For an “Only in Louisiana” holiday experience, take a 30 to 45-minute drive west of New Orleans toward Baton Rouge along the River, and you’ll stumble upon the Christmas Bonfires lining the levee, intended to help Santa find his way. Sure, there are probably other places in the world with Christmas bonfires, but the overall experience here during the holidays is truly one of a kind. Our favorites are the Festival of Bonfires and the Christmas Eve Bonfires. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to see how folks outside the city celebrate, this is your chance. Bring your loved ones, along with a cooler, some snacks, a few blankets and chairs, and you’re all set for Yuletide by the fireside. ~ Clandestine “In Louisiana, Rudolph and the big guy, Pere Noel, get a little guidance as they make their stops at all the homes of good little boys and girls. Throughout the holiday season, bonfires (some of them thirty feet tall) illuminate the sky for Santa Claus and his krewe of merry reindeer. It’s a tradition dating back all the way to the early 18th century, making it one of the oldest Christmas customs in the United States. Early European settlers brought the tradition here, and it still continues today with more than one hundred bonfires lit along the Mississippi River in small towns like Garyville and Reserve. There are also stories of bonfires being an excuse for younger members of the family to keep water inlets and swamps clean of washed up debris and driftwood so that boats could travel them safely. Since the beginning, whole families would build the bonfires together, many of them starting as early as Thanksgiving break. Traditionally, they were built in the form of a teepee. Now, it’s just as common to build square pyres (similar to a fort). In recent years, structures have been built in the shape of ships, log cabins, and even the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Families come together, set up lawn chairs around the fires, eat gumbo, and watch homemade firework shows. Along the river, all types of boats – from tiny paddleboats to large sternwheelers – cruise along the Mississippi to see this unforgettable light show. Festival of the Bonfires A short drive upriver is the Festival of the Bonfires. It’s a Cajun style celebration of Christmas in Lutcher. There’s food, crafts, carnival rides, live entertainment, and of course, a bonfire lighting every night.  It takes place December 9th to 11th at the Lutcher Recreational Park (Lutcher Avenue – LA Highway 3193, Lutcher, LA 70071). Christmas Eve Bonfires The biggest night of bonfire festivities is Christmas Eve. Thousands of bonfires will be lit that night along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Some of the best places to see the bonfires are along the river are in Garyville, Gramercy, Lutcher, Paulina, and Reserve (along Highway 44). The bonfires are lit at 7 p.m. and joined by fireworks in the air above the River. Jump on the Bonfire Express with Gray Line New Orleans to avoid the hassle of driving, and enjoy door-to-door transportation from the French Quarter to Plantation Country. [Note: If Christmas Eve is wet, the tradition then becomes New Year’s Eve bonfires].” Content above via Christmas Bonfires Along The Levees | Experience New OrleansCraving making memories, but don’t have the time or resources to plan? We customize event and travel experiences in New Orleans all year round for any occasion. Just click here to get started.]]>