Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve On the Levee

This clip illustrats an old, seasonal tradition on the Mississippi river in south Louisiana. On Christmas Eve, mostly in the "River Parishes" (St. James, St. John and St. Charles parishes) and on the east side of river, the residents of the small towns and villages along the River build, and then incinerate, elaborate bon-fire structures, preceded and accompanied by lavish feasting, drinking and celebrations. Folks come from MILES around. Gumbo, etouffe, jambalaya, you NAME it! chers...

Depending on who is explaining it, the fires are lit to point the way for Papa Noel (cajun french Santa figure). Others say it is to help guide ships on the river, during December fog in Louisiana, while others say it is to help guide the faithful Catholics to Midnight Mass on Christmas. The probable trueroot of the practices is linked to the Roman Catholic rituals around what's called "la Posada," lighting the way to a room for the so-called Holy Family when they sought shelter, and wound up bunking in a barn.

Whatever the belief, it is still a strong tradition, every year on Christmas eve. The River parishes are located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. When we lived in Baton Rouge, groups of us went every year, to a different village, for the gumbo, beer, and good times. The bonfires can get quite large and really detailed and ALOT of work goes into them.

Ceremonies utilizing fire are universal, these longest nights of the year, nest paw?

So if you're ever in the vicinity, be sure to find a party, and laissez le bon temps rouller, cher...

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