Christmas Eve Bonfire Along the Mississippi River Levee in St. James Parish, Louisiana

Along the Corps of Engineers engineered  Mississippi earthen levee stretching from Paulina, Lutcher, Gramercy to LaPlace, Louisiana folks have constructed wooden effigies which they properly light up on the evening before Christmas.

     People share stories, drink a beer, and get close to the heat. Kids run amok and adults are in a carefree mood. It’s Christmastime in Louisiana!
     Fireworks go off and the levee is set ablaze at exactly 7 o’clock on Christmas Eve.
     Standing on the slope of the earthen levee it’s possible to see the bonfires stretch out for miles.

     The bonfires fume all night long sending embers into the nighttime sky.
     A boy and a woman strike an opposite pose in front of one of the bonfires.
     Kids played on the levee embankment - standing really close to the flames.
     A man explains to me that to make the bonfire crackle and pop he constructs a traditional structure out of sugar cane stalks which he calls “bamboo”.
     A popular explanation given to why locals have built and lit bonfires on the levee is to light the way for Papa Noël on Christmas Eve.
     Each bonfire construction is registered and cataloged. Parish and city officials have drawn up guidelines over the years to keep the proceedings safe.
     The evening is lit with shades of green, blue, red and black.

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