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Christmastime in New Orleans is deliciously magical. Steeped in tradition, folklore, and food, the festivities provide a unique flavor.

Forget Santa and reindeer-it’s Papa Noel who comes bearing gifts in a pirogue (flat-bottomed boat) pulled by eight alligators. He navigates the skies by following the Feux de Joie (fires of joy) residents set along the levees of the Mississippi, providing him a map of light. Don’t even think of leaving him cookies and milk; you’d better leave red beans and rice to get the goodies, especially the cherished Mr. Bingle dolls.

Meals enjoyed during the holiday season celebrate the city’s storied past and cultural diversity. Le Reveillon, “the awakening,” was historically the feast following midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and was popular in the mid 1800s with Creole families. Reveillon dinners are now celebrated throughout the month in the city’s legendary restaurants. Seasonal classics are highlighted in multiple-course, prix-fixe menus: oyster gumbo, crawfish etouffee, andouille, daube glace, and the B»che de No»l for that final chocolatey touch.

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