Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler/But Not That Way

A courir participant in Soileau. He’s unmasked and wearing a baseball cap (Los Angeles?!). Maybe he’s a capitaine.

To celebrate Fat Tuesday, I’m updating an entry from 2010.

The one place I don’t want to be this Mardi Gras is New Orleans. Not that I don’t love the city with its great food and fabulous music. It’s just that being part of a big drunken, topless party isn’t my idea of fun.

Larry and I visited the year before Katrina. It was January, weeks away from Mardi Gras, and it was still pretty much a drunken mess. We left the hotel one morning just as the city’s super efficient cleaning squad was finishing its work. Boy, was that disgusting! I totally get why the authorities don’t allow glass and metal containers. The discarded plastic overflowing from trash bins and scattered in their general vicinity could have been recycled to supply the city all over again. And that was the cleanest part of the trash.

Added in 2018: I love that the head of public works is a woman and that she’s devised a way to keep all those beads out of the storm drains. Maybe they should be added to the levees.

No N.O. for me during the Mardi Gras party. What I would like to see, though, is a traditional celebration called courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras run – I have no idea how they pronounce “courir”). My relatives on the bayou told me about it some years ago, and it looks like the smaller towns still follow the practice.

The tradition involves men, and recently women and children, wearing costumes and masks to conceal their identity making their way from house to house on horseback. They sing and dance or otherwise entertain the residents. When they are done they beg and perform for an ingredient for the gumbo pot that will feed the town.

Some of the outfits are uncomfortably close to Klan sheets that fell into a dye vat. One web site said the hats were meant to make fun of those worn by noblewomen during medieval times.

Daddy assured me that the Klan was never active in the bayou because most of the population was Catholic – and because the Knights of Columbus told the Klan “If you show up here, we’ll kick your butt,” or words to that effect. Turns out that probably wasn’t true.

It’s interesting that one site distinguishes between the “Cajun” courirs in the first eight locations and the ninth, the “Creole” courir in Soileau.

The best part must be watching the Mardi Gras as they are called chasing chickens around people’s yards. No, make that the second best part. The best part would be eating the resulting gumbo and watching the dancing afterward.

Apparently there are different traditions in more urban Lafayette where the men wore masks but did not beg for food. Rather they followed the practice of New Orleans where the krews stage battles, which are now mock battles but used to involve beaucoup violence. (“Meet me, boys, on the battle front/The Wild Tchopatoulas gonna stomp some rump.”)

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