A desire to spread holiday cheer to those who might not have much of it was what launched an almost 65-year-old New Orleans tradition that is enjoyed by thousands every December: Caroling in Jackson Square.
The Patio Planters, which began as a French Quarter garden club, gathered for caroling in Jackson Square for the first time in 1946. Mrs. Parker Harris, who at the time was president of the club, was reportedly inspired by children from La Petite Ecole (a school at 714 Esplanade Ave.), who caroled in the square. But Harris took it to another level, not only convincing Mayor DeLesseps Story “Chep” Morrison to erect a Christmas Tree in the square in ’47, but also arranging a full week’s worth of caroling.
By 1954, the event settled into the one-night format that is still used currently. The carols stay the same, with “O Come All Ye Faithful” sung as carolers holding lit candles are led into the square, and “Silent Night” closing out the caroling. Song leaders change from year to year, but are usually local dignitaries or politicians. Archbishop Philip Hannan led his personal favorite carol, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” for many years, but when he fell ill in 2010 children were invited to sing “Rudolph” on stage in his absence. After his passing a few months ago, it was decided this would be repeated this year and is expected to become a new tradition.
This year’s caroling will be on Sunday, December 18. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., and caroling begins at 7 p.m. It is advised to arrive there early, especially if you have children who would like to participate in singing “Rudolph” on stage. General Russell Honore will be in attendance this year.