Category Archives: Do These Things

Bonfires at Christmas in St. James Parish

All Along the Levee

Definition: Bonfire

A fire in which bones were burned; A fire to burn unwanted or disreputable items or people: proscribed books, heretics etc; A large, controlled outdoor fire, as a signal or to celebrate something

Definition: Festival

A festival is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on some unique aspect of that community.

Christmas Eve usually involves church services, egg nog, cookies, and stories by the fire, or so says Norman Rockwell paintings. In St. James Parish they do Christmas Eve in an incendiary fashion – fireworks and giant bonfires. Bonfires that are 10-30 feet tall and are places side-by-side up and down the Mississippi River.

Pagan? Maybe, but the festival’s roots probably come from French and German settlers in Louisiana who brought bonfire traditions with them from old Europe. When they became popular in the River Parishes is a little hazy, but today it is a massive community celebration that grown into a fixture of Louisiana culture.