Bonfire season showcases River Parish traditions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2021

After a brief hiatus, one of Louisiana’s holiday traditions makes its return for 2021 as Bonfire Country marks the start of the Christmas season on December 1 and culminates in the illuminating Bonfires on the Levee on Christmas Eve.

 

Dating back nearly 300 years, Bonfire Season continues to be the official kickoff for the festive holiday season following Thanksgiving in Louisiana’s River Parishes. The almost month-long event features open houses, parades, live music and more, leading to the annual lighting of the bonfires and accompanying fireworks on Christmas Eve in the Bonfires on the Levee event.

 

“I’m incredibly honored and excited to announce the return of the full slate of Bonfire Season events for 2021,” said Louisiana’s River Parishes Executive Director Jay Robichaux. “Our citizens need a reason to smile and celebrate, and this incredible tradition dating back to the founding of the River Parishes showcases our incredible heritage and culture in a way that is unique to only Louisiana.”

 

With its origins linked to the region’s French-German settlers, the enslaved to celebrate the end of the harvest season, guiding ships after the harvest along the river and leading the faithful to midnight mass, today the tradition that has been told to children of the area for generations is that the bonfires help guide Papa Nöel to the River Parishes Christmas night.

 

Following the start of the season on December 1, the Festival of the Bonfires takes place Dec. 9-12 in Lutcher. The four-day celebration features live music, cook-off, a pageant, a car show and much more. A bonfire is ceremoniously lit on Friday and Saturday, with a fireworks show on Saturday night.

 

During Bonfire Season, there are other attractions throughout the River Parishes, including the replica bonfire structure at the St. James Welcome Center, and “Saint,” the 50-foot wooden alligator bonfire mascot of the season. Saint was designed by Garyville’s Bonfire Builders, and have their own stop in Bonfire Country named “Blood, Sweat, and Bonfires.” The Gramercy Fire Department also holds an annual open house, where guests can learn more about the history and tradition of the bonfires and the people who have kept this tradition alive.

 

Bonfire Season comes to a close on Christmas Eve, as the nearly 300 constructed bonfires across the 24 days in the River Parishes are finally lit to light the way for Papa Nöel (Santa Claus).

 

For more information on Louisiana’s River Parishes, please visit lariverparishes.com.

 

Louisiana’s River Parishes Tourist Commission (RPTC) is the official destination and marketing organization and driving force for tourism in St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. The organization offers assistance to visitors, advocates for its stakeholders, and stimulates the region’s economic growth.