The Natchitoches Christmas Festival began 95 years ago as an act of charity and thankfulness. And in that manner it continues today.
The Christmas Festival tradition began in 1927 when employees of the City of Natchitoches’ utility department decided to give their customers a Christmas present. They erected an 8-foot star made of white lights and placed it downtown so everyone could see and enjoy the wonders, not only of the season, but also of electricity.
Over the years, new electrical displays were added. And in 1936, local businessmen added fireworks for the community to enjoy. This was the start of something big – the beginning of one of the nation’s oldest and most spectacular community based Christmas celebrations – the Natchitoches Christmas Festival. This year marks the 95th anniversary for the Christmas Festival.
The themes for the displays are indicative of the season, and are also determined by world events. During World War II, a large “V” for victory was included. The giant American Flag, which anchors the northern end of the displays, was built as a tribute to the men and women of Desert Storm and all other veterans. In addition to the set pieces, the City is covered with more than 350,000 colored lights. For the 95th year, there will be 110 lighted set piece displays along Cane River Lake.
Professional pyrotechnic companies have long since replaced the businessmen who purchased and fired the first fireworks show, which originally cost only $300. Their small show has grown into the premier fireworks pyrotechnic event in Louisiana. The number of shows has also increased from the Festival weekend to including every Saturday from when the lights are turned on in mid-November through December 18, and this year will include two special shows on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.
The lights will be turned on Saturday, November 20, 2021, and remain on through January 6, 2022.
Each weekend during the Natchitoches Christmas season features something fun and exciting for the whole family.
Saturday, November 20 is opening day, also called “Turn on the Holidays,” featuring the annual holiday shopping open house. The locally owned and operated businesses, shops and restaurants located in Natchitoches’ downtown National Landmark Historic District showcase their holiday items, stay open later, and offer specials throughout the day. The day concludes with live entertainment on the riverbank stage, the countdown to turn on the lights, and fireworks.
“That moment when you are counting down to zero and the lights are turned on and the fireworks erupt,” said Kelli West, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau, “there is absolutely nothing as magical as that very moment.”
There are no admission costs to the riverbank area Sunday through Friday to view the lights and enjoy the food vendors. A $10 armband will be required for access to the riverbank area on Saturdays from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18. Armbands can be pre-purchased at Natchitoches Christmas.com or at the ticket booths on those Saturdays.
Saturday, November 27 features the Fleur de Lis Christmas Craft Mall at the Natchitoches Events Center, and the family-favorite Cookies with Santa. Live music and fireworks will cap the day.
Saturday, December 4 is the 95th Annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival. Enjoy the daylong event filled with music, entertainment, parade, arts and crafts, and fireworks. Mistletoe Marketplace, an annual arts and crafts market, will take place beside City Bank and Trust from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The annual Festival of Lights Parade will roll at 1 p.m. with Grand Marshal Scott Innes, the voice of Scooby-Doo, and the Mystery Machine. There will be live entertainment on the riverbank stage throughout the day with the grand fireworks show at 6 p.m.
Saturday, December 11 will feature Cookies with Santa, a lighted boat parade, entertainment and fireworks.
Additional events taking place throughout the holiday season include the annual Christmas Tour of Homes, the Light the Way 5K, Northwestern State University’s annual Christmas Gala production, Santa Clause House, Lessons and Carols performances, and much more.
For more Christmas magic, step into a magical winter wonderland as Dark Woods Adventure Park transforms for Christmas In The Park, with over eight acres of enchanting, lighted walkways with over 250,000 LED lights and displays that bring the woods to life! The 128 foot lighted footbridge, along with snowflakes and a canopy of twinkling ice lights, will let you explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it. Get your picture with Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, The Frozen Princess and her reindeer at the Kringle Outpost.
Natchitoches is a proud partner in Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights which is comprised of eight festive cities – Shreveport-Bossier, Minden, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches and Alexandria/Pineville – located along Interstates 20 and 49. The eight cities offer a roadtrip experience bridging holiday events and happenings in the cities for visitors.