One of Southern Louisiana’s favorite holiday traditions is the lighting of the bonfires along the Mississippi River. It is believed to be a tradition brought to our state by nineteenth century French immigrants. The lighting of bonfires on certain holidays was a common custom in France and Germany and other parts of Europe. While the tradition in Europe has mostly disappeared, it has grown here in Louisiana. The French Acadians have kept up the tradition of Chrismas Eve bonfires and the media started spreading the word in the 1970s, expanding interest in this unique spectacle. Now, people from New Orleans, locals and tourists alike, will annually drive up the River Road or take a cruise up the Mississippi River to see the giant teepee-shaped log pyres set aflame, lining the River, lighting the way for Papa Noel. Usually there is drinking involved, in typical festival fashion. Eating is usually reserved for the later festivities. The tradition more or less remains a family affair, where a group of people from each community get together and build the structure for their particular neighborhood. In 1987, a set of regulations was imposed on the size and locations of the fires, and a burning permit was even required and enforced. It’s possible that the restrictions actually encouraged increasing participation and popularity in this special historic holiday event.
Southern Louisiana Christmas Bonfires
Nov 26, 2016 | History