Le Réveillon Around New Orleans

11:20 December 14, 2016
By: Lindsay Kornick

Ok, imagine you haven’t eaten anything all day. You have been busy running around all day and you finally get home at about 1 a.m. When you reach the door you begin to smell intoxicating aromas and fragrances. You quickly open the door and find all of your family that you haven’t seen in a while (or maybe just the family members you like… we are fantasizing, after all). They are all standing around the dining room table, which reveals the source of the hypnotic flavors you had smelled earlier: Aunt Jeannie’s turtle soup, Grandma Rose’s oyster gumbo, your mama’s homemade breads, your daddy’s grillades and grits, cousin Anthony’s bouillabaisse, the roasted duck and broiled catfish your crazy Uncle Mike caught this morning, your sister’s pecan pie and rum cake, and your Grandpa Sal’s homemade eggnog (with a little help from Jack, Jim and Evan!), all ready for you to quiet the rumblings in your stomach. You eat and drink, and eat and drink some more while catching up with your friends and family ’til you can barely keep your eyes open. What is even better is that when you wake up from celebrating this fantastic meal, this Le Réveillon, it will be Christmas Day!!!

Sounds like a good time, doesn’t it? Good food, good drinks, good people, and good conversation are always a recipe for success, especially here in New Orleans. Le Réveillon, “the awakening” in French, is a traditional European celebration the night before Christmas and sometimes New Year’s Eve as well. The Acadians, the French, and the Spanish brought this European tradition to southern Louisiana. This tradition was then carried on by the Creoles and adopted by most of the other immigrants that came here. Le Réveillon was a great way for the primarily Catholic settlers to celebrate the holidays.

Le Réveillon Around New Orleans

At the time (pre-1960) Catholics fasted on Christmas Eve. They would then go to Midnight Mass following the bonfires that lit their way. After mass, the Catholics broke their fast with a large feast. This feast would usually last until early morning and sometimes dawn. The men would traditionally stay up later sitting on their porch smoking cigars and drinking ’til the sun would rise. The next morning they would take their kids to see the nativity scene at the church and would receive what we think of as stocking stuffer presents. New Year’s Eve would bring a repeat of the fast and feast on a slightly grander scale. Christmas presents as they are today were usually given on New Year’s Day.

Le Réveillon began to fall out of practice in the early 1960s when fasting on Christmas Eve was no longer required for Catholics. The revival of this feast began in the early 1990s when the New Orleans Tourism Board was looking for a way to bring more people into the city during the slow season of Christmas. The Board approached many restaurants in the area about running Le Réveillon menus and several are participating in the celebration in the celebration of this traditional New Orleanian holiday.


Besh Steak (Inside Harrah's Casino)
8 Canal St. - 533-6111

The Bombay Club
830 Conti St. - 586-0972

Bourbon House
144 Bourbon St. - 522-0111

417 Royal St. - 525-9711

Café Adelaide
300 Poydras St. - 595-3305

Commander’s Palace
1403 Washington Ave. - 899-8221

Court of Two Sisters
613 Royal St. - 522-7261

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse
716 Iberville St. - 522-2467

209 Bourbon St. - 209 Bourbon St. - 525-2021

The Marigny Brasserie
640 Frenchmen St. - 945-4472

Muriel’s Jackson Square
801 Chartres St. - 568-1885

Orleans Grapevine
720 Orleans Ave. - 523-1930

Palace Café
605 Canal St. - 523-1661

Ralph’s on the Park
900 City Park Ave. - 488-1000

Rib Room
621 St. Louis St. - 529-5333

Upperline Restaurant
1413 Upperline St. - 891-9822

Main picture provided by FDESOUCHE

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