Réveillon Dinners: A Taste of Old New Orleans

French Quarter house in New Orleans, Louisiana, covered in Christmas holiday decorations
French Quarter house in New Orleans, Louisiana, covered in Christmas holiday decorations
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana, is known for its tastes and traditions. From beignets to gumbo, old family recipes are revered and handed down from generation to generation. The “Big Easy” restaurant scene is taking one famous New Orleans food tradition, the “Réveillon Dinner,” and giving it a modern twist.

Derived from the French word for “awakening,” “Réveillon” started as a holiday tradition where families would gather after midnight mass on Christmas Eve for a sumptuous feast, served on a large table or sideboard. The menu featured lots of breakfast food, including eggs and pastries, but didn’t neglect New Orleans favorites like turtle soup, shrimp dishes, and oysters.

The meal was enhanced, of course, by plenty of wine and after-dinner drinks. In many cases, Réveillon Dinners lasted well into the early morning hours. Unfortunately, as time went on, Réveillon Dinners became nearly obsolete – occurring in only the most traditional of New Orleans homes.

In the 1990s, French Quarter Festivals, Inc., a New Orleans tourism organization, reintroduced the Réveillon Dinner through the promotion of local restaurants, who were only too happy to participate and bring the tradition back to life.

Participating restaurants have full control over their Réveillon menu, serving up trademark dishes alongside Louisiana standbys like shrimp remoulade, dirty rice, and bread pudding. Many of the restaurants hang festive decorations to commemorate the holiday season and as a nod to the tradition’s roots.

New Orleans residents have embraced the revamped Réveillon tradition as a chance to try some of the city’s finest restaurants at a lower, prix fixe price. Interested diners can peruse the full list of participating restaurants to plan their restaurant tour and experience one of New Orleans’ oldest and most delicious traditions.