Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas In New Orleans

It's my turn for Kailana's (UPDATE: AND MARG'S (SORRY!!)) Advent Calendar! I've been loving the posts so far. This is really a wonderful idea and I had no clue what to do for this thing. Still don't really, but I figured I'd just write about what Christmas is like down here because we seem to be in our own little world :p

Every year I listen to all of these beautiful Christmas carols about "let it snow" and "winter wonderland" and I see these gorgeous decorations of houses dripping with white stuff and icicle lights, and I receive these nice little cards of Christmas cottages covered in snow with smoke rising from the chimney, and I flip through the JC Penny's catalog that has kids on the cover in jackets and knit hats throwing snowballs at each other and I wonder..."Does that really exist???" That truly is a Winter Wonderland to us down here in the south! As I type this it's 82 degrees and I'm wearing shorts and sandals.

Last year was the first Christmas that I've ever seen snow! Only the second time in my life I've ever seen snow. We got literally a half of inch of snow and you would have thought that everyone in New Orleans won the lottery. We were all that excited. We somehow managed to scrape up enough of the white stuff to build a snowman and gave it boiled shrimp for eyes because in New Orleans, we use anything as an excuse to boil seafood. I had a picture, but I lost it :( Normally on Christmas I always wear dress pants and a sweater, but I'm sure to wear a short sleeved shirt underneath, because it never drops below the 60's (except for last year). I usually loose the sweater within 30 minutes of showing up at Gram's house.

I wouldn't change any of this for the world though. Sure, I'd love to see a true white Christmas with heavy snow, but I love Christmas in New Orleans and I love Christmas with my family. Every Christmas has been special. I remember me and my sister swearing every year that we were going to stay up all night and wait for Santa and never making it! And then on Christmas morning, we'd wait by the hall door while mom got everything ready in the front, and we knew when we smelled the coffee brewing and the Christmas music start playing that it was time! It still works the same way ;)

The city itself is beautiful during Christmas time. City Park does Celebration in the Oaks every year where they transform the entire park into a festival of lights and you can either do the walking or driving tour. It's beautiful. The French Quarter just feels more special during Christmas time and the St. Louis Cathedral is always gorgeous. And nothing beats Cafe Du Monde's Cafe au Lait's and Beignets on a chilly night!

In closing, I've loved all the recipes that everyone's shared, so I thought I'd share my Gram's bread pudding recipe that she does every Christmas. We make ours with french bread, but I know that's not easy to get in other states, so any breat will do really. This is a good recipe to use when you don't know what to do with that stale bread you have!

Bread Pudding:

4 Cups Dry Bread Cubes
4 Cups Milk, Scalded
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
4 Slightly Beaten Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Cup Raisins (optional)

Soak bread in mil for 5 minutes. Add sugar, butter and salt. Slowly pour eggs over, add vanilla and raisins, and mix well. Pour into greased 1 1/2 qt. baking dish. Bake in a pan of hot water in 350 degree oven until firm, about 1 hour. Serve warm with Rum Sauce.

Rum Sauce:

1/2 Cup Margarine
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Rum

Mix sugar and rum together in a 2 cup glass measuring cup. Add margarine. Cook on high for 2 minutes. Serve warm over bread pudding

Don't forget to stop by RaiderGirl's site too!!! She's also hosting the Advent Calendar today!


Becky said...

Bread pudding is one of my favorites. ;) I've never seen a white Christmas either. Although once I think it sleeted on December 23rd...but not really the same thing. Reading your post about waiting for Christmas reminded me of my own. There were a few signs that it was finally *okay* to be awake on Christmas morning. Dad would ring the sleigh bells, the indication that Santa had come...and he'd turn on the Christmas tree lights. After those two things, legitimate peeking could begin :) There was always plenty of sneaking beforehand though. :) I loved feeling the lumps of my stocking to see if I could figure it all out.

DesLily said...

wow, I haven't made bread pudding in so long I'd have to check my recipe! lol.. I do know it's a little different from yours. Instead of sugar I know I heat up some honey in a pot and toss in the bread cubes stir until coated.. and go from there. milk, eggs, raisins all about the same. It's filling to say the least lol

Kailana said...

I demand pictures of this Christmas in the Park thing... or is there a web site? And if you ever really feel like you need to see snow, you come right up here and stay with me for a couple days! They are predicting the worst winter in 15 years! That being said, I don't know what I would do without the whole winter experience that we have up here... I totally have the winter look downpack, it is the summer one that I never seem to feel comfortable in!

Chris said...

Becky, I could eat a whole pan of bread pudding and go back for more! lol...I love hearing people's Christmas morning traditions. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being a child and waiting to storm towards the tree. Those will always be some of my favorite memories. And stockings! I forgot to write about stockings! That's still a favorite of mine. My mom still fills Christmas stockings for us!

Deslily, Oooh, yum! Bread pudding with honey! I looooove bread pudding. I look forward to it all year. Even though I know the recipe and could cook it whenever I want, I don't :p I wait til Christmas!

Kailana, There is indeed a website: though I don't know how many pictures they have. You can hunt around on it though! It's beautiful! If I go this year, I'll take some pics :) I don't know if I'd be up for the worst winter in 15 years :p but I would love to come up there! One of these days I will...I've always wanted to see Canada!

Carl V. said...

Great post Chris. The wonder of Christmas is that it really can be and should be about the traditions a person grows up with. For me all the snow traditions and songs make sense. I grew up in Nebraska in a time when winters seem much harsher than they are now. We always had snow. Tons of snow! All the cold and snow Christmas traditions fit perfectly with that which is why, for me, Christmas just doesn't seem like Christmas without the weather to go with it.

For you it is different, but certainly is still very much what you expect out of Christmas. It is that family time and the constancy of one's traditions that make this a special time of year. I'm glad that you have those memories to share with us.

And I've said on other blogs this season that seafood is something that I would love to add to our Christmas traditions! Yum!!!

Chris said...

Carl, I totally agree that Christmas should be about the traditions we grow up with. It's just hilarious that ours usually ends up with all of us playing football and SWEATING in the latter part of December :p The snow was nice last year though! And you should add some seafood to Christmas!! I don't know if you can get them where you are, but we have tons of nice sized shrimp down here right now...we also live on the gulf of Mexico though so...We usually do a shrimp stew or boiled shrimp or something...I'm starting to sound like Bubba from Forest Gump.

raidergirl3 said...

With all the traditions being so different, they all have family at the center, and that's all that matters, eh?
Snow is not all it's cracked up to be - I prefer the heat myself, to sliding into the ditch and having to be dug out by a tow truck, nobody puts those picutres on the cards!
I LOVE bread pudding! That rum sauce looks so yummy and easy to make! I've never added it to my recipe, but I might next time.
I love that you and your sister are still big kids at Christmas and your Mom fills your stocking.
Merry Christmas!

Chris said...

RaiderGirl, You're so right! It's family that matters at Christmas time. You had me in hysterics with being dug out of a ditch! lol...though of course that's not funny, but it would make a comical Christmas card...The rum sauce for the bread pudding is SO good, and so simple! Really makes a difference. Hope you like it if you try it out. And yeah, me and my sister will always be big kids, lol. Some things never change!

DesLily said...

...I'm starting to sound like Bubba from Forest Gump.

I just knew if I came back here I'd wind up laughing sooner or later! LOL..

(my boy Bubba!) lol lol

Melissa said...

I'm a northerner, and I have to admit the Christmas we spent in Mississippi was the weirdest one. (It was so weird, we high-tailed it out of there to visit family up north.) It was 60 degrees all month, mostly sunny; we never wore coats! It's fun to get a different perspective, though. Thanks!

Debi said...

Oh Chris, this was just the most fabulous post! How fun getting a peek at your Christmas! So utterly different and yet not so different at all. It all does come down to family and traditions and the warmth we feel in our hearts.

And by the way, thank you for the truly beautiful Christmas card and your very sweet words!

Chris said...

Deslily, It's hard to come to this site and leave without laughing ;) You know I'm having a bad day if you don't! I was going to add Shrimp Etoufee because we did that last year, but I decided that was overkill ;)

Melissa, I'm so envious of you northeners! lol...Even though I've always known Christmas to be unseasonably warm it's still a disappointment to wake up to warm weather. We always hope that by some chance we'll awaken to a nice chilly morning....we've been lucky a couple of times!

Debi, Glad you enjoyed the post. You're right, regardless of the weather, it's family and friends and tradition that makes the season what it is. Though a little snow would make it nicer ;) I'm glad you liked the card! I got mine yesterday and meant to tell you how much I loved it! It's the best Christmas card I've ever gotten, seriously! I love all the individual signatures and the fact that it's homemade (and so should sell these things!) makes it so special :) Thanks Debi and family!

Literary Feline said...

A white Christmas is not something I experience very often in my part of the country either. It sure does look pretty in the pictures though, doesn't it?

Thank you for sharing your memories of Christmas as well as what the holiday season is like there.:-) I think Christmas in New Orleans would be quite magical in its own right.

Chris said...

I agree with Melissa. When Christmas is warm (and it occasionally is), it's just strange to me. Looks like a white Christmas for us. December is cold this year! Once Christmas is over, the snow can go.

Wendy said...

Great post, Chris! I love hearing how different Christmas can be in other parts of the country...and bread pudding...YUM, my favorite!

Chris said...

Literary Feline, I'm glad I'm not the only one without White Christmases ;) Christmas in New Orleans really is something special, I suppose! We use everything as an excuse to party, so it's definitely fun!

Other Chris, I think that if I did live in a "snowy" area I'd have the same mind set...snow is nice for Christmas and then it can go. I can imagine that it must be a pain shoveling and whatever else you snow people have to do! I'd be in serious trouble if I moved up north. I wouldn't even begin to know what to do when it snowed!

Wendy, I'm the same way. We always think we have to go to different countries to get other perspectives on holidays, but we have them right here within our own! And glad to find another bread pudding lover ;) Isn't it the best!

Kailana said...

Carl, you can have my Christmas seafood tradition. Lobster. Blech! We always have it in December because of the lobster prices, but I can very much do without! My house STILL smells of it from the weekend.

Chris said...

Kailana, Now that's what I call a treat! Lobster every year?! That's a new one on me, but I most certainly would love that ;)

Carl V. said...

Send it on Kailana!!!

Several years ago we went to visit my wife's relatives in Gulf Port. They live less than a mile from the beach (and hence had everything destroyed in Katrina) and while we were there we ate some of the best seafood meals I have ever had. I was in heaven!

Booklogged said...

Oh, Chris, I wish I could make a little snowman and send him to you for Christmas. I don't love winter, but the snow and cold does make it feel like Christmas. If I could plan the universe I would plan a few weeks of winter, long springs and long autumns and a reasonable summer. I've decided that I will live where there's winter so I can experience spring and summer. And because this is where my family lives because like everyone's said - it's all about family and traditions.

Loved your post. I'd love to experience Christmas in New Orleans.

P.S. I still stuff my grown children's stockings, my husband's and mine! I'm still wondering if I'll ever grow up and have decided against it.

Marg said...

I had to laugh at your part about seeing snow for the first time!

The first time I ever saw snow was at the Grand Canyon. I never expected to see snow there at all, so this bus full of Australians gets to the Grand Canyon, and it is there in all it's magnificence in front of us, and what are we all more excited about. Yep....snow! Oh my goodness it's snow!

Thanks for participating in Kailana's and my Advent Calendar.

Dave Richards said...

Thanks Chris for the bread pudding recipe. I will tell my mom to make it. Even in my childhood I used to plan for staying up all night to catch Santa but never could make it. :)

Rairun said...

I always make bread pudding for Christmas too! Except we call it something else, "formigos". I don't actually like it all that much, but it's my mother's favourite, so I make it for her sake.

That was a very nice post, Chris. I've never had snow for Christmas either, even though it is cold at this time of the year. I would like a white Christmas for once, I guess, but like you wisely pointed out it's good to value the way things are in our own little corners of the world.

Nymeth said...

Oops, that was me :P I forgot to log out of my boyfriend's account.

Jean Pierre said...

as much as i love the christmas here, that is all cold and sometimes snowy, i also love the christmas in south africa which is hot (being in the southern hemisphere).

i suppose its to do with ones associations. its a happy time, with relatives and presents, so i associate that with the nice listless heat. we have cold meats and salad and lounge lazily like lions (i wasn't going for alliteration there!).

that might not sound very christmassy, but its so relaxed. its so pleasant and warm that it helps make it more relaxing and nice!

and 'cause its nice the kids can let out all their happy energy and dance and play outside ... and its light till late and every socialises for hours...

its great!

Stephanie said...

I've never been to New Orleans, but hope to in the future. Unlike you, I grew up (and still live) in snowy New Jersey and can tell you from experience that yes, we do have many days with kids throwing snowballs at each other just like on the catalog cover. To be honest, I really love snow and can't imagine wearing sandals at Christmas! Great post - my turn is coming up on Thursday, where I will be posting pics of the christmas tree in New York City!

Ladytink_534 said...

Oh that sounds yummy! I still feel like a fish out of water this time of year down here on the Mississippi coast because I'm so used to Georgia weather.

Chris said...

Booklogged, I love your plan for the seasons! Sounds like my perfect ideal weather! I'm a huge Fall and Spring fan myself. I don't care for the Summer at all, but a few hazy days are nice and I would love winter so much more if I could have a bit of snow! And I love that you still stuff stockings :) One of my favorite things about Christmas! I hope you never change that!

Marg, I'm so sorry that I just called it Kailana's Advent Calendar!!! I feel horrible, I know you put alot of work and preparation into this silly blogger mind wasn't thinking, but I've made adjustments ;) Snow in the Grand Canyon?! I would've never expected to see snow there either. That's really cool! When I think of the Grand Canyon I just see blue skies and brown mountain/ that was pretty cool!

Dave, Hope the bread pudding comes out good! I think there's a curse on the staying up for Santa thing ;) I don't think I've ever met anyone who's stayed up all night on Christmas Eve! Good stuff there!

Nymeth, Well that's just sweet of you to make formigos for your mother every year even though you don't like it ;) Are y'all staying at the university for Christmas this year? You might actually get snow! I was looking at some of your pictures the other day and it looks like you've gotten at least some frost up there! And I got all excited thinking I found a new blog and then saw that your boyfriend just has a profile, doesn't actually blog :p

JP, "Lounge lazily like lions" Ha! I love it...that sounds very South Africa-y...As much as I dislike heat, you make it sound so appealing! It really is true that the essence of what Christmas is all about is universal. While traditions vary between family and cultures and countries, it all boils down to spending time with family and sharing traditions. That's great!

Stephanie, Your Christmases sound so wonderful to me!!! You have the Christmas that I've always dreamed of :p One of these years I want to get a hotel suite in New York or something (like I can afford that!) and just pretend like I live there for the Christmas season. I can't wait to read your post!

Ladytink, Where are you on the coast? I'm taking it you get unseasonably warm weather as well? Just doesn't feel right, does it? The bread pudding is yummy! You should try it out :)

Stephanie said...

Oh yummy!! This advent calendar thing is seriously going to go to my hips!!

You know. The one and only time I've ever been to New Orleans, it snowed!! My hubby and I came down for the Sugar Bowl in January of 2002. Illinois ended up getting trounced by LSU (can you say HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE??). Here I was expecting some warmth...and it snowed!! Nothing stuck, but there were huge flakes out there.

What a great post!! (and by the way, I need your address. I have a Christmas card here with your name on it....and no where to send it!)

Chris said...

Steph, I know what you mean! All these recipes are adding a few pounds on to me too ;) If y'all ever come down for the Sugar Bowl again, let me know! I'll take y'all out for dinner! I don't remember that snow...We've had a few times where we've had little flurries, but only 2 times in the 26 years that I've been alive that it's actually piled up. Once in 1989 and then again in 2006. Doesn't look like it's going to happen this year! I'll email you my address if you send me yours too ;)

julia said...

Hi - I'm here from Kailana's blog. And I'm from her part of the world, too - we have lobster newburg every year for Christmas Eve dinner, which makes all the other 364 days worth it just to taste my aunt's miracle once again. Lobster newburg is a decadently creamy seafood bisque poured over a bed of rice. (I'd better stop - it's still 2 weeks away!)

I really love visiting all the Advent bloggers. Yours about a New Orleans Christmas is very exotic to this Winter Wonderland gal.

Chris said...

Hey Julia, Welcome! You have my mouth watering over here! I didn't know that lobster was so big in Canada...that bisque sounds so delicious! Love your blog by the way, your pictures of you and your sister show what a true Christmas has always looked like in my mind :)

Chris said...

Chris- Lobster: My mom had lobster sandwiches everyday for school. My Grandfather was a lobster fisherman. I always associate it with summer though not Christmas.

Chris said...

Other Chris, Wow! This is turning into a fascinating lobster discussion, lol! Lobster sandwiches?! I've never heard of that, but it sounds good! That's awesome that your grandfather was a lobster fisherman. I love any type of fishing/netting. It reminds me of being a little kid. I used to go out on the shrimp boats with my uncle and go fishing all the time in the gulf. I've never associated lobster with Christmas either, I was surprised with those two associations!

Amy Hanek said...

I missed your blog the other day - so I am catching up today. I LOVE bread pudding and was just commenting to my husband (a chef) that I wanted to make a bread pudding for Christmas.

I love to bake and would rather keep my kitchen to myself that day - so I look forward to making it! Thanks!

Chris said...

Amy, I'm so glad you caught my post! I hope the recipe works out for you :) I promise you it's delicious and the rum sauce really makes it extra good. Another thing that adds to it that's a personal touch of mine is adding apples to it...not everyone likes that though.