Flame for bonfires grows

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2013

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE – Tradition is a term no longer held with the same regard as it once was. As the world races toward the new and next, traditions are often left by the wayside.
Luckily, residents of the River Parishes tend to keep one eye on the past, so traditions here have a bit more staying power, as evidenced by the annual lighting of the bonfires on Christmas Eve.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, bonfires ranging from the typical pyramid shape to ships, tanks and even entire houses were lit, continuing a tradition that goes so far back its origins have been lost to legend.
The two main theories surrounding the origin of the tradition are either to light the way for churchgoers or for Saint Nick himself, but whatever the purpose, this tradition not only remains but grows every year.
In St. James Parish, where the bulk of the bonfires are, more than 120 permits were issued this year.
Of course, St. John the Baptist Parish also had its fair share of bonfires lining the Mississippi River levee from Reserve to the St. James Parish line as well as in Edgard and Wallace and surrounding communities on the west bank.
Helping the tradition gain traction is the fact that people from other parts of the state are starting to catch on, so the area is almost as clogged with tourists as it is with locals now.
Also, although the bonfires have gotten shorter in recent years because of permitting restrictions, the addition of fireworks has made the overall spectacle greater than ever.