Monday, December 14, 2015

Bonfires on the Levee

...A Louisiana Tradition

By Rita Monette
author of louisiana lore

Every year in south Louisiana, there is an interesting tradition that was started over a hundred years ago: The bonfires on the levee.

During this event, over one hundred 30-foot-plus tall wooden bonfire structures are built along the Mississippi River levee near the town of Lutcher in order to light the way for Papa Noel (Cajun country’s Santa) on Christmas Eve. These bonfires, doused with a flammable liquid, are all ignited at the same moment at 7 p.m. (CST).



The old folks in the area, that still participate in this event, tell us that long ago before the Levee's were built, the bonfires were lit to help light the way for friends and family that came to visit on Christmas Eve. And for the sake of the children, to help light the way for Santa.

The fires were traditionally built in the shape of crude pyramids or "tepees", and it is only in recent years that the builders have gotten very creative. Newspapers and television stations have increased coverage each year until these bonfires have turned into a competition between their makers, each attempting to design and build the most original and the biggest. 

It is a site to behold to anyone that wishes to join in. There are even special sternwheelers, paddle boats, or river boats that offer bonfire cruises down the Mississippi River.













Today, each family or street of families come together and start building their structures usually during the Thanksgiving break from school. And when the time comes for the festivities, they enjoy in their lawn chairs, the bonfires, fireworks, and a pot of gumbo.

You will always see the displayed pirogue with Papa Noel being pulled by his special alligators, led by Alphonse.






















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