A whole lot of sweat, some cash and a little piece of my heart left behind in southern Louisiana
Story and Photos by Chere Weiss
Last week I took CRR on the road with me to southern Louisiana and Cajun Mardi Gras. This traditional, family friendly celebration has a history that links back to medieval France. The Arcadians came from France, to Nova Scotia and on to Louisiana in the 1800s to escape religious prosecution and find a new home and the freedom to practice their traditions. They landed in southern Louisiana, their influence on music, food, dance and traditions make this part of the country a delicious "gumbo of fun."
Mardi Gras is the weekend celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday and the solemn sacrifices of Lent. In the Catholic tradition, Lent is a time of giving up indulgences, so back in the day they partied until "Fat Tuesday" (so named because it was a time of using up all the fat and rich foods before the fasting began) hiding behind masks so their frolicking could be incognito.
For zydeco and Cajun music and dance enthusiasts like moi, this is the real deal. Other festivals around the country bring the zydeco tribe from all over to dance, but at Cajun Mardi Gras, we get to do it with the locals. I have to admit, there may be no greater compliment for me than to be asked to dance by a Cajun who has lived there all his life and who said I danced like a Cajun girl, even though he had a hard time understanding my accent!
Local parades, trail rides and the Courier and capuchon costumes make this truly unique. In the Courier, local revelers race on horseback through the countryside in traditional pointed caps and bright and raggedy costumes and stop to dance, sing and beg for money or supplies for the community gumbo. Traditionally they would toss a chicken from a rooftop and chase it down to offer it up for the pot. Each day the dances went all day and lasted late into the night. I came home with about 40 hours of dancing under my belt, a sunburn and the realization there is no glass ceiling on fun. Et Toi!
Have you ever been to a Mardi Gras celebration? What about it would you recommend to others and why? Let us know in the comments below...
Chere Weiss (pictured above, left) is one of CRR's online writers. Read more about her by clicking here.