Réveillon: A New Orleans Tradition

Réveillon is a New Orleans Christmas tradition that involves sharing a large meal with friends and family. It dates back to the mid-1800s, though there were several decades where it was nearly forgotten. Today, it has made a comeback in a new way, and partaking in this bountiful ritual is a great way to celebrate the Yule season in New Orleans style.

The History of Réveillon 

People toasting over bowls of food
In the mid-1800s, when Réveillon began, the majority of New Orleanians were Catholic. Many attended late-night or midnight Christmas Eve services as a result, and they often returned home from the lengthy mass quite hungry. As a result, Réveillon, which is an expansive half-breakfast, half-dinner feast, was born. The word “réveillon” comes from the French word for “awakening,” which is fitting, as this Creole Christmas experience would often last until the early hours of the morning.

Classic Réveillon Menu

Because of its placement between the middle of the night and the morning, a traditional Réveillon dinner often included as many breakfast dishes as it did dinner dishes. This means that New Orleanians imbibed on eggs, bread, and pudding, alongside veal grillades, turtle soup, and oysters. They also enjoyed wines, cordials, and other drinks to accompany the Creole menu.

The Fading and Return of Réveillon

As standard American holiday conventions, like Christmas trees and exchanging gifts, took hold in New Orleans, many traditional Creole traditions, such as Réveillon, began to fade. The classic Réveillon meal was virtually extinguished by the 1940s. Luckily, in the 1990s, the organization French Quarter Festivals Inc. partnered with local restaurants to promote Réveillon in a successful effort to attract more travelers to the city during the holiday season.

Réveillon in the Modern Age

Today’s Réveillon largely consists of dining at a participating New Orleans restaurant, such as Palace Cafe or Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, that offers a multi-course meal at a set price, also called a “prix fixe” meal. Though it is not the exact same as the traditional dinner of days of yore, it still has the same spirit of Réveillon and holiday celebration. Additionally, more people are now having a classic Réveillon dinner in their home, often giving the centuries-old ritual their own personalized interpretations.

The best way to learn more about Creole, Cajun, and New Orleanian Christmas traditions is to visit the city firsthand. If you’re interested in seeing Christmas New Orleans style, purchase your experience today with Joieful by calling 504-207-4555 or by viewing our packages online.