Cajun Mardi Gras
You may be familiar with the New Orleans-style Mardi Gras, but have you ever danced for a chicken at a Cajun Country Courir de Mardi Gras?
*Mardi Gras 2021 parades and festivities are cancelled or extremely limited. Use this as a guide to plan for your future experience and learn more about Mardi Gras.
When you see the word Cajun in front of just about anything, you know you've found something completely different. That's certainly the case with Cajun Country Mardi Gras! Now, we won’t comment on whether Cajun Country Mardi Gras is better than the carnival-style Mardi Gras that New Orleans is best known for, but it is definitely unique and worth a trip to Acadiana. Feel like dancing for a chicken?
Three Cajun Mardi Gras Traditions
Begging for gumbo ingredients
Traditionally known as Courir de Mardi Gras, festivities occur in towns throughout central Louisiana’s Cajun Country. Rooted in French medieval history and brought to Louisiana in the 19th century, Courir de Mardi Gras has many rituals that come together in a celebration on Fat Tuesday. It's commonly referred to as "the real Mardi Gras."
The main event in a Cajun Country Mardi Gras is the traditional courir or “run” led by the capitaine of the Mardi Gras. Costumed and masked participants on horseback, foot or trailer make their way through the neighborhood performing another ancient ritual: begging. Yes, begging!
Communities throughout Louisiana's central prairies have their own particular take on Courir de Mardi Gras. In general, though, revelers go from house to house singing and dancing for the owners in order to get different ingredients, a communal gumbo to be served later that evening. The last ingredient, and the highlight of the entire celebration, is the chicken.
All attention is on that chicken, so it's a thrill to watch costumed revelers chase after that chicken, the highlight of the communal gumbo. See pictures above!
In addition to the run, you'll see colorful costumes, hear traditional Mardi Gras songs and taste authentic Cajun cooking. Each town’s Courir de Mardi Gras is special. In rural towns and communities like Mamou, Iota, Elton, Church Point, Faquetaigue and Soileau, you’ll find food and events more Cajun than the names of the towns. In Church Point, there is a children’s run held a few days before the traditional Fat Tuesday ride. In Tee-Mamou, the capitaine raises a flag to let Mardi Gras runners know to dismount their trucks and approach the house, chanting a traditional “begging song” called Le chanson de Mardi Gras. This community hosts one of the most remarkable celebrations, which in the past, draws many visitors to events that feature dancing and a separate women’s run on the Saturday preceding Fat Tuesday.
Food and Family Fun
In Eunice, the Mardi Gras season is a week full of events. The family-friendly fun begins with music, crafts and an old-time boucherie (hog butchering) where you can eat just about every Cajun dish your heart desires, from boudin and cracklins to backbone stew. On Mardi Gras day, join the fun downtown while the Courir de Mardi Gras collects the ingredient list for the gumbo. Later that day, catch the parade, do the Cajun two-step or visit Jean Lafitte National Historical Park Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, or cut loose with a little Cajun dance party (called a fais do-do) at Lakeview Park and Beach.
Church Point holds their Annual Courir de Mardi Gras. The family can start the fun at the children's run and downtown parade, then head to the Courir de Mardi Gras, with colorful costumed horseback riders, wagons, buggies and live music. Chase the chickens, catch a greased pig while enjoying traditional gumbo, boudin and more.
Cajun Country Mardi Gras is a must for anyone seeking authentic Louisiana. Make plans now to attend this year's festivities and participate in Courir de Mardi Gras.