekends for a 4.5 hour slot, either morning or afternoon. Military, healthcare workers, and first responders pay $15 for entry. General admission tickets come with access to all rides and activities within the festival.
Bonfires on the Levee
A true cajun Christmas classic, bonfires on the levee light up the river. The bonfires were originally designed to light the way for the Cajun Santa Clause, Papa Noël. Around 30 miles upriver, the bonfires on the levee bring together Southern Louisiana Cajun culture and Christmas tradition.
The event features live music, fireworks, a carshow, and a gumbo cookoff. The bonfires run up and down the river, most of them in St. James Parish, but over 100 are light up the levees. The 32nd annual Festival of the Bonfires is in St. James Parish and tickets are $5. Children under 10 and adults over 65 get in free. The event runs from December 9 to 12 with the firework show on the 11th.
Hanukkah is an eight day Jewish celebration and festival of lights honoring the bravery and miracles of Jewish forces reclaiming the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When they went to light the temple’s menorah, they only found one cruse of olive oil, and it miraculously kept the menorah lit for eight days, according to chabad.org. In honor, Jewish people light a candle each night for eight nights and say special blessings and sing traditional songs.
The city celebrated Hanukkah, which runs from November 28 to December 6, on November 28 at Chanukah at Riverwalk. For the 32nd year, the event featured vendors, live music, and Louisiana’s largest menorah. The free event was complete with a latke bar and a Hanukkah story trail.
“We get bigger and bigger every year. It’s very exciting,” Kandace Obey, marketing manager at Riverwalk New Orleans.
Kwanzaa is an African American celebration of life and culture from December 26 to January 1 created in 1966 in response to the commercialization of Christmas. Kwanzaa is celebrated differently in each family, but common celebrations include songs and dances, poetry, storytelling, and a large traditional banquet, according to OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org.
The New Orleans Kwanzaa Coalition usually hosts the city’s major Kwanzaa events, but no events have been planned for this season. Painting With a Twist in Gretna is hosting a celebrating Kwanzaa painting night on December 26. The session is between $39 and $49 per person.
At this time, The Maroon is unaware of any city-sponsored Kwanzaa events.