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Celebrate Christmas this December with West Bank tree & bonfire lightings

WALLACE — A spirit of unity and St. John the Baptist Parish’s rich bonfire tradition highlight two Christmas celebrations welcoming community members at the Wallace Bridge Park.

The inaugural Christmas tree lighting kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday, featuring free admission, a Christmas train for children, hot chocolate, desserts and numerous food and craft vendors.

The West St. John High School band and choir will perform Christmas carols leading up to the lighting at 5:30 p.m.

A bonfire lighting celebration scheduled for 7 p.m. Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) kicks off at 5 p.m. with food, music, a train ride and activities for children.

At least eight bonfires will light up the night sky along the levee near the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Joy Banner, director of marketing for Whitney Plantation, said St. John Parish is the birthplace of the Christmas bonfire tradition.

“It’s a way to remember our culture,” Banner said.

“Well over 100,000 people come to the Bonfire Festival across the river because it’s such an important event.

“We’d particularly like to invite the East Bank over to the West Bank side and remind everyone that we’re all part of the same community.”

Banner said Saturday’s Christmas tree lighting was organized as a way to kick off the season while utilizing the West Bank’s public parks.

“A lot of times, the parks aren’t used, so we hope to plan more activities here,” Banner said. “Sometimes we get lost in shopping and work, and we miss out on the meaning of the season, which is to come together.”

Banner hopes to see more involvement from the community in planning events for the youth.

Those interested in contributing ideas for future events are asked to call 225-206-0257.

Sponsors for the Christmas celebrations include West St. John Civic Association, St. John Tourism and Film Association, River Region Children’s Association, Branden Collins Bail Bonds, Evergreen Plantation and Whitney Plantation.