Traditional vs Modern Mardi Gras
OK, we all know what Mardi Gras has evolved into.. beer, beads, balls, parades, King Cake, costumes, getting a day off from work / school to revel in the madness. But here, deep in the heart of south Louisiana, we have another kind of celebration – The Courir de Mardi, or as it is better known, Cajun Mardi Gras. It’s a celebration honored in the prairie-region of Louisiana in such cities as Church Point, Eunice, Mamou, Iota, etc. – the part of the state is better known as Cajun country.
A strong sense of culture and preservation has remained in the area to this day, hence the continuation of the traditional costume.
“It includes shirts, pants and a hat,”The shirts are long-sleeved with lots of frills. Then there is a mask that’s traditionally made out of a screen and painted with some sort of face on it. Then, the hat, or the capuchin, is comical and pointed. If you think of the medieval times, think of the storybook pointed hat and you’ll get the idea of what it’s supposed to look like.
“The whole idea is to hide your identity and that the costume be colorful.”
The costume is worn for the big celebration known as the fete de la quemande, or the “feast of begging”. It’s held on the day before Ash Wednesday as a way of preparing for Lent.
“The idea is that mass riders wearing costume ride on horseback, or some walk, around the countryside and beg for ingredients to make a community gumbo,” Lucius Fontenot, co-owner of Valcour Records, said. “As a way of showing gratitude to the homeowner who donates the ingredients, the riders will dance, sing and play music.”
This is quite different from the full blown alcohol infused celebration of women pulling up their shirts begging for beads in the French Quarter. Both celebrations have their charms, and I guess a lot of it depends on what part of the state you live in! We are proud to be able to celebrate BOTH here in Acadiana.
Check out some of the history and traditions of the Courir de Mardi Gras, and feel free to share with your non Louisiana friends!