The bonfires have been explained as long ago before the Levee's were built, to help friends of the family find the inlets or slips coming off the river to the homes of those they wanted to visit on Christmas Eve. But more likely a good way to encourage the children to help keep the inlet clear of the continuous build-up of washed up debris and driftwood.
Today, each family or street of families comes together and starts building usually the Thanksgiving break from school. They have limits now as to size and construction due to mishaps in the past. But Christmas Eve if its not a “Cajun Snowstorm” is enjoyed with a bonfire, pot of gumbo, fireworks, and a lawn-chair. All are welcome to join the merriment, now even special sternwheelers, paddleboats, or riverboats offer bonfire cruises down the Mississippi River.
It is a Christmas Eve tradition, unless it rains, then it is promptly changed to a New Years Eve tradition. You will always see the displayed pirogue with Papa Noel being pulled by his special alligators, lead by Alphonse.