Some say the Christmas Eve bonfires along the Mississippi River levee in the parishes of St. James and John the Baptist began more than 200 years ago as a way to light the way for travelers on the river heading to midnight Mass. Others hold that the dozens upon dozens of towering infernos have served as travel beacons, helping Papa Noël, a.k.a. Santa Claus, find his way to southeast Louisiana.
Whichever theory you believe, there’s no question that this unique tradition is a festive way to ring in the holidays each year, as families gather around the 20-foot-tall structures to enjoy food and drink and good company, and tourists come from all around for the spectacle. And, while the lighting of the bonfires is an annual Christmas Eve event, Lutcher’s Festival of the Bonfires offers a way to celebrate the tradition for those who may rather be tucked snug in their beds on Christmas Eve.
It’s Christmas on the River...Cajun style. The festival kicks off three days of music, food and fun. Friday will see a variety of culinary competitions, including the Gumbo Cook-Off, the Potato Salad Showdown and the Bread Pudding Bake-Off, with results announced at 7 p.m. The schedules for Saturday and Sunday include a Junior Gumbo Cook-Off, Breakfast with Santa and a variety of games, events and activities.
Local bands and performers will play continuously throughout the festival and late into the night. Hungry fest-goers will be able to sample entries into the cooking competitions, as well as the standard Louisiana festival fare, such as jambalaya, po-boys and red beans and rice. If the food isn’t fiery enough for you, bring along your favorite TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce flavor to heat up the holiday festivities.
Best of all, each evening at 7 p.m., festival organizers will light an authentic Cajun Christmas Bonfire, so attendees can experience the famous tradition a little early.
For more information, visit www.festivalofthebonfires.org.