Looking for stuff to do this holiday season? Loneliness is more viral than the flu during the holidays, and it can be a pretty tough time if you can’t be with the people you love. (OK, sometimes it can be pretty tough with them, too). I’ve combed through a mountain of upcoming local holiday events, however, and have found a pretty good variety of cool stuff to do from now through the end of the month. So whether you’re looking for a family event, a date night, or just something fun you can do solo, here are some of your best bets.
Holiday Parties and Meals
NOAGE is hosting an Ugly Sweater Holiday Party at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church (1313 Esplanade Ave.) from 6:30-8:30pm on Wednesday, December 18. If you’re able, please bring a dish (main dishes, meats, sides, soups, salads, vegan/vegetarian dishes, desserts, etc). The person with the ugliest Christmas sweater will get a special prize, so do your worst! Please also consider bringing non-perishable food items for St. Anna’s Food Pantry.
GrandPre’s (834 N. Rampart St.) is hosting a potluck dinner at 4:00pm on Christmas Day. They have a sign-up sheet behind the bar, so if you’re able to stop by (or message them on Facebook) before the potluck, be sure to let them know what you’ll be bringing.
A Trip to the Theater
Performances of The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans’ holiday show, Period of Adjustment, are at 7:30pm, December 19-21. “Period of Adjustment is a holiday comedy that proves that Tennessee Williams had the same kind of feelings about Christmas get-togethers as the rest of us: complicated. A pair of newlyweds stuck in a hellish honeymoon shows up unexpectedly at the home of a set of ‘old marrieds’ only to learn that the hosts themselves aren’t having any luck in love either! Trapped in a house on a cold night, will the two hapless couples be able to stitch things up?” Tickets are at twtheatrenola.com.
Performances of Mandatory Merrimentare at Southern Rep through December 29. “This festive and raucous musical puts traditional holiday plays on notice! When circumstances beyond their control strand six strangers together at Benny’s Tavern in the French Quarter just two days before Christmas, they’re forced to find new ways to celebrate the season.” Tickets are at southernrep.com
Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré is hosting a production of A Christmas Carolthrough December 23. “Miserly and menacing moneylender, Ebenezer Scrooge, learns lessons in love, generosity, and redemption when he is visited by a host of spirits on Christmas Eve.” Tickets are at lepetittheatre.com.
A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour(December 22 at the Fillmore) features contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race (fillmorenola.com).
And what holiday season is complete without Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, The Nutcracker? There are several location productions this year. New Orleans Ballet Theatre’s is at the Orpheum Theater on December 21 and 22 (neworleansballettheatre.com). Delta Festival Ballet‘s is at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on December 21 and 22. The Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Center’s is on December 21 and 22 (jeffersonpac.com). Then on December 27, there will be two performances of Moscow Ballet‘s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Saenger Theatre (saengernola.com).
Screenings of Your Favorite Holiday Movies and Specials
The Prytania Theater is screening a double feature of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town on December 22 and 23. They are also screening It’s a Wonderful Lifeon December 18 and 22 (theprytania.com). There will be an outdoor screening of Elf at the Spanish Plaza (with free popcorn and cocoa!) on December 20 at 6:30pm (riverwalkneworleans.com), and a free screening of the original How the Grinch Stole Christmasat the Orpheum Theatre on December 23 at 6:00pm (orpheumnola.com).
Festivals, Light Displays, and Bonfires
City Park’s Celebration in the Oaks is one of the most popular attractions of the year, with 25 acres of beautiful light displays, through January 1 (closed Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve). For more information, visit neworleanscitypark.com.
NOLA ChristmasFest, at the Convention Center, features ice-skating, carnival rides, gingerbread houses, decorated trees, and more, through December 31. Visit nolachristmasfest.com for more information.
Audubon Nature Institute’s Zoo Lights will turn the zoo into “a dazzling light display and winter dreamland packed with holly jolly activities for the whole family” through December 30 (audubonzoolights.org).
If you want to experience a real old-fashioned Louisiana Christmas, see the Bonfires on the Levee on Christmas Eve. There will be bonfires in various river-front communities, but some of the biggest and best are in St. James Parish (Gramercy, Lutcher, Pauline, and others). You can see these by driving (or walking, if you’re more adventurous) along the East and West Bank River Roads (Hwy. 44 and 18, respectively). Gray Line Tours has bus ride options if you’d rather not drive.
Christmas Eve Services
The Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans is having its Christmas Eve service at 8:00pm in the main chapel of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans (5401 S. Claiborne Ave.) There’s also Midnight Mass at Saint Louis Cathedral for die-hard traditionalists.
AJ Durand (aka Precious Ephemera) is hosting the 8th Annual Annie Lennoxmas at Balance Yoga (120 S. Cortez St.) on December 25. Doors open at 11:00am for snacks and Annie’s greatest hits, and an all-levels (absolute beginner to seasoned practitioner) yoga class starts at noon, featuring inspirational songs and obscure tracks from The Eurythmics and Annie’s solo albums. $10 is the minimum suggested donation for participation (balanceyogawellness.com).
One of the most rewarding things you can do this holiday season – or any time of year – is volunteer for a worthy cause. If you’re not sure where to start, check out HandsOn New Orleans’s website at handsonneworleans.org to get connected with the right organization for you.
Not to completely undo all of this, but I want to close by saying that you actually don’t have to do anything over the holidays if you don’t want to. If the whole thing is just too much – I mean, it kinda is – and all you want is to be home alone with Netflix or a good book, do that. The holidays can bring a lot of undue pressure, and sometimes it’s good to be alone for a little while.
And you’re a grown-up. Santa’s not the boss of you. Unless you’re into that.