Bonfires on the levee get permits to continue tradition

Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 5:04pm

BATON ROUGE, LA (FOX44) — It’s Christmas Eve, but one Louisiana Eve tradition was close to being canceled. Fortunately, the permits were granted today, so the event will go on.

More than a hundred towering bonfires will light the way, as they have every year for at least a century.

Marcia Gaudet is an English professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She said the lighting of bonfires on Christmas Eve is a European tradition that the French brought to Louisiana at the end of the 19th century, perhaps earlier.

"The Cajuns didn't have bonfires in Nova Scotia," she said, refering to the French-speaking people who migrated to Louisiana from the eastern seaboard of Canada in the mid- to late-18th century.

Fears were high the night before Christmas Eve that potential high winds and bad weather would force the bonfires in St. James and St. John Parish to be torn down. Those who had already built their traditional tower said they were planning on continuing the tradition, even if the permits were not granted.

"Regardless of the weather, this is the holidays, good old tradition,” Tavares Bush, one of the bonfire builders, explained. “This will bring us together. There is no weather that will stop this.”

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