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5 reasons to visit the French Quarter during the holidays • It won’t be crowded with tourists. • Neighborhood always looks pretty at Christmas. • Businesses need you. • If ever there was a year to get in touch with the city’s history, this is it. • Hot café au lait and beignets warm a cold day. 5 local traditions that won’t be around this year • The driving tour at Celebration in the Oaks (At least you can still do the walk.) • Streetcars decorated with garland (There won’t be any streetcars at all this year. Too bad – they’re already red and green.) • Angel-hair lobby at the Fairmont Hotel (We’ve got the Blue Room blues.) • Lunch at Galatoire’s (Baton Rouge bistro? Come back to your roots.) • Sugar Bowlers (Atlanta’s gain) 5 reasons to please your significant other if she complains you spend too much time going to sports events • No Hornets games in New Orleans • No Saints games • No Tulane football games • No racing at the Fairgrounds • No Sugar Bowl 5 dishes to prepare other than the traditional turkey • Chisesi’s ham (Local company took a beating from Katrina but has rallied with a new batch of hams. Support the local team.) • Fried oysters (Despite the pounding of the coastline, the bivalves are especially good this year.) • Chicken-and-sausage gumbo (provides a good reason to serve fresh-baked Louisiana sweet potatoes on the side.) • Boiled crawfish (Why wait until Jazz Fest? The first of the annual crop usually starts appearing in December.) • MRE buffet. (Just in case you’re already nostalgic for those days as an evacuee, meals come in a variety of flavors, but don’t expect oyster dressing.) 5 things to do that maybe you haven’t done in years • Attend the caroling in Jackson Square. (Sunday, Dec. 18 – just don’t let candle wax drip on your mittens.) • Go to City Park’s Celebration in the Oaks. (The big attraction will be reappearance of the Mr. Bingle that used to be on the downtown Maison Blanche. Worth the trip in itself) • Attend a performance of Handel’s “The Messiah.” Listen to the whole thing, not just the good part at the end. • Drive up River Road to see the bonfire preparations. (Just be careful not to light a match.) • Buy a buche de noël. (Icing-laden, log-shaped, creamy cake is an old French tradition, and because this is an old French town … goes well with coffee and chicory.) And now, since you’ve been good, a bonus list of 5 indigenous elements of the New Orleans Christmas – and they’re all still here • Bonfires along the levee (German influence with a Cajun passion) • Mr. Bingle (strictly a New Orleanian but has contacts at the North Pole.) • Reveillon (old Creole custom of staging a feast after Midnight Mass, reinvented as yuletide restaurant specialty dinners) • “All I want for Christmas is You” (Locally originated, Vince Vance and the Valiant’s passionate belly-rubber is one of the R&B genre’s best.) • Twelfth Night. (Everywhere else in the world, the last day of the Christmas season is just another day. In New Orleans, it’s the beginning of the Carnival season. Instead of post-Christmas depression, we get pre-Mardi Gras anxiety. More than ever, let the partying continue.)

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