Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cajun Thing of the Week #12 - Bonfires on the Mississippi

Though I am not a full-blooded Cajun (I am French + German), I still qualify the bonfires along the levees at Christmas as a "Cajun" tradition. In the very small town (of French and German settlers) where I grew up, we have a tradition of building bonfires along the levee to light the way for Papa Noel (Cajun Santa Claus). This tradition is also a nod to our mixed heritage and our appreciation for bonfires as a seasonal event.

Sometime after Thanksgiving, sets of families build elaborate bonfires in shapes ranging from plantation homes to Santa's sleigh. Traditional, pyramid-style bonfires can also be seen, but they are outnumbered by more creative structures.

Most bonfires are lit by families on Christmas Eve to help Papa Noel find his way down the Mississippi, where he'll leave presents for all the good Cajun boys and girls. Families and friends enjoy gumbo together while watching the fires burn. Others still, gather into cars for the drive along the Great River Road, crossing the Sunshine Bridge to take in the bonfires on both sides of the levee in St. James Parish.

In the 90s, an official "Festival of the Bonfires" was created and held a few weeks before Christmas. Some of the bonfires were lit early, allowing folks from miles around and even those from other countries, to see the spectacle of the bonfires reflecting off of The Mighty Mississippi.

This weekend (Dec 12 - 14), you can experience the lighting of bonfires and the warm hospitality of Southern Louisiana folk at the Festival of the Bonfires in Lutcher, La.

Get more info at:

2 red beans:

Katherine Aucoin said...

We went to Lutcher a couple of times for the bonfire frestival. Before Tuscucoe burned, we stayed in one of the slave quarters on Christmas Eve and went to the river for the bonfires. I would love to get my hands on some pictures of the bonfires to post. One can only appreciate the architecture of the wood construction if they actually see them before they are lit and while they are lit since they are not just a pile of wood in a tee-pee shape.

Make a Roux said...

Hey Katherine,
I may have a few photos. It's odd. The bonfires just beg to be photographed. But when you see them every year (or nearly every year since I no longer live out there), I guess you take them for granted.

Gotta go through my snapshots, as they're from my pre-digital photo days. If I can find them, I will add them here.

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