The 2023 Cajun Country Mardi Gras in Lafayette, Lousiana dates are from Friday, February 17 until Mardi Gras Day which is on Tuesday, February 21, 2023. The Cajun tradition of Courir de Mardi Gras falls on February 21, 2023, and below is what you need to know.
If you plan to visit Lafayette for Cajun Country Mardi Gras season, there are numerous parades, exceptionally delicious traditional foods, their uniquely traditional boucherie as well as the Cajun tradition of Courir de Mardi Gras.
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Courir de Mardi Gras in Lafayette
About 10 miles outside of downtown Lafayette in the beautiful Acadiana countryside, you’ll find Mardi Gras celebrated in a whole different way and it dates back centuries.
History of the Rural Mardi Gras Run
Mardi Gras falls every year on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of the Catholic tradition of Lent.
Fat Tuesday is considered to be the last day of feasting on tasty foods, specifically meats and alcohol, that are all forbidden during the season of Lent.
The literal translation of ‘Courir de Mardi Gras’ in French is Mardi Gras Run.
The Cajun courirs de Mardi Gras date back to medieval France where disguised revelers dressed in mocking costumes would visit homes on Mardi Gras day. The masked revelers would perform skits and songs while they begged for various ingredients.
Courir de Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)
The Cajun Mardi Gras, traditionally known as Courir de Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday Run, has been a staple in Southern Louisiana for hundreds of years.
Lafayette, Louisiana is the perfect place to experience this Cajun tradition.
The Courir de Mardi Gras is a traditional Mardi Gras event held in many Cajun and Creole communities of French Louisiana on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. This Cajun carnival has its roots in French medieval society.
Courir de Mardi Gras is a Mardi Gras tradition where participants dress up and wear masks, some walk, some ride horses, and some jump on the back of a truck pulling a flatbed through the streets (mostly in rural areas).
The participants, who are called runners, knock on doors and go from house to house singing, dancing, and asking for food donations in order to make gumbo.
It’s customary for participating houses to throw a live chicken out into the streets or a field as “food,” and the runners must try to catch it. At the end of the day, the entire community gathers to make and eat gumbo.
Prarie de Femmes Courir de Mardi Gras
These Courir de Mardi Gras events are sometimes only open to a community, while others are open to the public with a donation to join in the celebration and tradition. I attended the Prarie de Femmes Courir de Mardi Gras.
After arriving at the meeting point, le Capitaine (the captain) taught us la chanson de mardi gras (Mardi Gras song), the rules of the traditional Courir de mardi gras.
La Capitaine led our large group all dressed in colorful costumes down a dirt path, through muddy fields and on an adventure. This was not a quick walk, this was an adventure. There were trucks with flatbeds with full bands playing live music.
There is even a port-a-potty hitched to a trailer for the runners to use, which is useful as many have flasks or even a cooler or beer along for the adventure.
Along the way, people dance and sing “La Chanson de Mardi Gras,” and other Mardi Gras songs.
Most importantly, everyone who attends the annual Courir de mardi gras is ready to ‘play’.
Playing means, being a trickster at times. It might mean stomping through mud puddles and getting others dirty. It might mean running into the woods and chasing each other. It’s freedom to have fun!
You may have noticed by some of the photos, this is an event for the whole family. Even those with babies and toddlers, have them in costume!
The Chicken Run
Part of this particular Mardi Gras Celebration is gathering ingredients along the way but also catching the chicken for the gumbo.
A good way into our walk, we were led onto a field by La Capitaine, where several others on horses began the ceremony to release the live chicken, which would then need to be caught by hand and known at the chicken run.
This is an integral part of making the large communal gumbo that is part of this celebration.
What to Wear
If you attend a Courir du Mardi Gras run, you’ll want to come in fun, colorful clothing. This is a celebration where many people dress opposite the gender they identify with. Many of the locals have an outfit they made that they wear each year as a tradition. Cone or conical hats are worn by many and these to signify a dunce’s cap.
Masks are important! Hundreds of years ago, people wore masks to be able to mingle outside their class and keep their reputation untarnished. Today, wearing a mask keeps in the tradition of the mystery of the South Louisiana Mardi Gras.
The unique and handmade aspect of the costumes is part of the good time!
If you are interested in learning about Cajun culture, participating in Mardi Gras in Lafayette is a true glimpse into the food, tradition, and history.