Mardi Gras weekend is finally here! As you may already know, the celebrations began on the Epiphany and have culminated into a last celebration before Ash Wednesday when the Lenten season begins. Of course everyone is familiar with the urban Mardi Gras traditions of parades, beads, and King Cake. But many of you, our dear Tony Chachere’s fans from all over the world, may not actually know the true Mardi Gras traditions of Southern Louisiana (unless, of course, you are from here).
The Courir de Mardi Gras, literally meaning Fat Tuesday Run, is a rural Mardi Gras event held in many Cajun communities all over south Louisiana. This particular celebration is based upon early begging rituals, specifically the fête de la quémande (“feast of begging”) of Medieval France. During Courir, participants dress in elaborate and anonymous costumes to eat and drink heavily, and roam the countryside visiting households to perform and beg for offerings for the evening’s gumbo. The disguised revelers typically take on a role or character they wish to play, usually to make fun of themselves or social conventions. The disguises also serve to protect their identities and consists of screen masks, capuchons, and fringe costumes. The most notable character, Le Capitaine, rides on horseback wearing a cape and waving a flag to lead the mardi gras on the route. He and his co-capitaines explain the rules and traditions that must be followed and are to approach the homes along the route to ask permission to enter the property. Traditions vary in each community, some more strict than others prohibiting women from running, and with variation in transportation between horseback, trailers, and foot. Once on the property, in true Mardi Gras spirit, the revelers sing and dance and play pranks while trying to avoid, or many times provoke, being whipped by the capitaine.
La Danse de Mardi Gras also varies with each town. This song is sung at each house along the route while dancing and begging for ingredients for the gumbo. Here are a couple of my favorite versions:
Personally, I grew up following my dad on the Courir, watching as the riders came through town after their run. Since he typically ran Church Point or Mamou, my participation was limited to the gumbo and street dance at the end of the day. So this year will be my second year actually participating in the Courir de Mardi Gras, specifically Faquetigue (a very traditional run held in Savoy, La by musicians and friends). Stay tuned for pictures after Tuesday!
Faquetigue, Savoy, La
Happy Mardi Gras everyone! Stay Safe!