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New Orleans: the tradition of Réveillon Dinner~

3 min read

Here we are:

It’s hard to image a city that takes culinary tradition more seriously than New Orleans, where old Creole dining customs and typical dishes contribute so much to the already distinctive local cuisine.
But like every traditions, also here are open to change and evolve.

The Reveillon dinner is the reincarnation of an old Creole holiday custom updated for modern tastes and lifestyles.
This French Creole Christmas Eve tradition takes midnight munchies to a different level: after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, famished French Creoles of Louisiana returned home for a feast of really giant proportions!
After a fasting day, Catholics revitalized themselves with an incredible buffet beginning around 2am! A 19th-century tradition called Réveillon, a name which come from French word for “awakening.”

Early New Orleans was almost entirely Catholic, and virtually the entire community would participate in these ceremonies. Families would return from the late-night service famished and set upon a feast prepared in advance and laid out on the table.
If the French celebrated with escargots, foie gras, and chestnut-stuffed turkey, people in the American South adapted the lineup to highlight regional delicacies. In New Orleans, they feasted on daub glacé, a beef-and-veal stock jelly served on crackers, chicken and oyster gumbos, game pies, turtle soup, soufflé, and grillades over grits, drinking wine, brandy, frothy eggnog, and coffee. Those who could ate also dessert finished the meal with Bûche de Noël (Yule log cake), or croquembouche, a tower of pastry balls bound by threads of caramel.

After the binge, revelers hit the sheets after dawn, stuffed and drunk, while their servants, often slaves, were left to clean up the mess after the long day of cooking and baking, preparing the feast while the family attended Mass, and staying at the table for hours!
Following the abolition of slavery in 1865, participants found the event less feasible, and festivities were overtaken by other American Christmas traditions within a century.
Moreover, through the 19th century, American holiday conventions like Christmas trees, gifts for children and shopping frenzies began gradually to establish themselves in New Orleans and supplant many of the Creole traditions.
By the turn of the century, Reveillon dinners could be found only in traditional homes, and by the 1940s the custom was all but extinct.
In the 1990s, however, the Reveillon tradition was reawakened and transformed.
Now Reveillon Dinner is an extravaganza of good food and festive spirits available for anyone to partake at dozens of local restaurants!

Sources: TheAdvocate.com, Reveillon.info and me. Images from Web.
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