Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mardi Gras 101

What you are about to see (& learn) may make you never want to come back and visit me again...{ I hope that doesn't happen }.  However if you choose to leave right now, please take the flowers below with you as my gift for stopping by and I hope to see you again soon.


If you want to learn a little bit about the Cajun Mardi Gras history in rural Louisiana, then kick back and I'll be proud to share my Cajun heritage with you.

FYI: Our Cajun Mardi Gras is nothing like Mardi Gras in the Big Easy ~

We'll start from the beginning as I share a few photos from 2006:  {I have no idea where my pictures are of 2007 & 2008...I don't remember if I was sober enough to have taken any!}

It's still not to late to quit reading ~ you can still take the flowers and go if you like.      oh, you are staying?     Great!    Let's begin!

Cajun Mardi Gras 101

  • Mardi Gras means FAT TUESDAY
  • It is celebrated on Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday
  • The Courir de Mardi Gras means "the run of the Mardi Gras" consisting of those who run in traditional Mardi Gras costume accompanied by the Capitaine which is the man (or men) on horseback who leads the way through the country roads and keeps everyone behaved. {or attempts to for the most part, the sheriff is there for back up, really.}

mardi gras start captitane (2)

Note: I live on 6 acres and this is my frontage property of about 320 feet lined in garland to try and keep the horses out of my yard.  Riders would stop to use the bathroom behind a tree, bush,  vehicle or whatever they could find...not a pretty sight.

  • The Courir de Mardi Gras in my hometown averages about 2500 riders. They are men and women dressed in traditional costume which is usually hand made of scraps such as potato or rice sacks, scrap material, fringe...& even the well collected Crown Royal bags as seen below. There are no rules.

mardi gras donkey (2)

  • Some wear the traditional Capuchon which is a tall pointed hat with a mask in order to be disguised.

mardi gras dressed (3)

  • Riders will wake up very early the morning of Mardi Gras and meet downtown riding their beautiful horses (& sometimes donkeys as seen above) and decorated trailers.

mardi gras tonya & chris (2)

  • Breakfast is provided by local merchants consisting of  'all you can eat' boudin which is a sausage stuffed with pork meat, liver, rice, onions, parsley and seasoning...lots of seasoning! {See why they stop anywhere to use the bathroom ???} They are also supplied with 'all you can drink' beer, absolutely no limit.  The run starts at 8a and wanders through the country roads of the outer city limits.

mardi gras float1 (3)

  • Trailers carry live bands and portable restrooms. So think about it, with almost 2500 people in the run, trying to catch a moving portable restroom is a lot harder than catching a bush on the side of the road.
  • When passing through the country, they knock on doors and beg the locals for charite' which is French for charity. They beg for items needed to make the evening gumbo. A gumbo is a spicy chicken & sausage stew of thinner water.  Offerings are chickens, eggs, onions, and cinq cent meaning nickels (5 cents) to buy whatever they don't have for the gumbo at the end of run.

mardi gras dressed (4)

  • Since the Mardi Gras runners are beggers in disguise, the locals want to get their charity's worth in amusement so they throw the chickens loose and the runners have to chase them and catch them. This is where the phrase 'chasing of the chickens' was born.
  • They will finally make their way back into town where the township is waiting to cheer them on and help them make their gumbo after a long day's run. Some do not make it back to town due to exhaustion or intoxication...or both. Live bands are playing and everyone is anxiously awaiting to catch those infamous Mardi Gras beads. Now let me tell you, in the country there is no need for lifting shirts to be thrown a bead. Everyone is VERY generous with their beads!!!! Matter of fact, don't be surprised if you get knocked in the head by a huge clump of beads at any given moment!

mardi gras float (2)

Now don't they look generous??? I told you so.

  • The festivities of partying, drinking, dancing, and eating run through the evening until midnight. At midnight, Lenten season begins and Mardi Gras is officially over.  Well, almost over. It's the same old story the next morning "oh, I gave up drinking for Lent" or if it was really bad... "oh, I'll never drink again in my life" or if they were caught on film perhaps a little indecent... "I ain't running Mardi Gras next year" etc. etc. 

Overall, there is much fun to be had by the young and the old. This is one day of the year that everyone can let loose and carry on the Cajun traditions of long ago. Not so bad right?

As for my family and my friends coming in from out of town, we will not run Mardi Gras. Instead, we will be sitting outside, frying chicken or cooking a huge gumbo.  We will surely be watching the Courir de Mardi Gras pass by and maybe even give a nickel or two. And, you can bet that I'll be catching some beads with the opposite hand that's holding my drink!

I will leave you with one question to complete your course in Cajun Mardi Gras 101:

When are you coming to celebrate Mardi Gras in Cajun Country?

{there is no wrong answer of course! Believe me when I say this, it's not for everyone!}


Frippery said...

Ok Jodie, I am leaving another comment, Blogger wasn't working for some reason, I got an error. I love this post. I am going to share it with my dinner club buddies at our Mardi Gras dinner. We will toast you with a Bourbon Street Slush. I'll send you the recipe. Wish me luck on the roux for my gumbo. Hugs, Pam

~~Vintage Girl At Heart~~ said...

Oh I wanna come...looks like a hoot and soooo much fun!!! Which one are you among the revelers????

sepiadreams said...

Thanks for the history lesson-Great blog!!! Hugzzz...Tiina...

Geralyn Gray said...

Sounds great--it is on our wish list. Would have loved to do this with the kids-----no no!!! That's why we are waiting---my son would really love this, though. We are waiting until they are older or my husband and I will just go ourselves-----someday.

Tina said...

I wanna come!!!

trash talk said...

OK girl, where do I sign up? I want to be a Cajun when I grow up. These are my people.
That looks like so much fun...C.D. and I have tried to get down for Mardi Gras, but I think you have to book like 10 yrs. into the furure. I may just have to come and join in y'alls next year! Let the good times roll(I don't speak french!). Debbie

Robyn said...

WOW what a fun time!
We just go to a house party-this sounds like sooo much fun.