Christmas in New Orleans

Families build bonfires to successfully lead Papa Noel through the swamp as his eight feisty alligators pull his pirogue.

My family took a trip to New Orleans during Christmas of 2008. While I was there I fell in love with the culture of this unique city, so much so that I dreamed up my novel Voodoo Butterfly while I was there. I, literally, had a dream about my main character and her NOLA world. Read on and I’ll tell you more about that AFTER I take you through what Christmas in New Orleans looks like.

Grab a Drink

Where else in the world can you walk down the street and see: street performers, costumed partygoers, otherworldly characters like vampires, jazz musicians, fortune-tellers, and perhaps even a ghost? You’ll probably want to grab a drink just to help you deal with the initial culture shock that the French Quarter can deal you. On my trip, I tried a famous Hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s which is a cocktail with rum, more rum, a splash of juice, topped off with more rum, a cherry and orange garnish.

Christmas Caroling in Jackson Square

I tell you what, there’s something totally freeing about walking around in public with an open container. Legally. When everyone’s doing it, you can really get into the spirit of things. In fact, everyone showed up for Christmas caroling in Jackson Square with their cups of liquid holiday cheer. People spilled out of the gardens in the center of the square with a cup in one hand and a lit candle and song sheet in the other hand. Some song sheets did catch fire, but it was probably just the wind. Looking back…wind, open flames, booze, and song sheets are probably not the best combination. But caroling in front of St. Louis Cathedral is one of my favorite memories of my time in New Orleans.

Papa Noel Bonfires

Another favorite memory actually did require the fire department to be on hand. We took a Papa Noel tour on Christmas Eve that brought us into Cajun country to see the lighting of massive bonfires. On one of these tours you get to not only see these massive pyres lined up for miles, but you get out of the bus and walk up and down the levees where they are constructed. And, you guessed it, everyone is having a party.

A long time ago, Cajun children worried that Papa Noel (i.e. Santa Claus) would not be able to find their homes for all the nightly fog that blankets the swamplands. So families built bonfires to successfully lead Papa Noel through the swamp as his eight feisty alligators pull his pirogue (reindeers will not do in the swamp because the alligators would eat them).

These bonfires also represent generations of family pride and craftsmanship since the best structures take several weeks of careful planning and construction. Most structures are built into two-story tall pyramids, but some take the shape of castles or houses. After generations of perfecting their technique, families build them so well that the vertical poles that hold up the structure will remain intact as the horizontal timbers and inner kindling burn down to the ground overnight.

Magic and a Dream

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that while I visited New Orleans, I had a dream that inspired Voodoo Butterfly. The first flash was of a woman who was walking the streets of NOLA at night, hoping that someone would attack her because the moment they laid a hand on her they would change from evil to good. The second flash in my dream showed me a vision of Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans completely covered in monarch butterflies. As a story itched in my mind, I decided to make that character inherit a voodoo shop. The only problem? She would know nothing about voodoo or her secret power at the start of the novel.

You can read an excerpt of my book here.

Voodoo Butterfly is available on for $2.99. It’s free for some people, so check your Amazon membership perks (Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime).
Camille Faye | Author
Voodoo Butterfly | Available on
Experience love, purpose, and the paranormal in New Orleans.
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*Originally posted on author Rachel Sharpe's Blog