Louisiana: Resplendent with Southern Soul
The Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights encompasses the spirit of the season, showcasing unique festivities and holiday traditions throughout the Bayou State.
No travel itinerary is complete without the sights, sounds and aromas along the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights. The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting on the boardwalk in Shreveport ushers in the holiday season, complete with a “snow blizzard” and visit from Santa amid live entertainment. Christmas in Roseland fills the night with giant community Christmas cards and carolers. Experience old and new traditions during Alexandria–Pineville’s 12 Nights of Christmas, a holiday extravaganza with parades, historic home tours, and a walk on the wild side at the Alexandria Zoo’s Annual Holiday Light Safari. Twinkling lights and life-sized nutcrackers line the historic streets of Minden, while their unique Fasching Fifth Season Celebration recalls traditional old-world German cuisine, biergartens, and a carnival. The quaint town of Natchitoches rings in the season with a Festival of Lights boasting 300,000 lights illuminating the downtown skyline. Handcrafted set pieces frame the backdrop for fireworks and entertainment along the Cane River. And finally, the sister cities of Monroe and West Monroe host seasonal parades, ballet performances, and a festive light display along Antique Alley.
A unique celebration of Cajun Christmas, bonfires on the Mississippi River levees mark the return of the holiday season in Louisiana. Legend says that early French and German settlers used the bonfires to light the way for trade ships and provide a pathway for holiday churchgoers. The towering pyramid structures are also used to guide Papa Noel, the Cajun Santa Claus, and are a testament to peace and good tidings.
The best viewings are by car in St. James Parish on Christmas Eve, or during the 2nd week in December at Lutcher’s Festival of the Bonfires. Enjoy a gumbo cook-off, live entertainment, and a 5K run—along with the famous burning structures.
Papa Noel and his Alligators
Santa Claus is known around the world by many names, but in the swampy bayous of Louisiana, he’s cherished as Papa Noel. The air too thick with humidity for a sled, he navigates the rivers in his skiff pulled by alligators. Dressed in muskrat pelts and a coonskin cap, he spreads holiday cheer throughout South Louisiana. On Christmas Eve, locals read the Cajun Night Before Christmas, celebrating Papa Noel and the history of Christmas in Acadiana.
Home for the Holidays
Illuminate the Christmas spirit with multiple home tours throughout Louisiana. Lake Charles’ Shell Beach Drive reflects the creative architectural elements of early French settlers in the 1760s and makes for gorgeous sightseeing during the holidays. Sulphur hosts the grand Holiday House at Christmas Under the Oaks, while down in the Big Easy, the Patio Planters of Vieux Carre walk the French Quarter, a prelude to the highly-anticipated caroling in Jackson Square on Christmas Eve.
Most chefs agree that a Louisiana Christmas menu should always feature this Cajun and Creole tradition— a seafood gumbo complete with blue crabs and shrimp. Find the recipe here.