Arcade Team shares winter holiday traditions from around the country

December 6, 2017

Tulane is one of the most geographically diverse schools in the country. Students come from all 50 states, with the average one traveling 900 miles to get here. As winter break quickly approaches, many people will soon be returning to these places to celebrate the holidays.

In the spirit of giving, and in the interest of saving you a few plane tickets, we’ve compiled a snapshot of different holiday traditions across the country. From New York to California, and many places in between, enjoy a look at the local traditions Arcade writers partake in when they go home.

New Mexico

Other than the delicious food my mom and aunties make for our family’s celebration on Christmas Eve, my favorite New Mexican Christmas tradition is setting out luminarias, which are lanterns made out of a brown paper bag, a candle and some sand. People line their fences and driveways with them, and in the rural area where I live where there is no street lighting, you can make out the glow of a row of luminarias even from a distance at night.


Because snow is not a thing, and the coldest it’ll get on December 25th is 75 degrees, one is often left to turn on the fireplace and relax. Since we’re in California, the Bay Area usually makes Christmas Day a “smoke-free” day, which means you don’t actually turn on the fireplace. Instead, you turn on the fireplace show on TV called the Yule Log. And while you probably need to make a variety of diet- or allergy-specific dishes to accommodate everyone in your family, you also get to hike to the coast and “cheers” with eggnog at the summit.


Christmas in Louisiana typically requires a tank top and a pair of Nike shorts, but the fickle and humid weather does not keep us from enjoying the most wonderful time of the year. One tradition for Louisiana residents is to travel to Natchitoches for the Light Festival along the Cane River, which is accompanied by an illuminating fireworks show. Families gather from all parts of the state to enjoy this spectacle with a nice cup of hot chocolate or cider. Small events such as these help us realize that we do not always need snow to have a merry Christmas.

New Jersey

December in New Jersey is my favorite because it’s when all the Jews come out to play. A New Jersey Christmas starts with a trip to the Loews AMC movie theater where we say “hello” to every other family who attends our synagogue. That’s usually followed with a snuggly stroll down quiet streets to admire the beautiful luminarias and culminates with a delicious meal at a Chinese restaurant. Christmas may very well be my favorite Jewish holiday! OK, Hanukkah is fun too, but nothing beats frolicking  in the wintry wonder of snowy Jersey. For one night only, everyone is snuggled up inside with their Christmas hams and stockings while my family rules the streets.


Living in New Orleans for most of the year, one of the things I miss most about Chicago is what I believe to be the epitome of wintertime: snow. As a child, every year my parents would take me to the snowy wonderland that is Navy Pier’s Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest. There we would ice skate and drink hot cocoa, eyes fixated on the twinkling light displays. My family has since expanded to include my younger siblings who, with my parents, have carried on the tradition.


Hidden among the vast cornfields of Ohio are the lesser-known caves, waterfalls and other natural and historical preserves. One of these is Clifton Mill, a historical site especially known for its “legendary” Christmas light display that my family often visits in December. Every hour, on the hour, all 4 million lights are turned off and then re-lighted in a mesmerizing display of sparkly white and bold red lights, flashing to the sounds of holiday music. Though numb fingers and toes are a guarantee, the steamy hot chocolate, Miniature Village display and Santa Claus Museum keep us coming back.

New York

Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, holiday, christmas, winter
As the holiday season approaches, residents festively decorate their homes in Brooklyn neighborhood Dyker Heights. Photo courtesy of Alex Fitzpatrick.

While Rockefeller Center might seem like an obvious choice for a winter in New York, the Dyker Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn has an almost equally impressive display of holiday decorations. Each winter, my family and I make sure we catch every single house’s setup. Displays include classic string lights, giant nutcrackers and toy soldiers, moving reindeer and more. Though the neighborhood gets more and more crowded with locals, and even tourists, every year the Dyker Heights holiday decorations remain a staple for us.


Back home in Seattle, my family celebrates the holidays by inviting all our relatives over for Christmas. Some years my cousins from Texas will visit, or my grandmother from Florida or aunt and uncle from New York – whatever the case, the Joslin household is never lacking an ounce of holiday cheer. Once the family’s all assembled, we go downtown for a brunch in the Space Needle’s classy lil restaurant, making sure our relatives have the chance to see the city. Sometimes it’s even cold enough for snow, and my brother and I can challenge my young cousins to a mercilessly festive snowball fight.

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