Today, the bonfires are traditionally lit not long after nightfall on Christmas Eve, weather permitting. Each of the more than 100 structures located along a stretch of levee less than four miles long is doused with flammable liquids, and once the fires are roaring, their towering fames create a stunning glow, paving the way for Cajun Santa to find his way to the communities of Paulina, Gramercy Lutcher, Convent Laplace and all points bordering the river.

Many families maintain the classic traditional tee-pee style bonfire, made with logs. However, some families favor branching out, putting their own creativity on display. Myriads of structures can be found along the levees, including tractors, wagons, tug boats and even a plantation home.

Willow logs are the traditional choice to build the structures, largely because they can be easily claimed along the river batture, ditches and if one is willing in the swamps. Cane reed and bamboo are used on the exterior, with wood burning in the interior of the structure.

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Some families elect to throw fireworks into the fire for added sizzle.

The tee pee shaped pyres will sport anywhere from four to eight sides, with long poles that form the corners. Although structures once towered as high as 40 feet, recent restrictions because of safety concerns have limited their maximum height to 15 feet.

Some lucky visitors are even greeted with bowls of gumbo by some bonfire organizers.

While the adults are frequently awestruck by the elaborate structures, the children are there for one purpose: to make sure Papa Noel is on his way.