Making a Run For Mardi Gras

Le Capitaine and his Chicken

In 2012, not long after I’d written a thing or two about chickens, a friend from Louisiana emailed a suggestion: “Cher, you want a complete chicken experience, come to Cajun country for Mardi Gras. They dance for chickens over here.”

As proof, he sent along the trailer for Pat Mire’s documentary, Dance for a Chicken. After watching with a certain degree of astonishment, I tucked the link into my bookmarks and resolved to make my own run to the Louisiana prairie to witness the celebrations.

For two years, I remembered the email only after it was too late to make plans, but in 2015 I remembered, and made some inquiries. A few phone calls later, I had the name and address of a Church Point family willing to host a visitor from Texas. I called another friend who lives down on the bayou and said, “Pack your bags. We’ve got chickens waiting for us.”

Traditionally, Courir de Mardi Gras is held on Fat Tuesday, but Church Point holds their celebration on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. After Elton Richard organized the Church Point Courir in 1961, he and Senator Paul Tate of Mamou eventually concluded that each of their towns needed its own party. The time-honored method of a coin toss settled the matter, sending us off to Church Point early on Sunday morning.

As we traveled, the combination of dense fog and deserted roads lent an air of unexpected serenity to the scene. No crowds thronged the route, no music drifted through the air. Only occasional horses and riders, a cluster of horse trailers, or the drooping gold, green, and purple Mardi Gras flags served to suggest festivities yet to come.

The View from an Outdoor Kitchen

Still, as we pulled into the drive and greeted our host, it became apparent that people had been up and about for some time. A few had gone into town to complete last-minute errands before road closures, and children were everywhere, amusing themselves with scooters, tricycles and a trampoline.

The fragrance of a good hen and sausage gumbo filled the air, watched over by a man who clearly knew his way around an outdoor kitchen.

In time, neigbors passed by for a visit…

…and a burst of color appeared through the fog as a traditionally-clad Mardi gras reveler headed for the beer fridge.

Mardi Gras costumes fashioned of colorful fabrics and fabric fringe include a tall, conical hat called a capuchon, and a mask. The homemade masks, traditionally constructed of wire screen, often sport beards, eyebrows, and exaggerated features.

Lucius Fontenot, a founder of Valcour Records, says,

The costumes are similar to those of the Mardi Gras in old France. They were a way of making fun of the aristocracy, and the frilly way they dressed at court. Because [the revelers] were peasants, all the costumes were homemade out of scraps.

Larry Miller, a retired accordian maker from Iota, agrees.

It’s the Mardi Gras of peasants, while New Orleans has the Mardi Gras of royalty. The traditions came over at different times, and in different ships.

Unlike costumed Mardi Gras (when plural and pronouned “grahz,” the phrase refers to participants in the Courir), Le Capitaine and his co-Capitaines ride unmasked. According to Fontenot:

The Capitaine typically is a strong figure of the community — a Sheriff or deputy– and his job is to keep everyone in line. When the Mardi Gras approach the house, the Capitaine approaches the home first, and alone. When the neighbor says it’s okay for the group to approach, the Capitaine waves his flag, and the traditional Mardi Gras song is sung.”
La Danse de Mardi Gras ~ Balfa Brothers recording c. 1964
Les Mardi Gras ça vient de tout partout
Tout l’autour au tour du moyeu
Ça passe un fois par ans

Demander la charité
Quand même si c’est une patate
Une patate et des gratins
Les Mardi Gras sont su’ un grand voyage
Tout l’tour autour du moyeu
Ça passe un fois par ans
Demander la charité
Quand même si c’est une poule maigre
Et trois, quatre coton d’maïs
Capitain, capitain voyage ton flag
Allons su’ l’autr’ voisin
Demander la charité
Pour eux autr’ venir nous r’joindre
Eux autr’ venir nous r’joindre
Ouais au bal pour ce soir
The Mardi Gras come from all around,
all around the center of town.

They come by once per year, asking for charity.
Sometimes it’s a sweet potato, a sweet potato or pork rinds.
The Mardi Gras are on a great journey,
all around the center of town.

They come by once per year, asking for charity.
Sometimes it’s a skinny chicken, or three or four corn cobs.
Captain, captain, wave your flag,
let’s go to another neighbor’s.

Asking for charity for everyone who’ll come join us later,
Everyone who’ll come join us later at the gumbo tonight!

The Capitaines not only maintain order and discipline among the Mardi Gras, wielding a mostly-symbolic whip of braided burlap as needed, they also serve as a liason between the Mardi Gras and the public. There’s no question they can be imposing figures, particularly at first sight.

While a Mardi Gras run may seem chaotic, each Courir has its own code of conduct for participants. Meetings held during the year teach the rituals and songs, but also emphasize the importance of discipline. During the Courir, runners as well as Capitaines monitor one another to ensure safety, if not sobriety. This partial list of rules for the Church Point Courir is instructive (emphases theirs):

Cajun Mardi Gras Tradition requires MEN ONLY on the Mardi Gras Run.
NO GLASS Containers or ice chest allowed. You will be asked to leave if caught with these items.
NO WEAPONS. You will be subject to A Search at any time during the Run.
You Must Stay on Public Roads Until Permission is Given to Go Onto Private Property.
Disobeying the Captain, Co-Captains and Law Officers will Result in being ejected from the Run.
Anyone under 15 years of Age must be accompanied by a Responsible Adult.
Everyone is Required to be Fully Masked [or painted face] and in Costume.
Anyone URINATING in Public will be subject to Arrest.
No PROFANITY or Indecent Exposure will be Tolerated. YOU WILL GO TO JAIL IF CAUGHT.
Anyone Seeming to be Out of Control or TOO Intoxicated will be removed from the Run and Contained.
Yes, Sir

The Capitaines also help with chicken control. As the runners collect one of the prime ingredients for their gumbo, the chickens are added to a traveling pen, recorded, and well guarded. Thievery seems unlikely, but on a day devoted to pranks, anything is possible.

Once the costumes, chickens, Capitaines, and the rest of the crew are gathered into one place, tradition takes over. Wilson Savoy, a member of the Pine Leaf Boys, describes it this way:

The runners go from house to house and ask permission to enter the yard of the home owner. They dance and entertain the owners and in exchange they ask for anything to contribute to the run, usually ingredients to make a gumbo at the end of the day: rice, chickens, sausage, flour.

If a homeowner donates a chicken, tradition dictates that the chicken be alive. That’s where the fun begins. Before the chicken can become a part of the community’s gros gumbo, it has to be caught. Words can’t properly describe what happens next, so I found a little something to help.

After the chickens have been caught and the Courir moves on to the next home, the fun isn’t over. Following behind are the Krewes with their music, art, beer, bead-tossing, and invitations to dance (did I mention beer?). The version of “La Danse de Mardi Gras” popularized by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys is as danceable on a dirt road as at a dancehall or festival.

Allons Danser!
Ne need to put down a drink…
Wouldn’t you grin if the fellow on the right draped some beads around your neck?

For those needing a rest from their dancing or bead-collecting, artwork on the passing parade of buses and wagons offered some delightful interpretations of the day’s primary actors.

Performance art wasn’t neglected. This live chicken (whose black friend seems to have escaped for the moment) rode quite happily atop the LSU bus. Snapping its tether at one point, it was coaxed back and re-attached, apparently unruffled.

In time, riders and wagons supplanted masked and costumed revelers. The slower pace allowed increasing interaction between spectators and participants, as well as time to appreciate the passing horses, donkeys, and the singular-in-every-sense zeedonk.

Occasional pauses in the parade’s forward progress also allowed time for kid-and-horse conversation. Only moments after taking this photo, I watched the little blond girl move over to offer the white horse the attention he clearly craved.

Even the smallest — and most ambivalent — got to experience the excitement of the ride.

As the last group of horses passed by,  children began clearing the ditches of unclaimed beads and we settled in with our gumbo. Remarkably, there was no sense of disappointment at the parade’s end: no let-down, no sense that something had been lost.

That lack of disappointment surely witnesses to the power of the Courir as living tradition. Neither spectacle nor ritual re-enactment, neither a Cajun version of New Orleans celebrations nor a poor, rural imitation of city ways, the Courir embodies customs cherished by Acadian settlers and their descendents for centuries.

While its value as sheer entertainment can’t be denied, its greater importance lies in the opportunity it offers for affirming enduring ties of family and tradition. Parades may end, but heritage is forever.

Soon, this year’s masked and costumed riders will be gone. The beads will have been cleared from the roads, and chickens will forage in peace. Music always will echo through Acadiana while gumbo pots boil, but the extravagance and excess of Mardi Gras slowly will give way to other necessities of life.

Still, once the parties and parades of the season have gone, the beauty of the Courir will remain: a flag of tradition, civility, and commitment to community that waves for us all.

This is an edited version of a post originally published in 2015. Comments always are welcome.

79 thoughts on “Making a Run For Mardi Gras

  1. Wow, the cultural diversity we have in a America is amazing and we should never stop celebrating it. I never could have imagined a chicken run and all those costumes in a 100 years. I’ll bet it was fun to see firsthand. I love Cajun music—used to listen to it often when my husband was alive. Thanks for another fascinating post.

    1. The Courir de Mardi Gras was a complete revelation to me. Even as people flock to New Orleans for a celebration that’s become more stereotypical than traditional, these old, old customs are being maintained by people determined to preserve them: not to mention having a good bit of fun in the process.

      Cajun culture as a whole is as warm and welcoming as the family we spent the day with. I may not attend another Courir, but there’s no shortage of other interesting experiences to be had in Louisiana. Believe me, I have a list.

  2. I thought the rider at the end of the trailer was a faux Lone Ranger.

    Now, we New Englanders are thought of as a sober bunch, typical taciturn Yankees. After watching the videos and seeing your pictures, well some folks know how to party and other, I guess not. I am glad that you and your friend had a fun time. So much interesting culture in the world.

    1. I don’t remember seeing the Lone Ranger with a beer in his hand, but I was only a kid — what did I know?

      It was a wonderfully fun day. For one thing, as rambuctious as people were and as chaotic as the chicken chasing turned out to be, it felt more like a really high-energy family picnic than anything else. I never, ever would take a child to Galveston’s Mardi Gras, but the kids at the Courir were free to run around as they pleased, collecting beads and dancing with the best of them. Besides, any party that ends with gumbo is a winner in my book.

    1. It is an event made for whole families, from the babies to the great-great-grandparents. It’s comfortable, and fun, and like most family events, provides great stories for the whole of the coming year: until next time!

  3. The color! The pageantry! And I am talking about your blog post, not the event. You outdid yourself. What a grand adventure! Thanks…

    In every one of your posts, there is always a sentence that is a gem. This one embedded in a quote.

    The traditions came over at different times, and in different ships.

    It says so much.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. As for those different traditions and “different ships,” unpacking that could — and has — required entire books. Understanding how Acadians became the Cajuns is quite a story all on its own, and their interaction with the existing Louisiana cultures when they arrived there was complicated. But on Mardi Gras? It’s time to party, so as Jim says just below, “Laissez le bon temps rouler!”

    1. What? No exclamation mark at the end of that? This time of year, the exclamation mark isn’t lagniappe, it’s a requirement! Seriously, that probably is the best-known phrase from Louisiana, and with good reason. Those people know how to party.

  4. What a run! One can see the rural or peasant tradition is this Mardi Gras and it is off the beaten path yet just as colorful as any in NO. And it was very interactive. You did a great job of documenting it! Mardi Gras is such a celebration of life and can manifest itself in many traditions, even new ones. Daughter participated in Barefoot Mardi Gras today on Padre Island on the beach.

    1. Everyone wants to get in on the Mardi Gras party, it seems. Still, I think the best celebrations are the ones that remain somewhat rooted in the acknowledgement that, once “Fat Tuesday” is over, Lent begins. In other counties, it’s called Carni-vale — farewell to the flesh — but the connection between feast and fasting are just as real. I think that’s one reason I love the rural Mardi Gras; it hasn’t been commercialized to death, and turned into just another excuse to drink to excess.

      The thought of a Barefoot Mardi Gras is intriguing, I must say. On my way home this afternoon, I passed by a golf cart Mardi Gras at a local watering hole. There must have been a hundred golf carts decorated in traditional Mardi Gras colors, and from the noise level, I’d say the good times were rolling right along!

          1. That is an interesting article. I see from it that Cajun, itself a dialect, has various subdialects.

            While levare may seem new, the past participle of the French cognate gives the levée that’s so familiar in Louisiana. Other related words are lever, levity, and relieve.

  5. Lots of fun, thank you! And I too like that this is the tradition from a different set of people.

    1. It’s a living tradition, not a commercialized extravaganza. Best of all, even though it’s firmly rooted in a particular culture, everyone is welcome to join in the fun, and everyone has a great deal of fun. You don’t even have to shed clothing to get someone to toss beads to you.

    1. I suppose the good news is that no chickens are harmed in the chase, since tradition demands they be brought to the cooks still alive, if exhausted. Once they arrive at the gumbo-making site, of course, all bets are off, but all bets were off when my grandmother caught one in the back yard, too.

      I saw a gathering of Mardi Gras decorated golf carts today and thought of you. I can’t help thinking the same thing’s going on in Port A this weekend — it just seems like something they’d do.

  6. Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys. That name caught my eye on this post. Saw them live in Iowa City years ago. Made such a big impression on me we decided to take some Cajun dance lessons. there is a fun eclectic energy to that music.

    1. Cajun and Zydeco music both are infectious and happy — and eminently danceable. I hope you enjoyed your lessons, and kept up with them. Steve Riley does have a new-ish self-released CD out called Grand Isle. It’s got a bit more of an edge, and touches on some of the changes coming to Cajun country — but it still has that beat.

    1. Well, there’s only one thing to do. Stop by your local Dollar Store, pick up some beads in traditional Mardi Gras colors, and tell that doctor to get you in dancing shape, Cher. I’ll be keeping an eye out; I hope all goes well.

  7. A great post on tradition, family and food. Lots of colour and traditions held dear. May the Mardi Gras last forever. I wonder how this ancient French tradition ended up in Louisiana? I like the origins of the Mardi Gras as making fun by the locals of the aristocracy and their hold on authority and resulting poverty of les peuples.

    Much could be said about the Sydney Mardi Gras which now is called the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. It was held last night in Australia’s Sydney

    Its beginnings dates to 1978 when a march of protest was initiated as a result of harassments and bullying against the gay and lesbian community.

    This from WiKi.
    “A group of more than 500 people gathered on Oxford Street, in a planned street “festival” calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals in employment and housing, an end to police harassment and the repeal of all anti-homosexual laws.[9] The figure rose to around 2,000 as revellers out for the Saturday night at Oxford Street bars and clubs responded to the call “Out of the bars and into the streets!”

    I believe this has now grown to be the world’s biggest and most colourful Mardi Gras. It draws people each year from all over the world which this year included Kyly Minogue. It has become a most significant tourist attraction. It is seen as a Celebration of the Fearless.

    A gumbo pot? One learns all the time. Thanks, Linda.

    1. Actually, the origins of Mardi Gras lie in the Christian tradition of feasting before the Lenten fast. Mardi Gras, or “fat Tuesday,” originally referred to the practice of using up foods like butter (the “fat”) that would be set aside during Lent. Over time, different traditions developed in different cultures, and the feasting turned into some great parties, but the dynamic always was the same. In Latin American, people celebrate Carnival, or carni-vale: a reference to the giving up of meat during Lent.

      Everyone likes a party, of course, and various groups have taken on Mardi Gras in the same way that non-Irish have adopted St. Patrick’s day. There’s not a thing wrong with a Mardi Gras themed party, but I daresay your Mardi Gras is more akin to our commercialized celebrations than to the Courir.

      The history of the Courir is intimately tied to the movement of the Acadians after their expulsion from Nova Scotia and surrounding areas by the British.Eventually, some of them landed in Louisiana, where “Acadians” became known as “Cajuns.” One of the most well-known of Longfellow’s poems, “Evangeline,” tells a story based in those events. It’s a fascinating history that’s been bubbling on the back burner. Maybe this year I’ll get back to it. After all, it was Longfellow’s “Evangeline” that started my blogging career. How’s that for a tease?

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Sheryl. I don’t remember knowing about Mardi Gras until I was somewhat older. When I was young, we called the day Shrove Tuesday, and followed the old English custom of using up all the fattening ingredients in the house before Lent. Since butter, milk, and eggs were involved, the simplest way to use those ingredients was by making pancakes. More often than not churches would have communal pancake suppers. It was a nice tradition.

      We never had pancake races, though. They’ve been happening in England for 500 years, and as far as I can tell, it’s mostly running around and flipping pancakes, but it looks like great fun.

    1. It does help to maintain those bonds. For one thing, the entire year is taken up with education, training, and planning. Just making the costumes can be quite time-consuming. What I’m not sure of is whether there might be “traditional” masks with some history to them. If nothing else, each little town may have its own traditions, just as each cook has his favorite gumbo recipe.

      Speaking of gumbo, until I went to the Courir, I’d never encountered potato salad in gumbo. Apparently, it’s a thing. I hear that in Opelousas they’ll put in sweet potato, while around Crowley it has to be white potato salad, with no eggs or pickles. It was the oddest thing, but it did taste good. You don’t stir in the potato salad. You just put a dollop in on top of your gumbo, and take a spoonful from time to time. Now you know.

    1. When I first discovered the Courir, I was amazed that I’d never heard of it, despite years of living practically next door. I suppose one reason is that the roads aren’t lined with “Come to the Courir!” billboards, and they aren’t taking out ads on television to entice people into their neighborhoods.

      In short, the primary intent isn’t to make money, and while the parades certainly are open to the public, not just any old outsider can wander in and start chasing chickens. In fact, I’ve just gone through my photos of the parade and realized something. There are signs like this one, acknowledging local towns, but I can’t find — or remember — a single sponsorship by a car dealer or beer distributor. In short, they’ve kept the commercialism out, and that’s helped to preserve the tradition.

      1. Love the picture! We have had parades here and what used to be the town gathering on the main street with art, food stands, etc. A lot of fun!! But nowadays, it’s ALL commercial and I haven’t bothered going since! The Courir should remain just as it is!

        1. I suspect the Courir will continue for many years to come. There’s increasing interest in Cajun/French customs and language among the younger generation — a couple of the young men I talked to at the Courir were taking language classes, and speaking it with their children.

  8. What a great post. Louisiana is a very interesting place and I hope to be able to visit there more often. I just saw a Samantha Brown show on LA that included many old traditions.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Louisiana’s one of my favorite places in the world, and I’m hoping to go back this spring or summer. I still have a list of somewhat out-of-the-way places to visit, and there’s an historic old hotel where I’ve stayed several times. It’s got a great front porch and a bayou out back — plus a wonderful owner whose roots in the area are deep. It’s a good combination.

  9. We have a lot of family in Louisiana, and we’ve been to various Mardi Gras celebrations and parades over the years. We prefer the smaller community festivities over New Orleans simply because there is less chaos. But, I think everyone should experience both. Oddly, I had never heard of the Courir. Forrest and I may have to inquire about this with family and see about joining in the fun some year.

    1. I’ve never been to the New Orleans Mardi Gras, but I’ve been to Galveston’s, and it just doesn’t suit me any more. The crowds are too large and suffocating, and “incidents” have become more common. All of the ticketing, security, crowd control and such make it seem anything but a free and easy, pleasurable experience. Maybe if I drank more, I’d not notice such things!

      When I decided I’d like to attend the Courir, I began by calling city hall and asking if there were a place to actually see the chicken run. They put me in touch with a family, and that’s how we worked it out. That’s not so different from the small town I grew up in: someone knew someone, who knew someone, who could make things happen — and make things happen, they did.

    1. What? You, the world traveling, mountain-climbing, bring on the challenges sort? You would have loved it. Between the kind and generous people, the great food, and the undeniably high levels of quirkiness, it was a superb day. Beyond that, it was a good reminder that not all of the (ahem) unusual human customs lie on the other side of the world. Sometimes, they’re just across a state line.

  10. I had no idea! This local rural celebration looks like plenty of fun. growing up my family went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans 3 or 4 times as my parents had friends who lived there and the husband was an artist whose studio was across the street from Pat O’Brian’s in the Quarter so we had front row seats (and a bathroom!). This was back when they still had parades in the Quarter and the night parades were lit with the Flamboes, young black men carrying with poles with 4 or so torches on them and dancing between the floats and the beads they threw were not the plastic crap of now but actual gorgeous glass beads from Czechoslovakia. wish I still had those today.

    1. I can’t imagine them throwing those Czech glass beads. If they still were doing that, I might reconsider my reluctance to take in Mardi Gras in NOLA. As it is, my first trip to New Orleans with my parents was one of the most educational experiences of my life: drinking a first hurricane at Pat O’Brian’s, a trip to Preservation Hall to hear Sweet Emma,, and a side trip to those fabulous cemeteries.

      Your experience sounds magical. Having a spot like that from which to enjoy the festivities would have been a dream — especially with a bathroom.

  11. Colors, chickens, costumes–honestly, it doesn’t get better than that! Thanks for this fun and fascinating look into a wild tradition. Great photos!

    1. It was pure delight. In truth, even the fog didn’t dim anyone’s enjoyment. With all that color around, I’m not sure anyone even noticed the fog. It was especially fun to watch the kids taking care of one another, and being generally helpful. As far as I could tell, no one told them to collect the extra beads and pick up any trash after the parade had passed, but they did it — and still were smiling.

  12. Looks like a colorful celebration and one with which I was unfamiliar. Enjoyed the idea of how it’s the peasants version of Mardi Gras. A lot of history to bind that community together in a fun way.

    1. It was colorful, in every sense of the word — just as Cajun country as a whole and throughout the year is colorful, tasty, and filled with good music. I was introduced to Louisiana as a child, when I visited a great-aunt outside Baton Rouge, learned later of my gr-gr-grandfather’s time in the state during the Civil War, and finally returned myself. The communities there are tightly bound, but open to curious visitors, and pleased as can be to share their culture.

    1. It’s interesting how many roles chickens play in different cultures. Often enough, they end up on the table, but that’s not always the whole story, as the “chicken chase” during the Courir proves. Here in Texas, we have a little game called Chicken **** Bingo which is a different sort of carrying-on, but just as much fun.

    1. I think you’d have a marvelous time, and obviously there would be opportunities galore for you to put your camera to good use. The Courir manages to be both fast-paced and laid back at the same time. It’s quite a trick, but they manage it.

  13. This is totally fascinating to me. (And thanks for the audio/video links!) Wow. Mardi Gras isn’t a big deal up here. We never hear about it, no celebrations, etc. And I always think of the big NOLA do which would be the last thing in the world I would want to experience — too many people, too much way weirdness, too much celebration. But this — this is really special. It feels very indiginous. Very of the people, a real celebration. The costumes are great — everyone works so hard at it to make them so terrific and a chicken run? Fabulous. I feel these are real people, a genuine celebration. And I loved the Mamou Playboys! Thanks, Linda.

    1. While I was reading about the various traditions, I happened across a news report about a woman who makes masks for the Courir. I had to grin — her craft room looks like yours!

      It is a wonderful tradition, and much more to my taste than even our somewhat more subdued Galveston celebration. The last Mardi Gras I attended in Galveston, Fats Domino was the featured act. He played from a balcony in the Strand, and the crush of people made our group too nervous to stay. If one thing had gone wrong, people could have been trampled, so we went on to other things.

      We never celebrated Mardi Gras in Iowa when I was growing up. Our specialty was the pancake supper on the day we called Shrove Tuesday. I suppose there are reasons for that, both cultural and religious. I did smile to see signs in a country restaurant last Sunday for Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers. You could choose between the Lions’ Club, the Catholic Church, and (as I recall) the Presbyterian. Some people may have gone to all three.

  14. Linda, thanks for the audio and visual reminder of what I’m missing by not being down south today!! I remember so many Mardi Gras parades and celebrations — all unique, but all remarkably the same. Of course, it probably helps to imbibe a bit before tackling all the festivities (how else can one do other than sympathize with chickens being chased by masked strangers, ha!)

    1. I noticed that one new rule had been added to the Courir guidelines this year: no underage drinking. To be fair, there was plenty of beer flowing when I was there, but I never saw anyone who clearly had imbibed too much. Maybe the Capitaines already had thrown them in the clink — but I doubt it. Everyone seemed willing to abide by the rules. Besides, it was a family event, and with the old folks sitting around keeping an eye on things, the kids weren’t going to get out of hand. They saved their energy for the chicken chasing.

      Maybe one of these years you can be down here for the festivities again. Wouldn’t that be nice?

  15. Looks like a very colourful festive fun filled rather “strange” occasion. I had to look at it twice to realise that this was indeed in the U.S. as it looked like some thing from “somewhere else” other than the U.S. The costumes sure are cool. I kind of felt bad for the chickens though and am glad that two of them managed to escape!

    Thanks for the interesting read. Interesting to note that in the video the song has the French word maman (mother) in it reflecting as well the French history.


    1. One of the rules is that the chickens have to be caught alive, so the ones that are chased rarely are harmed — at least, until they arrive at the kitchen and are taken in hand by the gumbo makers!

      The pride that Cajuns take in their culture, and the effort they put into preserving it, is quite remarkable. One of the things that’s allowed them to be “in, but not of” the U.S. is a kind of self-chosen cultural isolation. Rather than seeking to commercialize the Courir, as so many festivals do, they refuse things like beer company sponsorships, and continue to make costumes, prepare food, and teach the traditions to the youngsters just as their parents and grandparents did. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

      Of course, Cajun country on any given weekend can be a party. The music is especially wonderful. Here’s the first Cajun song I ever danced to, at a spot called La Poussiere in Breaux Bridge.

  16. Thank you for such a thorough introduction to this tradition – I wish American towns had more traditions like this one – and I hope those that endure won’t be lost – and I hope I’ll get there to see this some day.

    1. That’s a lot of hoping. I have no doubt that whenever you get yourself down here to experience life on the bayou, the traditions will be intact. Bring your camera — and your dancing shoes!

    1. Aren’t they great fun? I had forgotten, until I looked at the photos again, just how foggy it was that day. It’s interesting that the color seemed to shine right through the fog.

  17. How nice to revisit this! I love how you underscore the way in which this comes out of and forms a community, and so is not subject to the “sugar high” of so much entertainment. The stories of the Acadians is a North American tragedy that many don’t know about. Would these folk use French in their day to day lives, or is mostly in song?

    1. Not only do ‘old folks’ use French, schools and independent programs are helping to preserve the language, and many of the younger generations are doing everything from taking classes to developing language apps to regain facility. I don’t know this lady, but I’ve met some Guidrys in my travels, and what could be better proof of a living language than a voicemail message from grandma?.

      “Sugar high” is a perfect description of so much entertainment today. What’s served up on the bayou is much more nourishing.

      1. Oh, thanks! I’m so glad to hear this, since languages communicate worldviews, and we are enriched by them. It’s lovely, this interview with Madame Guidrys!

  18. This was so interesting, and what a colorful tradition. Even the chickens are colorful. The costumes are fabulous!

    1. Of course there are various youtube videos showing the creation of the costumes and masks. It’s a project that goes on throughout the year. As soon as one Courir is over, plans start to be made for the next one — sort of like Christmas. I was surprised how closely the masked dancers and frolickers resemble some of the masked “devils” that still were around when I was in Liberia. See?

  19. I thought I had an idea of what Mardi Gras was about, but this is so much wilder, more colorful, and more fun. It looks like a complete blast. I’ve got an aunt & uncle who play fiddle/banjo/guitar but they stick to “old-time” style, I’m going to see if I can get them to learn some of these tunes, they’re fun!

    1. The wonderful thing about Cajun culture is that the music, the food, and the language go on year round. My favorite of all the groups is the Pine Leaf Boys, who aren’t so well known, but who provided some great music my nights at Whiskey River in Henderson, Louisiana. Whiskey River’s closed now, but the memories and the music linger — especially “Jig Cajin”.

    1. It is fun. Personally, I think a little more fun, and a little more real humor, would do us all good. I don’t even much care if people laugh at me, as long as they’ve found a reason to laugh!

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