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A Cajun Christmas – The Festival of the Bonfires

My family is spending Christmas Eve in St. James Parish, Louisiana to witness the bonfires along the levee of the Mississippi River. This Cajun Christmas tradition dates back to 1870 when plantations would light bonfires here and there on Christmas Eve. Today, this humble tradition has become much bigger than a small family gathering. The first time I saw the bonfires was in 1987 on a visit to see the bonfires under construction.

This year, I’ll be able to share this Louisiana tradition with my own children and maybe we’ll even read “A Cajun Night Befor Christmas” like my mother read to my brother and I when we were younger. While we’re all standing around the levee, watching the bonfires light up the Christmas Eve sky, we’ll be sipping on Louisiana’s Community Coffee and some hot chocolate.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube

This coming weekend will be The Festival of the Bonfires in St. James Parish, where there will be a fair, bands, and vendors with each evening ending with one bonfire being lit. On Christmas Eve is the big show, with bonfires of all shapes and sizes lighting up the levee of the Mississippi River in Louisiana from Gramercy to Lutcher.

Here are directions the bonfire festivities:

For The Festival of the Bonfires (December 10,11,12)

From New Orleans, Take I-10 West to Lutcher-Gramercy Exit (194), Make right on LA Hwy. 3125 to LA 3193. Turn left to festival site.

From Baton Rouge, Take I-10 East to Gramercy Exit, Travel South on U.S. Hwy 61 (Airline Hwy.) to LA Hwy. 3274 (approx. 7 miles on right), Turn Right on LA Hwy. 3125 to LA Hwy. 3193 (Lutcher Ave.) to festival site.

On Christmas Eve
It is recommended that you get into the area before 6:00 PM. The fires will be lit at 7:00 PM. Try spending the afternoon, walking the levee, taking pictures and touring the museum. Parking is available in lots along LA 641. Please do not park in lots that are roped off! There will be a 3 to 4 block walk to the levee. If you are interested in driving through, take LA 3213 to LA 44 (Exit before the bridge). This will take you to the first bonfire. Drive along River Road through Gramercy & Lutcher.

Have you ever heard of “A Cajun Night Before Christmas” by Tee Jules? Here it is, all animated and recited by Tee Jules himself before his passing.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube.

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One Comment

  1. How long will the fires burn? I can’t get out there until after 7:30 probably closer to 8pm. Will I still be able to see the big burning bonfires?

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