The holiday season brings to light one of the oldest holiday traditions in the United States – Christmas Eve bonfires. Held all along the Mississippi River levees since the 1720s, over one hundred bonfires 30 foot plus tall built of wood line the river for miles and attract thousands of visitors to the towns of Reserve, Garyville, Gramercy, Lutcher and Paulina. The first European settlers brought the custom with them, and our roots continue to flourish as families work together to create bonfires each year into amazing works of art.
These Louisiana bonfires are laced with kerosene or lighter fluid, then all are ignited simultaneously at 7 p.m. US Central Standard Time to welcome the arrival of Papa Noel on Christmas Eve.
The bonfires have been explained as long ago before the Levee's were built, to help friends of the family find the inlets or slips coming off the river to the homes of those they wanted to visit on Christmas Eve. But more likely a good way to encourage the children to help keep the inlet clear of the continuous build-up of washed up debris and driftwood.
Today, each family or street of families comes together and starts building usually the Thanksgiving break from school. They have limits now as to size and construction due to mishaps in the past. But Christmas Eve if its not a “Cajun Snowstorm” is enjoyed with a bonfire, pot of gumbo, fireworks, and a lawn-chair. All are welcome to join the merriment, now even special sternwheelers, paddleboats, or riverboats offer bonfire cruises down the Mississippi River.
It is a Christmas Eve tradition, unless it rains, then it is promptly changed to a New Year's Eve tradition. You will always see the displayed pirogue with Papa Noel being pulled by his special alligators, led by Alphonse! Join us each Christmas Eve for the celebration. We will post specific links to festivals, parties and other events during the holiday season.
See the links below for Tours and Event Dates in December. See our Calendar for a complete list.
(Some information on this page courtesy of Wikipedia)