By Scott Madere
It’s December, and all through our houses we are getting ready for the end of the month celebrations that make this time of year special in the Bayou State.
Louisiana has no shortage of ways to make the holiday season memorable, from festivals and events to simpler traditions that bring us comfort and joy from the kitchen. Just for fun, our CRCL staff set out to rank the holiday traditions at the top of our “nice” list year after year. Here’s your Top Twelve for 2012!
12. Gifts from the Kitchen – what could be better than giving something made with love from your kitchen? Receiving it, of course! Pecan pie, divinity fudge, pralines and fig cookies are just a few of the traditional holiday treats we share on the coast – and they are all GOOD!
11. Christmas at Vermilionville – the popular living history museum in Lafayette opens its doors in December to educate visitors on Christmas and New Year’s traditions dating as far back as the 1700’s, including making Christmas decorations from natural materials and carving French santons, “little saints” figurines.
10. Cajun Night Before Christmas – the original book by James Rice is a perennial bedtime favorite for children awaiting Santa’s arrival by alligator-drawn pirogue. Equally charming is a spoken-word version that differs from the book by beloved radio personality, the late Jules d’Hemecourt.
9. Oysters – whether raw or made into delicious oyster dressing, these coastal jewels are a special treats for the New Year.
8. Baton Rouge Christmas Parade – an annual tradition in the capital city, this downtown parade has rolled every year since 1950 and is both the largest and longest-running parade in the Baton Rouge Metro area.
7. Black Eyed Peas and Cabbage – Many Louisianians just don’t consider it New Years until they’ve had their traditional meal of black eyed peas and cabbage, thought to provide good luck and prosperity, respectively, in the year ahead.
6. LSU A Cappella Choir Candlelight Concert – In its 63rd year, this concert by LSU’s signature choral group brings traditional Christmas songs to life in a beautiful and moving hour-long performance. There are no breaks during the concert, and applause is always held until the very end!
5. King Cake – The official start of the Mardi Gras season in Louisiana is January 6th, also known as Epiphany. It’s a day we all look forward to, because King Cake makes its annual return across Louisiana, spreading cinnamon-sugary goodness wherever it appears.
4. Gumbo Weather – Whether it’s duck and sausage, seafood or any other variety… it’s just better when the weather gets cold. There’s no tastier way to fend off Ol’ Man Winter!
3. Celebration in the Oaks – New Orleans’ premiere holiday attraction features City Park decked out in a jaw-dropping light display that thrills adults and kids alike. More than 120,000 people will visit City Park to see the lights from November to January.
2. Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights – Nobody throws a Christmas blow out like Natchitoches does. Don’t believe us? Check out this amazing schedule of events featuring everything from riverfront light displays to fireworks to snow tubing.
1. Bonfires on the Levee – the undisputed king of Louisiana holiday traditions takes place on the Mississippi River levee in St. James Parish. Hundreds of residents there construct towering bonfires to light the way for Papa Noel’s visit on Christmas Eve. Truly one of Louisiana’s most enduring cultural treasures, bonfires have been lit on Christmas Eve in St. James for as many as 200 years.