It's easy to take a trip back in time when visiting Cajun Country,
the 19 parishes in southwestern Louisiana. At Christmastime, the
pleasure grows tenfold, as bonfires glow on the levees and 19th
century towns are decorated with lights.
To fully appreciate “Acadiana” at Christmastime, it requires at
least one night’s stay outside New Orleans. But it’s worth the two-
to three-hour trip west on Interstate 10, and there are plenty of
sites to witness along the way.
Clients should start with the Louisiana State University Rural
Life Museum in Baton Rouge, a collection of 20 buildings
representing the typical working aspects of 19th century plantation
The rugged buildings, which include an overseer’s house, rural
church, schoolhouse and pioneer’s cabin, among others, are
elaborately decorated in Victorian style for the holidays.
The annual Rural Life Christmas, a day of period theme events
ranging from 19th century dance lessons by guides in hoop skirts to
a roaring bonfire with Papa Noel, will be Sat., Dec. 7. The museum
is open daily 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Also en route are the enormous Christmas bonfires along the
The French tradition of lighting the way for Papa Noel (folks
were concerned he might miss them in the swamps) continues annually
on Christmas Eve in the “river parishes” above New Orleans and
along Interstate 10. However, St. James Parish offers a Festival of
the Bonfires earlier in the month, featuring crafts, food, live
music and the lighting of the bonfires nightly at 7.
A good place to lay one’s head and plan one’s further itinerary
is Lafayette, known as the heart of Cajun Country. Within the city
limits are two re-created historical Cajun towns featuring
authentic 18th- and 19th-century structures Vermilionville and
Acadian Village. Both offer special holiday decorations.
Vermilion features a candlelit trail, Festival of Trees and
traditional Christmas Reveillon menus in its restaurant, while
Acadian Village covers its historical buildings and grounds with
thousands of twinkling lights and features live Cajun music, local
cuisine and arts and crafts nightly.
Special events in Lafayette include the 10th anniversary of the
Festival of Light, a holiday fete, Dec. 5 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the
Oil Center; and the ArtWalk on Dec. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. in
decorated downtown Lafayette. (Papa Noel visits San Souci Fine
Crafts Gallery from 2 to 8 p.m.)
The Children’s Museum of Acadiana in Lafayette hosts its annual
New Year’s at Noon and Carnival Countdown (since Christmas also
signals the advent of the Carnival season on Jan. 6) on Dec. 31
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Victorian seasonal floral decorations will enhance the Alexandre
Mouton House-Lafayette Museum, a 19th century home belonging to the
state’s first Democratic governor, daily from Dec. 3 to 30.
Nearby stands St. John Cathedral, which offers lessons, choral
presentations and readings and carols at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14.
And for a taste of Mardi Gras with a Christmas theme, the
Lafayette Christmas Parade, an annual tradition for more than 50
years, will be Dec. 7. As is the tradition with all Louisiana
parades, be ready to catch the beads and trinkets.
Surrounding Cajun towns offer their tribute to Christmas as
On Dec. 14, St. Martinville enjoys its annual St. Lucy Festival
of Lights, a tribute to St. Lucy, the Catholic patron saint of
those with eye disorders. From 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., St. Martin
Church Square and its historic St. Martin de Tours Church, where
mass is still said in French, will be transformed into a winter
wonderland of white lights and angels.
A parade will roll down Main Street and there will be food, arts
and crafts and children’s games. While in St. Martinville, clients
should be sure to visit the Acadian Memorial, a mural and monument
to the people exiled from Nova Scotia who found refuge in Louisiana
and who would later become the Cajuns.
Historic Abbeville, about 30 minutes south of Lafayette,
illuminates its downtown buildings and majestic oaks with lights
every evening from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2 in its spectacular Les Lumieres
du Village d’Abbeville. Tell clients to sample some excellent Cajun
cooking in the town’s many fine restaurants.
For something a little different, Breaux Bridge, east of
Lafayette, features a Cajun Christmas Bayou Parade with lighted
floats along the meandering Bayou Teche Nov. 28 and 29. Music,
fireworks display and more will be featured in the town’s Parc des
Ponts de Pont Breaux.