Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Carnival Fun in Cajun/Creole Country

    And you thought the holidays were over? In Lafayette and surrounding areas, the fun keeps on going.
    Jan. 6 begins the Carnival season in Cajun and Creole Country, the 12th Night of Christmas, or Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. The season of Carnival continues until Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 12.
    In a sense, it’s a religious holiday, created in Europe and continued in Catholic South Louisiana.
    “The Catholic Church licensed Carnival, which means ‘farewell to flesh,’ as a period of feasting before the fasting of Lent,” writes Arthur Hardy in his annual “Mardi Gras Guide.” “The Church also established the set date for the start of the Carnival season — Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany — and the fluctuating date of Mardi Gras.”
    We celebrate the Epiphany by enjoying King Cakes with tiny babies inside — the person who gets the baby in their piece must host the next king cake and so it goes until Mardi Gras day! Carnival organizations called krewes host balls during the Carnival season with royalty and revelry, then parade through the streets throwing beads and trinkets. There’s even a krewe for canines, the Krewe des Chiens Parade for Dogs!
    Unique to Cajun and Creole Country is the ancient Carnival tradition of courirs, where costumed men and women on horseback travel the countryside to beg residents for ingredients to a gumbo, usually with a musical band and onlookers following behind. This tradition dates back to medieval France, including the costumes that mimic the educated and those in power. Once the courir arrives in town, a communal gumbo is cooked and enjoyed and usually there is lots of great music and dancing.
    Carnival and Mardi Gras in Lafayette is more appropriate for families, a safer and more relaxed version of the revelry found in New Orleans. Lafayette also offers Le Festival de Mardi Gras à Lafayette with rides and live music that occurs Feb. 8-12 at Cajun Field. Parking for RVs is available here as well and the parades roll right through the festival!
    For a complete schedule of activities, parade route map and answers to every question you might have about Carnival and Mardi Gras in Cajun and Creole Country, visit

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