Holiday events set the mood in central, southwest Louisiana
Visit between mid-November and New Year's Day for beautiful celebrations of the season.
Known as the “City of Lights” since 1926, when the city’s chief electrician decided that stringing Christmas lights along Front Street would be a nice gift to the residents, Natchitoches (pronounced NAK-a-tish) is Louisiana’s oldest town. During the 20th century, the practice of lighting the quaint and graceful Front Street, and creating a riverside wonderland of decorations, evolved into a six-week-long Festival of Lights.
Along with abundant lights, more than 150 large-scale decorative pieces line the scenic Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District during the holidays. The ceremonial lighting of the scene has evolved into a major event, and today, people from miles around come to Natchitoches beginning on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. On each Saturday during December, the festival also features a beautiful fireworks display above the river.
Of course, no festival in Louisiana occurs without plenty of food. Food booths offer the popular Natchitoches meat pie along with dozens of other selections and special holiday treats. More than 500,000 people visit Natchitoches each December to see the lights and enjoy this unique festival.
Spirit in the Southwest
As the festival in Natchitoches unfolds, other celebrations occur around the state, including the Southwest Louisiana Christmas Lighting Festival. The month-long series of events encompasses several communities.
In Lake Charles, the hub city of Calcasieu Parish, visitors can enjoy a Christmas parade through downtown, with Santa on the featured float. Following the parade, enjoy a band concert and lighting ceremony, with children singing Cajun Christmas carols. Festival-goers move to the seawall to watch a lighted boat parade with a fireworks finale. Other activities include a gingerbread house contest and carriage rides.
West of Lake Charles, the town of Sulphur is the only place in the state where it snows every year. Yes, the holidays always bring "snow" to Sulphur, along with Balloons on Parade and a holiday market set in a beautiful turn-of-the-century home that also houses the Brimstone Museum & Henning Cultural Center. The house, with dual wrap-around porches on the first and second floors, is decorated to the hilt with garlands and lights. Inside, vendors set up shop for early birds who want to get a head start on Christmas shopping. Bands play on the grounds outside, and carnival rides and food vendors line the streets for “Sulphur’s Christmas Under the Oaks.”
To the north is the city of DeQuincy, which displays its railroad roots with a holiday train that rolls into town for a celebration. Kids and grownups climb aboard the train, which is decorated like a giant candy cane. The city puts on a Christmas parade, a tour of historic homes, a lighting ceremony on the grounds of the DeQuincy Railroad Museum and fireworks.
A visit to the central or southwestern part of Louisiana at this time of year is sure to put you in the spirit of the season and give you a taste of the beautiful traditions that enrich local lifestyles.