It’s Christmastime in New Orleans! [video]

There’s lots to do in New Orleans at Christmastime!

Throughout December, the St. Louis Cathedral, an iconic 200-year-old church, hosts weekly concerts and special events for all ages. In front of the St. Louis Cathedral, in Jackson Square, visitors can experience candlelight caroling. Riverboats also host caroling cruises.

There’s also the Canal Street streetcar, which takes visitors to City Park to see the Celebration in the Oaks. The Celebration in the Oaks consists of more than two million bright and shiny lights illuminating the park. Tour the grounds there and experience the poinsettia display in the Botanical Gardens, ride the miniature train and enjoy the nightly entertainment. Tickets available through Jan. 1.

The Celebration in the Oaks is considered one of the grandest in America. More colorful light displays are found throughout the 25-acre park, including the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.

Check out information on top holiday events including bonfires, caroling, lighting ceremonies, historic home tours, and much more at www.experienceNewOrleans.com.

Families and friends can also attend the NOLA ChristmasFest at the Convention Center. Enjoy ice skating on a real indoor rink, ice slides, Polar Golf, curling lanes, a carousel, carnival rides, inflatables, Santa and friends, gingerbread houses, decorated trees and more.

New Orleans also hosts Audubon Zoo Lights through Dec. 30. One of America’s most beloved zoos is decorated with festive light displays featuring alligators, elephants, flamingos, lions and more.

Louisianans also celebrate several French traditions over the holidays. Here are some facts about the French-Cajun-Creole influences of southern Louisiana:

Fais do-do– refers to a Cajun dance party. According to folklife in Louisiana, parties were named for “the gentle command” of mothers telling their babies to go to sleep. Cajun musician Edwin Duhon of the Hackberry Ramblers allegedly referring to ‘Fais do-do’ as the mother wanting the baby to go to sleep so she could get back on the dance floor before someone else danced with her husband.

“Do-do” is a shortened version of the French verb, dormir (to sleep), used primarily when speaking to small children.

Feu de joie— the holiday bonfire custom in southern Louisiana also comes from a French tradition. Bonfires– called feu de joie, meaning “fire of joy.” Lighting bonfires on the levee on Christmas Eve was a folk tradition.

The tradition was first introduced to the levee by a French Marist priest in the 1800’s. Today, bonfires are lit in St. James Parish in and around New Orleans every year along with fireworks displays on Christmas Eve to light the way for Papa Noel.

Papa Noel— is what Cajuns call Santa Claus. He travels by boat pulled by eight alligators!

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