We Do Christmas Lights Differently
Bonfires on the Levee, often called Christmas Eve Bonfires by the locals, is a centuries-old holiday tradition just a short drive from New Orleans in Louisiana’s River Parishes. During the weeks that follow Thanksgiving, families and friends come together atop the Mississippi River levees to construct nearly two hundred 20-foot-high wooden bonfires that celebrate and honor the region’s storied past. Parades, festivals and open houses during Bonfire Season build anticipation for the spectacular Bonfires on the Levee on Christmas Eve.
Each year, Bonfires on the Levee is hailed by international newspapers, magazines and television newscasters as one of the most unusual and breathtaking holiday traditions in the world.
This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements, the Lighting of the Bonfires has been canceled and will only be held in small, private settings. We invite you to learn about this amazing tradition, visit us next year, and take a picture with SAINT the Alligator Bonfire!
Where History and Tradition Burn Bright
Depending on who you ask, the story of the Christmas Bonfires can wind and twist like the Mississippi River itself.
A holiday tradition older than any local can remember, it is speculated that Bonfires on the Levee was a celebratory practice brought over by the French-German settlers of Louisiana’s River Parishes in the early 1700s. Some say the bonfires were originally used to guide ships along the river. Some say the enslaved built them at the end of harvest season to celebrate. Still, others claim the fires were used to light the way for the faithful to attend the Midnight Mass.
Ask any of the local kids, however, and they will tell you the bonfires light the way for Papa Nöel (Santa Claus) to find all the good boys and girls of the River Parishes.Plan Your Visit
What You’ll Find in Bonfire Country
There’s really no bad time to visit Louisiana’s River Parishes, but during the weeks leading up to Bonfires on the Levee on Christmas Eve, visitors can immerse themselves in the events and attractions of Bonfire Season.
FESTIVAL OF THE BONFIRES
Enjoy good food, good music and good times with the entire family at the Festival of the Bonfires in the town of Lutcher.
“SAINT” THE ALLIGATOR BONFIRE
Visit the Bonfire Country mascot, Saint—a massive wooden alligator that celebrates the history and traditions of Bonfires on the Levee.
BONFIRES ON THE LEVEE
Take a stroll along the levee to see bonfires being built by local families and friends and find out, firsthand, how far this tradition goes back.
GRAMERCY FIRE DEPARTMENT
Stop by their annual holiday open house to learn more about the bonfire tradition and the amazing people that have kept this tradition alive.
ST. JAMES WELCOME CENTER
Stop by to see a replica of our famous bonfire structures and learn a bit more about all the activities and sights in Louisiana’s River Parishes.
BLOOD, SWEAT, AND BONFIRES
Venture out to historic Garyville and visit the bonfire builders responsible for some of the most unique bonfires in the region. Look for the water tower!
EXPLORING BONFIRE COUNTRY
The best viewing of the bonfires is by car, bike or strolling along the east-bank and west-bank River Roads (La. Highways 44 and 18), just a short distance from New Orleans or Baton Rouge. The largest concentration of bonfires can be found in St. James Parish around the towns of Gramercy, Lutcher and Paulina but don’t forget to cross the River to see several dozen more. Checkout the map above and get exploring!
Learn How to Construct a Bonfire
Over the years, Bonfires have taken on many different shapes. However, the traditional shape of the bonfire is a pyramid or tepee shape. These structures are made up of dry woods, cane reeds, and other materials.Learn More
Become a Certified Bonfire Builder
To ensure safety, bonfires builders are required to secure a permit through the Pontchartrain or Lafourche Basin Levee District(s). For more information about how you can become a Certified Bonfire Builder and help preserve a proud River Parishes tradition email email@example.com.Learn More
Discover Exciting Ways to Explore
Make planning your next vacation to Louisiana's River Parishes easy. Use one of our trip itineraries to get started.
Explore the 10 historic estates in the River Parishes of Louisiana and discover the stories rooted in their past.
Create memories learning the folklore of our swamps and viewing gators in their natural habitat.
Andouille was created here, so get out and try the local smokehouses that each have their own version of the "best".
The region out here is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and find adventure.
Famous for catfish, Lac Des Allemands is a haven for outdoor sportsmen.
Enjoyed around the world, Perique can only be grown and processed out here.
Cajun and Creole cuisine are as necessary to our culture as the people who make it.
Tour buses, shuttles and local airports are all transportation options for the River Parishes.
Louisiana's River Parishes offers a wide range of lodging options from rustic and quaint to upscale and luxurious.