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American Routes Shortcuts: Xmas Bonfires

Xmas Bonfires
American Routes

Each December 24th, along the Mississippi River above New Orleans, families gather around massive bonfires–some shaped as log cabins or animals–to light the way for Santa Claus or Papa Noel. It’s a holiday tradition that goes back to colonial times along what is now called the Côte des Allemands, the German Coast. I caught up with CJ and his young son CJ Jr. who were tending to a big bonfire on the levee in Lutcher, LA.

CJ: You know, I do it for my son. We’ve doing it for years up here. It’s tradition. It’s all about having fun; we light Papa Noel’s way. Ask little man, he loves this.

Nick Spitzer: So CJ, tell me about what you did to help your daddy on this one.

CJ Jr.: We measured the wood.

NS: And then what? What did you do after you measured that wood?

CJ Jr.: We got the chainsaw.

NS: Oh you got out the chainsaw, you’ve got to be the first five year old running a chainsaw around here I bet.

CJ Jr.: Yes!

NS: Whoa! Sparks! That happened fast folks. Just tell us what just happened.

CJ: It came down, we had a water oak in the middle, all the way around the outside to let it fall in the middle, and that’s what happens. You come up here tomorrow after you do Christmas with the kids and all that, and you push in logs and do what you got to do. But I mean we’re gonna burn another one New Years. I got one set right now at 200 foot that we’ll burn New Years. That’s when the party starts. Like I said before, it’s all tradition. We come up here, let the kids play, light fireworks and have a good time, man. I’ll tell you what, right now, I hope my little boy sees Papa Noel tonight.

To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 5 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.