They are engineering masterpieces. They are also incredible works of art. They are made of wood. On Christmas Eve all the time, energy, and effort that went into creating them go up in smoke. Well, that's the way the celebration of the traditional Christmas Eve bonfires on the levees along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish are supposed to go.

But this is the year 2020 and nothing is normal and everything is weird.

Parish officials in St. James Parish made the holiday heartbreaking announcement yesterday that out of an overabundance of caution and concern over COVID-19 safety this year the bonfires would stay dark.

The tradition of lighting elaborate bonfires along the Mississippi River has been a long-standing one. Those who are connected say that Papa Noel, that's Santa "if you ain't from around here", uses the light from the bonfires to guide his sleigh across the swamps and bayous of Louisiana. This year, it looks as if Rudolph and his red nose are going to be all that Santa has to guide his deliveries "down the bayou".

St. James Parish officials say their decision to cancel was a difficult one but recent numbers from the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed to the leadership committee that cancelation was the only option. The latest LDH numbers show a positivity rate of 16.9% for St. James Parish. So, a large gathering of people would probably not aid in virus mitigation efforts.

If you've never experienced these amazing bonfires and the incredible structures that are built to support them, then you're missing out on an incredibly unique piece of Louisiana culture and folklore.


As you can see in the video above, these are incredible structures that provide a Louisiana-only aspect of the Christmas Season.  With any luck and some great medical breakthroughs, we should be able to light those fires next year. Let's just hope Papa Noel and Rudolph can find their way in the dark this year. I bet they can.

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