We New Orleanians share our fair share of traditions. One Holiday tradition that has become popular (again) in NoLa is Reveillon. As usual, we’ve been wondering where it started.
What is Reveillon? Reveillon originally began as a family tradition. Today, it is a festive experience in which families enjoy a smorgasbord of delicious food and spirits. In New Orleans, this tradition has expanded to the culinary scene where more than 70 restaurants partake.
Throughout the 19th century, the tradition of Reveillon began to fade as American practices like shopping, gifts, and Christmas trees took over in homes. By the 1940s Reveillon was essentially extinct except in very traditional homes, but it has resurged in recent decades.
The History of Reveillon Dinners
Derived from the French word “awakening,” Reveillon was originally a meal served after the midnight mass on Christmas eve. Early in New Orleans history, nearly everyone here was Catholic, and virtually everyone would partake in Reveillon.
After returning from Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, families would be incredibly hungry, so an ensuring feast made sense. In time, the traditional meal and festivities would last hours– and sometimes lasted until dawn.
Throughout the 19th century, the tradition of Reveillon began to fade as American practices like shopping, gifts, and Christmas trees took over in homes. By the 1940s Reveillon was essentially extinct except in very traditional homes.
Traditional Reveillon Food
Traditionally, families enjoyed breakfast-like foods including eggs, bread, and puddings. Over time it came to include heartier fare like oysters and veal paired with wines, cordials, and other fortified beverages.
Modern Day Reveillon
Today, Reveillon has become a staple in the long list of beloved New Orleans traditions, and the menu has progressed in NoLa fashion: Today, a Reveillon menu may include shrimp, remoulade, lobster bisque, dirty rice, and bananas foster bread pudding.
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas and/or Reveillon or another tradition this season, we wish you and yours the very best!
We’re always wondering about where our local traditions started. If that bug has you too, you might enjoy learning about the History of the Crawfish Boil!