Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Two Weeks to Mardi Gras!

Last month, I marked the beginning of the Mardi Gras Season. In that post, it was also suggested that there would be more information here about Mardi Gras traditions. As today marks exactly two weeks until Mardi Gras day, it is time to make good on that promise.

Last time, the famous song La Chanson des Mardi Gras was introduced, and the lyrics were given. This song, in addition to being one of the theme tunes of Mardi Gras, also explains certain Mardi Gras traditions, found in rural Acadiana.

There is a tradition that on Mardi Gras Day (also on other days, close to the main day), 'Les Mardi Gras' will congregate. The name 'Mardi Gras' is given to the participants in the 'Courir de Mardi Gras', or the 'Mardi Gras Run'. The run often begins very early in the morning. The participants are (more or less) under the control of a 'Capitaine', who is in charge.

The role of the Capitaine's is commemorated in the Refrain of La Chanson des Mardi Gras, which (approximately in English) runs thus,

Captain, captain, raise your flag,
Let us go and visit our neighbors.
Captain, captain, raise your flag,
Let us follow it on the way.

As part of the tradition, Les Mardi Gras wear highly decorated and colorful costumes. These costumes are almost always home made and are alleged by some to be based upon parodies of the medieval courtly clothes of Europe. A number of these costumes are illustrated in the following pictures, which were taken in Eunice, Louisiana in 2005 (clicking on an image will let you see a larger version).

As the images make clear, Mardi Gras beads are also an important part of the celebration. The traditional form of transportation is horse back. The horses, in combination with some more costumes are illustrated in the following pictures, also from Eunice. It is worth mentioning that the first picture is of one of the Capitaines.

It is often the case that not all Mardi Gras have access to horses. For this reason, the Mardi Gras also ride on floats, like this one.

The purpose of the run is to go out and collect chickens and rice that will form the basis of a large communal gumbo, that is cooked after the run. Needless to say, Mardi Gras is not a good day to be a chicken! However, the chickens are very important and are often prominently displayed, as is illustrated in the following picture.

This tradition may look curious to outsiders, but it should not be underestimated. It is a great deal of fun. There is also a great deal of good will amongst the crowds. It is common for people to share beads and give strings of beads to complete strangers. People will often also share 'beverages'.

Thus, Mardi Gras is a wonderful, colorful and unique set of traditions. They provide one last major party before the austere rigors of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Laisser les Bon Temps Rouler!

The CP


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Listed on 
BlogShares web stats Site Meter