New Orleans is often referred to as a “European city” and for good reason. Throughout our French Quarter neighborhood you’ll find the influences of Spanish and French architecture. Each December, you’ll also find another European influence: the Christmas tradition of Réveillon dinners in New Orleans.

Each holiday season, many New Orleans restaurants partake in this luxurious tradition by offering a special menu, including our very own Criollo Restaurant. Predictably, the food is delicious and the feast is festive, but do you know the history and birth of the Réveillon dinners in New Orleans?

A glimpse of our opulently decorated lobby during the holidays.

A glimpse of our opulently decorated lobby during the holidays.

History of the Réveillon Dinners in New Orleans

The tradition of Réveillon dinners in New Orleans arose in the 19th century. Creoles living in New Orleans adopted the tradition from the Europeans, and celebrated the “Réveillon,” a French word meaning “awaken.” The name comes from the wee hours of the morning in which the meal traditionally took place.

Families would join together on Christmas Eve and attend Midnight Mass together. Christmas Eve would be celebrated with a daylong religious fast, which the Catholic Creoles would break once they returned home from church.

The meals would be expansive and elaborate, with chicken and oyster gumbo, game pies, soups, souffles, lavish desserts, brandy and coffee. Catholic Creoles would then celebrate a second Réveillon on New Year’s Eve, an affair even more elaborate than the Christmas Eve celebration.

Hazelnut profiteroles are one of two heavenly desserts available. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Hazelnut profiteroles are one of two heavenly desserts available. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Réveillon Dinners in New Orleans Today

Today, Réveillon dinners in New Orleans are now celebrated throughout December on the evenings leading up to Christmas Day. You don’t have to stay up til after midnight to indulge in these meals in modern times. No longer only celebrated by Catholic Creoles, all are welcome to join in on this festive feast.

These days, each restaurant does their own take on the classic New Orleans dishes. Criollo Restaurant’s prix fixe menu ($75 per person) includes a delicious Butternut Squash Soup and Heirloom Beet Salad along with your choice of an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

The 2016 menu features Grilled Lamb Rossette and Seared Scallops, Smoked Quail Risotto or Fricassee of Rabbit and Sweet Breads as appetizers.

For the main course, choose from Roasted Goose and Spiced Pears, Coriander-Crusted Lamb Chops with Seared Foie Gras, Beef Cheeks Tarte Tatin or Paupiette of Flounder with Jumbo Lump Crab and Gulf Shrimp.

To sweeten the deal, finish off dinner with your choice of Bouche de Noel Yule Log or Gateau Saint Honore Cake with Hazelnut Profiteroles.

Fun Fact: In Provence, France, Réveillon dinner is followed by the tradition of 13 separate desserts. Better save room!

Join Criollo for a Réveillon Dinner!

Many restaurants will be partaking in the Réveillon tradition, including our very own Criollo Restaurant.

The Criollo Réveillon Dinner will be served from December 1-25. To make reservations, please call (504) 681-4444 or make a reservation online.

Réveillon Dinners in New Orleans are a historic holiday tradition, dating back to the 19th century. Enjoy this Christmas celebration at Criollo Restaurant!