December 14, 2017

It’s Just Not Christmas Until….

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Many beautiful Christmas stories have been written about our Christmas traditions. Each of us has our favorite. I like to think our favorite is the one that most fits our own personal Christmas traditions and memories. It seems that we make the telling, reading or watching of these stories a part of our Christmas tradition. It seems it just isn’t Christmas until we revisit these tales.

My family has traditions of our own. They include decorating the house, having a certain meal, attending "The Singing Christmas Tree" performance at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova TN, visiting the decorated Peabody Hotel in Memphis, and of course spending time with our family.

Over the years I have realized from the Christmas tales of others there are other traditions I have found very interesting. I would enjoy them if only I had time to do so. It seems to me we have become so immersed in our own traditions we have yet to enjoy those others that interest us. One that has always fascinated me is the Christmas Bonfires on the Levee.

On the Great River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is one of the most unusual Christmas Traditions. For some 35 to 40 miles on the Mississippi River levee it is tradition to build and burn on Christmas Eve large bonfires to welcome and show the way to Papa Noel. For 150 years these elaborate bonfires, built to a height of 12 to 30 feet and setting 150 feet apart, come in every shape and form one could imagine have lit the way along the Mississippi River for the delivery of toys for every girl and boy. Over the years these bonfires have developed from a pile of wood most were in a teepee shape into shapes telling the heritage of the river and its people. It’s not uncommon to see bonfires replicating steamboats, plantation homes, Zapp’s potato chip bags or crawfish.

The building of the bonfires has become an event in itself. Accompanied by fireworks, the burning of them would be a spectacular sight for miles and miles. It is easy to see why the 3rd and 4th generations of those from Southeast Louisiana have made this their tradition. I would have to think they would say “It just isn’t Christmas until the Christmas bonfires burn”.

What is your tradition that is a must to bring in Christmas? Please if you would share it with us in the comments below. Enjoy your traditions and Merry Christmas from Southern Writers Magazine!       

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