It's the age-old question, "How does Papa Noel know to stop at our house?" While this may be a much beloved story in NOLA, Christmas lovers everywhere will enjoy this amazing holiday tale and festivities surrounding it. This New Orleans Christmas tradition shows "Cajun Santa" the way to everyone's home in NOLA by lighting over 100 huge bonfires along the levee. This popular event is a unique and exciting way to bring in the holidays this year.

When early Cajun settlers were just showing up in Louisiana, they wanted to start their own Christmas traditions. Since they set up camp along the Mississippi River, they were nervous that Santa might crash into the water. The settlers lit bonfires along the levee to guide the Cajun Santa Claus, known as Papa Noel, to their homes.

The Bonfires On The Levee takes place on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) and the bonfires are set ablaze at 7 p.m. The bonfires are along Great River Road in between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

This year there will be over 100 bonfires lit up on Christmas Eve. Most of the bonfires are teepee shaped, some clocking in at over 20 feet tall. There are also some creatively shaped bonfires like rocketships, steamboats and giant pelicans.

Most of the fires can be seen in St. James Parish, including Gramercy, Lutcher, and Paulina. The best way to get there is by car or by taking the Grey Line Bus Tour.

It's said that strangers turn into friends, and friends turn into family while watching the magical burn. You can set up shop wherever you see an empty spot, and if you're lucky, your neighbor might have some great gumbo to share. You can also expect beautiful firework displays, set off by the bonfires themselves.

Not only can you drink booze as the bonfires are burning, there's also a whole festival dedicated to the set up of the bonfires. The Festival of the Bonfires is held at Lutcher Recreational Park on Dec. 13 to 15.

For the festival's 30th year, local musicians Bag of Donuts and Category 6 will be rocking out at the event. Be sure to check out the carnival rides, and, most importantly, the gumbo cook-off. 

If you don't want to leave New Orleans to get into the Christmas spirit, why not check out this Home Alone-Themed Pop-Up Bar in the Lower Garden District or this Krampus-Themed Parade in the Bywater?


Lighting of The Bonfires

Price: Free

When: December 24, 7 p.m.

Address: Along River Road in Lutcher & Gramercy (directions)

Why You Need To Go: Huge bonfires set ablaze, fireworks displays and a Cajun Christmas Tradition you'll never forget.


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