The History of Cajun Mardi Gras
When you see a life-sized chicken on horseback, a man dressed up like a pregnant woman, or people costumed in the traditional colors of purple, green and gold, with multiple strands of beads, it must be Mardi Gras time!
Carnival season originated with the Romans, and comprises the time between Christmas and Lent during which they indulged in food and drink, knowing that Lenten fasting would soon come. Mardi Gras, also known as "Fat Tuesday," or "Shrove Tuesday," falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, and is the last day to indulge in food and revelry before making sacrifices for Lent. The actual date depends on the date of Easter. This year Mardi Gras is on February 8th.
Just as New Orleans is known the world over for its celebration of Mardi Gras, the Cajun culture is also known for its contribution to the festive nature of this all-important pre-Lenten holiday, but they have their own style of celebration.
Mardi Gras is a chance to break away from the usual daily grind, and let your hair down to celebrate without judgement. The Cajuns' enjoyment of Mardi Gras is no less festive than that of their cousins in New Orleans. There is music, feasting, costumes, dancing, parades and--unique to Cajun Country, the "Courir de Mardi Gras," or Mardi Gras Runs.
Mardi Gras in Lafayette
The Lafayette Mardi Gras has grown to become the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana. Here you can celebrate Mardi Gras with parades and special events. Le Festival de Mardi Gras à Lafayette, held Mardi Gras weekend, features rides and games on the carnival midway, live bands on the sound stage, and a prime spot for parade viewing. The parades also roll through downtown Lafayette, where you can participate in a costume contest and dance in the streets to live Cajun and Zydeco music on the day of Mardi Gras.
For specific information on the Mardi Gras schedule in Lafayette, click on:
Courir de Mardi Gras
The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras run) is Cajun Country's traditional rural celebration dating back to the earliest days of settlement. With its roots grounded firmly in the medieval tradition of ceremonial begging, bands of masked and costumed horseback riders roam the countryside "begging" for ingredients for their communal gumbo. "Le Capitaine," a caped but unmasked captain, leads the riders from house to house where they dance and sing for donations such as chicken, sausage, rice, and onions to be used in the gumbo. The day's festivities end with a fais-do-do (dance) and lots of gumbo for Mardi Gras revelers. There are dozens of Courirs des Mardi Gras in the towns and villages surrounding Lafayette and some of them can make arrangements for visitors to participate in the run.
While there is much teasing, with the runners pretending to take something from the homeowner, or bending down and untying the shoes of the homeowner, this "no-holes barred" celebration in the spirit of utter abandonment is also all in fun, and considered a celebration for the entire family.
For authentic Cajun Mardi Gras recipes, see:
For information, and links to recipes, on Creole Mardi Gras in the Big Easy, see