Mardi Gras, Costumes & Chicken-Chasin’ [VIDEO]
When you take away all the sparkle and shine of the fancy carnival, Mardi Gras in Cajun country involves colorful characters in costume and a whole lotta chicken chasing!
Mardi Gras involved those of lesser means running from house to house on foot or horseback begging for the ingredients for a community meal, often a gumbo. They had to catch the chicken which involved running. The french word "courir" means "to run;" hence, the phrase courir de mardi gras!
Today's runners wear the traditional costume. The suit is made of colorful cloth, representative of their ancestors use of only the remnants of sacks and feed cloth they had to make their clothing. The tall pointy hats, called capuchons (pronounced "ka-pee-shawns"), were worn to mock those in positions of nobility, as were the masks which were made of wire and decorated garishly.
There's even a traditional chant or song that the runners perform on the day of their quest. It's called "La Chanson de Mardi Gras." While the lyrics may vary slightly from courir to courir, the melody is the same. You can watch one example below!
The group is led by a capitaine who makes sure the rules and traditions are followed. He typically wears a cape, carries a red flag, and leads the group on their quest. As with any Cajun celebration and because Fat Tuesday leads into Ash Wednesday, the adult beverages are free flowing and a raucous time is had by all.
If you and your family would like to see or take part in a traditional Cajun Courir, there are several in South Louisiana over Mardi Gras weekend.