You Say You Want a Reveillon
December 8, 2016
Reveillon dinners attract New Orleans locals and tourists alike in December, filling up restaurants with customers eager for a taste of tradition.
A unique facet of Creole culture, the tradition of these special holiday meals began in the 1800s as a way for families to celebrate Christmas and their New Orleanian culture, typically by consuming a large meal featuring classic Creole dishes in the middle of the night after Mass on Christmas Eve. Families formerly served Reveillon dinners very late in the evening — a large factor in their popularity waning, then essentially ending in the city in the 1940s.
Mainstay restaurants, however, in conjunction with an innovative tourism board in the city, led to the revival of Reveillon dinners in the 1990s.
“The New Orleans Marketing Corporation was trying to think of a way to attract visitors to the city in December, which was typically a slower time for visitor travel, so they created this whole Christmas — New Orleans-style — promotion and encouraged restaurants to feature Reveillon dinner menus to get visitors and locals to come out and dine,” co-owner of Arnaud’s Katy Casbarian said.
The tactic ultimately worked, and now the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation officially lists 53 restaurants as participating in the dinners. Arnaud’s, among the most well-respected Creole restaurants in the city, focuses heavily on maintaining the traditions of its cuisine. It has certain staple items and practices that remind diners of the roots of the dinners.
These four-course feasts can be found city-wide, from nearby Commander’s Palace to French Quarter-favorite Galatoire’s. Diners get what they pay for, and some meals do not run cheap, ranging from $50-60. Some restaurants, like The Gumbo Shop, offer the same traditional eats at a more affordable price, making them perfect celebration spots after finishing finals.