What is a Reveillon Dinner?

A historic New Orleans tradition finds new life.

Reveillon Dinner
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

While December in New Orleans may seem like a lead up to Mardi Gras, the month has become a time to honor yet another unique tradition in a city known for celebrations: Reveillon.

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Derived from French-term for "awakening," Reveillon was originally observed in the 1800s as a feast for parishioners returning from midnight mass on Christmas Eve in the predominantly Catholic city. A typical menu made for a late-night brunch scenario with a mix of breakfast items and traditional Creole dishes like bread pudding, turtle soup, and gumbo with, of course, plenty of cocktails and wine. But by the 1940s, Reveillon wasn't the city-wide occasion it once was although it continued quitely in devout homes.

Now, Reveillon has had its own reawakening and instead of being celebrated just on Christmas Eve, it has been adopted by the New Orleans dining scene as a month-long party where restaurants serve special Reveillon menus until New Year's Eve.

Brought back by French Quarter Festivals Inc. in the 1990s, the revived tradition has helped bring in both locals and tourists to restaurants during a time that had been historically slow. Now over 60 spots participate from institutions like Brigtsen's, Upperline, and Commander's Palace participate to newer places like Toup's South, Gabrielle, and Longway Tavern.

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