The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is one of the oldest and largest traditional Christmas celebrations in the American south. Founded by French traders in the early 18th century, the town of Natchitoches is one of the oldest permanent settlements in the Louisiana Territory. It was also likely the first place Christmas was ever celebrated west of the Mississippi River. Thanks to the modern-day festival, Natchitoches is now synonymous with Christmas in Louisiana
Although it certainly had roots in earlier holiday celebrations and traditions, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival as it is now known can unofficially be traced back to 1926. In that year, Max Burgdof, the town’s electrician, convinced civic and commerce leaders to sponsor him to string up festive lights in the town for the holidays. Though some local citizens considered it a waste of money, the lights were a huge success, and from that year on became an annual part of Natchitoches’ holiday celebrations.
In subsequent decades, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival became the most popular holiday party of its kind in the south. The fame of this small town’s festival, which was way out of proportion to the size of the local population, drew visitors in from hundreds of miles in all directions. Over the years it grew to epic proportions, adding fireworks, parades, home tours, beauty pageants and college football games (though not all of these are still ongoing). The festival achieved additional fame after appearing in numerous movies, most notably Steel Magnolias.
The Natchitoches Christmas Festival takes place every year in the riverfront and downtown areas of Natchitoches, approximately sixty miles southeast of Shreveport and two hundred miles northwest of New Orleans. It generally runs throughout the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Years; however, the main festivities always take place on the first Saturday of December. Web: www.christmasfestival.com (official website of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival)