Americans have long been excited about the Mardi Gras festival. And if you want to enjoy this festival in the best way, come to Cajun Country, a French-speaking area located in Louisiana, where there is another Mardi Gras filled with pranks.
Mardi in French means Tuesday, Gras is fat or excess. The name of this traditional festival originates from Western countries of Christianity. Most of them have a custom of hoarding food in the house to use for many days. After that, bring them all to enjoy on Tuesday, just before Ash Wednesday, the day that all Christians must be fasting and abstain from meat according to the law.
Gradually, the Mardi Gras festival is no longer a traditional holiday for Christians, but it has become a true festival with massive parades and fun parties. This is considered a very important event in the cultural and spiritual life of people in Cajun Country, Louisiana, United States, taking place around February or March each year. So when traveling to the United States around this time, don’t miss the chance.
Outside a ranch in Eunice, Louisiana, residents gathered in eager mood. Despite the bustling Carnival atmosphere in New Orleans, about three hours away by car, the people here have a way to welcome their own Mardi Gras, which is to chase chickens.
This festival has a slightly longer common name, Courir de Mardi Gras. It is held annually in southern Lousiana, according to the Cajun tradition, also on Fat Tuesday. According to the legend of the French, in the Middle Ages, the poor would disguise themselves in masks and straw hats called capuchons. They performed excitedly in exchange for food on the holiday.
This Madi Gras festival has a deeper connection to the people of Cajun than Christmas. They vary slightly from the original French. With no rewards for beautiful boys, girls, or numerous carnival, Mardi Gras new style in Eunice is more about prankster jokes and uniting people.
Many localities in Cajun still hold Madi Gras in a closed way, preventing women and outsiders from participating. However, some places are more open and organized full of interesting activities, such as Courir de Mardi Gras in Eunice. In 2006, Grammy-winning musician and producer, Joel Savoy and his colleague, Linzay Young, organized the event in parallel with the traditional event, and were attended by nearly 900 people. Since then this festival has become an expected annual activity.
Courir de Mardi Gras is like a big party, and is not for the faint of heart. Traditional activities, in addition to humorous races such as catching chickens, then all together roll a few miles to see who is the first to reach the destination. There was no discrimination, even the cheerleader was adorable: “Hey, Mardi Gras – happy Mardi Gras!”.
At the beginning of the festival, a designated Capitaine will lead. Everyone has to wear colorful costumes, without exception. There will be men and women responsible for the “warning”, in their hands are colorful whips, and anyone who dares to play too much will be punished immediately. Until the official festival begins, people are allowed to rush out like bees to burst their nests and chase chickens in the vast grasslands.
After a few hours of fun, everyone will relax on the grass, and enjoy delicious spicy sausages. Those who are not tired, can participate in climbing a pole, with a chicken on it. The person who gets the chicken will lift it up. Usually the chicken will be safe to go, not fall into the pot like many other Mardi Gras festivals.
Courir de Mardi Gras may be noisy, but it is a meaningful activity for the Cajun culture and community. It usually ends around 2pm, when music and better meals await everyone at the hotel.
Dr Barry Jean Ancelet, a Cajun folklore researcher and author of Capitaine, Voyage Ton Flag, said: “Courir de Mardi Gras is trying to create joy, shake up the old customs long time ago thought it is difficult to replace. I was surprised by the creativity in the organization, as well as the integration of traditional masks into the fun.”