Cajun Mardi Gras Rider in Eunice, LA!!

Cajun Mardi Gras Rider in Eunice, LA!!

The only place I’d move to if I had to leave New Orleans is Lafayette. I’ve spent many a good time in Lafayette, eating the amazing food, going to the fantastic festivals, hearing the Cajun and Zydeco hybrid bands, and meeting the wonderful people. New Orleans is Creole Louisiana and Lafayette is Cajun Louisiana. They have their own unique Cajun Mardi Gras with one of a kind Cajun traditions.

Courir de Mardi Gras means Mardi Gras Run. The event is held in many Cajun communities on Fat Tuesday.

Barry Ancelet, Cajun historian and head of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Folklore Department, has explained the origin of the Courir as being in rural medieval France: It’s an early springtime renewal and essentially a way for communities to celebrate and find themselves.

Southwest Louisiana shares in this tradition, collecting ingredients for a communal gumbo is the theme behind the run.

Led by a flag-bearing capitaine, this colorful and noisy procession of masked and costumed men on horses and wagons go from house to house in the countryside asking for charity in return for a performance of dancing, acrobatics and buffoonery. The participants are earnestly employed chasing chickens, the most valued offering, and they pride themselves on their ability to collect enough live chickens to feed the entire community free of charge.

One of the most endearing aspects of the historical Courir are the local variations that exist in each major town, such as Mamou, Soileau, Church Point, Basile, Choupic, Gheenes, and Elton, among others.

The rural Mardi Gras celebration is based on early begging rituals, similar to those still celebrated by mummers, wassailers and celebrants of Halloween. As Mardi Gras is the celebration of the final day before Lent, participants and celebrants imbibe and eat heavily, and also dress in specialized costumes, to protect their identities.

 

Rural Louisiana Chicken Chasing!

Rural Louisiana Chicken Chasing!

La Chanson de Mardi Gras, the Mardi Gras song, known in the local Cajun French as La Danse de Mardi Gras and  La Vieille Chanson de Mardi Gras, is a traditional tune sung by the participants, although the exact lyrics vary greatly from town to town. The melody of the traditional folk song is similar to melodies of the Bretons from the northern coast of France. The tune is played in a minor mode not generally found in other Cajun music. This version is sung at by the wonderful Cajun and Alt-Country band Feufollet at the Bluemoon Saloon and Guest House near the Henderson Swamp.

 

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