First Person: Why we build bonfires on the levees

River Parishes tradition is passed on through generations


Noah Trepagnier, Sports Editor

The bonfires in Louisiana are a huge tradition dating back to the 1880s. Residents of St. John and St. James parishes build the bonfires on the levee and everyone burns them on Christmas Eve. It is said that they are lit to lead Santa to the south so he doesn’t forget to give presents to the Cajuns.

Most people are familiar with the bonfires in St. James Parish. My friends and I have been making a bonfire on the top of the levee across from St. Peter’s Church in Reserve. in St. John the Baptist Parish. There are quite a few this year. 

We are building a 6-pole bonfire, which will resemble a teepee when it is done.  It’s about 15 feet high and as thick as a Silverado at the bottom. The hardest part of making it was getting the poles up on the middle.

Scott White, Caden Millet, Dane Delaneuville, Brennan Maus  and I are big guys who play football, but picking up those 15 -foot long logs was definitely a struggle. We get the wood from the woods in Reserve and have to haul them up the levee on a trailer. The funnest part of building it is splitting the wood to fill it up. Brennan and Dane have been going up there almost every day to chop wood and build the bonfire. 

This is only the second bonfire I have helped build. I can’t wait to light it on Christmas Eve. Seeing it all lit up is a great sense of accomplishment. This one will be great because it is seven feet taller than the one we built last year.

I love being a part of this tradition and carrying it on. I hope it’s something I can pass on to my children someday.


Building bonfires on the levee is a River Parishes tradition.