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Every year, over one hundred 30 foot plus tall bonfire structures are built of wood, firecrackers, and occasionally bamboo along the Mississippi River levee near the town of Lutcher, Louisiana. These bonfires are laced with kerosene or lighter fluid, then all are ignited simultaneously at 7 p.m. US Central Standard Time to welcome the arrival of Papa Noel on Christmas Eve.
The bonfires have been explained as long ago before the Levee's were built, to help friends of the family find the inlets or slips coming off the river to the homes of those they wanted to visit on Christmas Eve. But more likely a good way to encourage the children to help keep the inlet clear of the continuous build-up of washed up debris and driftwood.
Today, each family or street of families comes together and starts building usually the Thanksgiving break from school. They have limits now as to size and construction due to mishaps in the past. But Christmas Eve if it is not a “Cajun Snowstorm” is enjoyed with a bonfire, pot of gumbo, fireworks, and a lawn-chair. All are welcome to join the merriment, now even special sternwheelers, paddleboats, or riverboats offer bonfire cruises down the Mississippi River.
It is a Christmas Eve tradition, unless it rains, then it is promptly changed to a New Year's Eve tradition. You will always see the displayed pirogue with Papa Noel being pulled by his special alligators, led by Alphonse.
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