Places & Faces
Louisiana Christmas
11/30/2018 11:17:33 AM
Christmas in Louisiana

While Louisiana may not often have the classic Norman Rockwell-esque "white” Christmas, we nonetheless have our own treasured traditions and there are plenty of fun events across the state to make our holidays merry and bright. This issue’s cover section features the many and diverse Christmas festivals and events, from Lake Charles to Natchitoches to New Orleans. Make a plan to celebrate the holidays this year – Louisiana-style! We at Thrive wish all our readers a Joyeux Noël!



Natchitoches Festival of Lights
by Lauren Atterbery Cesar

There is more to the city of Natchitoches, Louisiana, than a beautiful college campus and all the sights seen in the film "Steel Magnolias.” Each year, visitors flock from all over Louisiana and the surrounding states to see the spectacular Festival of Lights come to life, shining across the river front. Last year, the town boasted over 100,000 out-of-town visitors who came to enjoy the festivities.

The festival got started in 1920 when Natchitoches’ chief electrician decided that stringing Christmas lights along Front Street would be a nice Christmas present from the Power and Light Department to the citizens of Natchitoches. They rallied local businesses who donated money to make it possible. This tradition has expanded every year, and now includes fireworks, a parade, live music, and food vendors from around the state. 

If you would rather a sit-down meal, enjoy the delightful local cuisine from places like Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen and Restaurant, The Landing, Maglieux’s Riverfront Restaurant, Merci Beaucoup Restaurant, or Mama’s Oyster House. You really can’t leave Natchitoches without enjoying one of the city’s famous meat pies! 

The main festival events take place on the river front, just off Front Street, each weekend through January 6.  Visitors will find a colorful array of light displays reflecting off the water along with lively music, traditional Louisiana food, and fun activities for children. 

The entertainment extends beyond Front Street. Experience "A Very Northwestern Christmas” December 6 and 18, which includes a tour, historical stories, and performances on the university campus. Enjoy "Holiday Kid’s Fest,” taking place on six different evenings throughout December. All month long, a variety of musical groups will perform downtown, and an array of holiday-themed tours will be available to help bring the 92nd Annual Christmas Festival of Lights to life. 

For more information, visit www.natchitocheschristmas.com.



Christmas in New Orleans
by Angie Kay Dilmore

No doubt, the city of New Orleans is lit up year round, but during the holidays, it’s wrapped with an extra layer of sparkle. From the French Quarter to City Park and points in between, jazz up your holiday celebrations and experience Christmas in the Crescent City.
  • Celebration in the Oaks is New Orleans’ most beloved holiday event. Through January 1, City Park is transformed into a magical wonderland of lights and holiday spirit. Visit neworleanscitypark.com/celebration-in-the-oaks for more information.
  • Marvel at the "faux snow” on Fulton St. every hour on the hour beginning at noon.
  • The annual Running of the Santas takes place Dec. 8 in the Warehouse District. Basically, it’s an all-day party with the jolly men in the suits. For information, go to runningofthesantas.com.
  • Experience old-world extravagance in hotel lobbies such as the Roosevelt, Windsor Court, and the Ritz Carlton on Canal. Hotel Monteleone boasts a giant Christmas tree and local choir performances. 
  • Home Tours abound in NOLA during the holidays. Local organizations Patio Planters and Preservation Resource Center conduct these guided tours during early December. See some of the most beautiful classic homes the city has to offer. Visit prcno.org/event/holiday-home-tour-2018 for more info.
  • Witness the Levee Christmas Bonfires. You can book a narrated tour on the Grey Lines Tours’ motor coach excursion.
  • Join the chorus for Caroling in Jackson Square! On December 16, hundreds of residents and visitors will gather in Jackson Square for this free annual candle-lit carol sing. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., singing at 7:00 p.m.



Grant Christmas Tree Farm
by Lauren Atterbery Cesar

Christmas only comes once a year, but the excitement begins long before Santa makes his way down the chimney. Part of that eagerness often lies in picking out the perfect tree to grace your home for the holiday season and fill it with the scent of Christmas. Grant Christmas Tree Farm in Grant, Louisiana brings something magical to this process, making picking out that perfect tree a tradition the whole family can enjoy. 

This holiday destination offers much more than just trees! You can easily spend a few hours relishing all the farm’s sights and activities. Jump on the wagon for a hayride. Peruse various arts and crafts vendors. Munch on roasted peanuts and fresh cracklins, or wait in line for their well-known sausage biscuits with cane syrup or white gravy on the side, or later in the day, their mouth-watering barbecue sandwiches.  

On Saturdays leading up to Christmas in December, the Grant Tree Farm Fall Harvest Fest is in full swing. Watch a donkey work the old cane press and learn about the process of extracting juice from the sugar cane to make syrup. Listen to the sounds of bluegrass or gospel music and watch your children take delight in visiting the animals at the petting zoo. 

Grant Christmas Tree Farm spends a minimum of five years perfecting their trees. During the week of Thanksgiving, they also begin receiving Fraser fir trees from North Carolina. While often considered "traditional” Christmas trees, Fraser furs don’t fare well in warm climates. Gray and Mollie Anderson, the farm’s owners, offer hypo-allergenic Christmas trees so those with allergies are not left out of the fun. 

If you’re in the market for presents to go under the perfect tree, Grant Christmas Tree Farm’s gift shop sells homemade jellies, jams, candy, fruit syrups, cookies, cane syrup, and honey. If you can’t decide on one item, they create assorted gift baskets. 

Make the trek to Grant’s Christmas Tree Farm. Choosing a perfect tree just might become your new favorite holiday tradition!

For more information, see grantchristmastreefarm.com/fall-harvest-fest. 



Acadian Village
by Andrea Mongler

If you want to enjoy the Christmas experience while supporting a good cause, check out the 38th annual Noel Acadien Au Village, a Christmas festival fundraiser hosted by LARC’s Acadian Village in Lafayette.

Proceeds benefit LARC, a nonprofit organization that supports people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in achieving goals of self-sufficiency, quality of life, and self-worth. LARC’s Acadian Village is an open-air museum that gives visitors a glimpse of Acadian life in Southwest Louisiana in the early 1800s, and at Christmastime it is transformed into a festive holiday destination.

This year, Noel Acadien Au Village will run through Dec. 23. The theme is Claude’s Enchanted Village — Claude, of course, being an elf who came to town and sprinkled some magic to enchant the forest. The village is full of lights, with more than 40,000 new ones this year and over half a million total.

"We did a total overhaul of the heart of the village this year,” said Erin Shedlof, operations manager at Acadian Village. "We have all LED lights, new displays, and a 25-foot animated Christmas tree that moves to music.”
Open from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. each night, the Village will also offer carnival rides, live entertainment, and local cuisine. Specifically, Santa’s Kitchen will serve gumbo, pork jambalaya, sausage po’boys, barbecue burgers, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and more. Beverages, including hot chocolate, will also be available for purchase.

Santa, of course, will be on-site, ready to pose for photos. Watch out for Claude the elf, who will be on hand, too.

In addition, Village visitors can do some holiday shopping at the general store, which will be stocked with Cajun crafts, local artwork, holiday decorations, toys, food, stocking stuffers, and more.

Advance tickets for Noel Acadien Au Village can be purchased at select Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus stores for $8 or at the gate for $10. Children age four and younger and anyone with a military ID enter for free. Parking is also free, though you have the option to purchase VIP parking and skip the line to get in.

For more information, see acadianvillage.org/noel-acadien-au-village.



Holiday Events

While many of the local holiday events and festivals took place prior to this issue’s publication date, there is still plenty of holiday cheer to experience.

2nd Annual Mini Christmas Tree Decorating Contest 
The contest is being held at the Brimstone Museum Complex with judging taking place on Saturday, Dec. 8. The award ceremony will be held at noon, complete with an appearance by Gumbeaux Gator! This event is presented by Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point and the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Brimstone Museum Complex and the City of Sulphur. 

Christmas in the Bluff
Saturday, Dec. 8, from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. at the Moss Bluff Recreation Complex with crafts and vendors, kid’s activities and games, and a sweet shop. Admission is free and open to the public. 

Moss Bluff Christmas Parade 
Saturday, Dec. 8, at 2:00 p.m. in Moss  Bluff. Sponsored by the Ward One Economic Development Board and the Moss Bluff Civic Club, the parade will begin at Market Basket and travel along Sam Houston Jones Parkway and end at Sam Houston High School. 

Westlake Christmas Parade 
Saturday, Dec. 8, at 1:00 p.m.
The festive holiday parade will kick off at the Westlake High School Football Stadium and will roll down Sampson Street, finishing with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Westlake City Hall.   

Vinton Christmas in the Park and Parade
Dec. 14, Vinton City Park, Vinton. The parade kicks off the festivities at 5pm followed by hot chocolate, cookies, carols and the lighting of the Town Christmas Tree at Vinton City Park. A Live Nativity will also take place at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1502 Industrial Street on Dec. 14 and 15, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Christmas at the DeQuincy Railroad Museum
Ongoing through Dec. 31, and will include thousands of exterior lights and multiple indoor trees that all can be viewed from the drive-through area in front of the museum.

Community-made Gingerbread Houses
Stop by the Southwest Louisiana Lake Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau Welcome Center to see the display through the month of December.
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