What qualifies as a "bonfire"?

My wife and I disagree on this. She: millennial, grew up in outstate Minnesota, from Norwegian stock. Me: GenXer, grew up in a college town in North Carolina (but my parents were transplants from NYC and Denver).

In my opinion, it’s an outdoor fire that’s lit for appearance rather than for a functional purpose like warmth or cooking.

I think some people don’t count a fire as a bonfire unless it’s pretty big. But I’m flexible on that issue and I’ll count a relatively small fire as a bonfire as long as the intent is there.

Anything bigger than a yard waste pile. Doesn’t have to be huge (or tragic) like thisto be a bonfire.

For me, it’s a big-ass fire, like several feet tall, for the purpose of celebration or just burning crap, I guess.

Growing up, yard waste fires were pretty big. For us, a “bonfire” was anything purely recreational that wasn’t in an off-ground container. A grill or those modern, patio fire things are not bonfires, but state campground firepits did count as bonfires.

This is my view. Like there’s a zone at least the size of a big SUV where you can’t stand without immediate and severe injury. My wife says this little tray on her folks’ patio with some kindling in it is a “bonfire”, and I’m like LOL wut?

Go to Google, search ‘Bonfire’ and go to images. Basically if the flames aren’t over your head, it isn’t a bonfire.

Gotta have a pallet in it. Or logs too big for one person to lift.

The phrase which comes to mind to me is “roasting marshmallows over a bonfire”. Such a bonfire is not going to be very large as you wouldn’t be able to get close enough to roast the marshmallows without hurting yourself at a large fire.

Is no one else acquainted with this usage?

I have not heard ‘over a bonfire’ used before, most often ‘campfire’ is used.

A bonfire should feature drinking, dancing around the perimeter and possibly chanting.

Chimera, blondebear, and Gatopescado, agreed. What generation/region are you? And how about those of you who think a smaller fire counts?

I am not very far from Minnesota.

Playing off of this: it must have at least one item in it that isn’t supposed to be burnt as part of its normal life cycle.

The police or fire department needs to have been called by the neighbors. If you burn pallets, they have to be stacked above your head. Anything less is just another fire.

Well, yes, I did have an interesting childhood. Thank you for asking.

Your wife is wrong. That is an ashtray.

A large, controlled outdoor fire that produces intense heat. I don’t have set specifications for “large” or “intense”, but I’d put the threshold somewhere around a fuel stack 4 feet across at the base and 3 feet high in the center, and hot enough in the center to burn bone*.

*I choose bone as an example here for etymological reasons, as “bonfire” is derived literal “bonefires”. People throw all sorts of stuff in bonfires, though, including things that don’t burn readily.

Bonfires are very large. Often several feet tall.

The Order of the Arrow scouts built a 6 ft tall bonfire at the end of Scout Camp. All the scouts were there for the ceremony.

A bonfire can be seen for miles.

A Order of the Arrow Scout ceremony

Google does turn up a few hits like this:

(Not sure which is worse: the wimpy “bonfire” shown if you scroll down, or the insane prices.)

Or this:


Hmmm…detecting a pattern.