Bonfire Country

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.


Due to inclement weather forecast for Christmas Eve, the Lighting of the Bonfires has been rescheduled to December 23rd at 7:00pm.  Contraflow for Bonfire Viewing** Contraflow will be in place on December 23rd, from 630pm to 9pm.  St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office: Traffic flow will be restricted to only one lane heading westbound on LA 44 (River Road) starting at Church Street in Garyville and ending at LA 54 in Garyville. All traffic heading eastbound on LA 44 will travel northbound (towards Airline Highway) on LA 54. “We feel this route will increase safety and traffic flow,” Sheriff Tregre said. “People planning to attend this event should arrive early, refrain from parking on major surface streets, and use caution when walking along River Road.”  St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office: The one-way traffic route begins at LA 3213 and continues north along LA 44 (River Road). Traffic will travel north along LA 44 in the northbound lane of travel with one way traffic ending at LA 642. The southbound lane of LA 44 between the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and LA 642 will be reserved for emergency vehicles only.

2023 Bonfire Season
December 01-23
Festival of the Bonfires
December 08-10
Bonfires on the Levee
December 23
The Bonfires on the Levee Story

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
Events and Schedules

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.  This year, due to inclement weather forecast for Christmas Eve, the Christmas Eve Lighting of the Bonfires has been rescheduled to Saturday, December 23rd at 7:00 p.m.


Enjoy good food, good music and good times with the entire family at the Festival of the Bonfires in the town of Lutcher.


Visit the Bonfire Country mascot, Saint—a massive wooden alligator that celebrates the history and traditions of 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.


Visit the St. James Parish Welcome Center to find information about the area, events, and activities.


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!


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!

Preserve a Proud Tradition

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

Start Planning. PICK AN ITINERARY.

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.


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New Orleans PLANTATIONS Country

Explore the 10 historic estates in the River Parishes of Louisiana and discover the stories rooted in their past.

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New Orleans SWAMP Country

Create memories learning the folklore of our swamps and viewing gators in their natural habitat.

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Andouille was created here, so get out and try the local smokehouses that each have their own version of the "best".

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The region out here is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and find adventure.

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Lac Des Allmands

Famous for catfish, Lac Des Allemands is a haven for outdoor sportsmen.

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Enjoyed around the world, Perique can only be grown and processed out here.

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Cajun and Creole cuisine are as necessary to our culture as the people who make it.

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Tour buses, shuttles and local airports are all transportation options for the River Parishes.

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Louisiana's River Parishes offers a wide range of lodging options from rustic and quaint to upscale and luxurious.

STILL Have Questions? Drop us a line AND REQUEST A VISITORS GUIDE.