Courir de Mardi Gras - Gastro Obscura

Courir de Mardi Gras

A Cajun tradition that combines costumes, gumbo, and chasing chickens.

Man and animal. A chase, locked in time. Feathers flying everywhere. Wait, what? No, this isn’t the running of the bulls. Potential injuries at this event are limited to a couple of chicken scratches, or a drunken slip in the mud. This is Courir de Mardi Gras.

In the small towns outside of New Orleans, far from the tourist-driven theatrics, Mardi Gras means something very different. The Cajun tradition of Courir de Mardi Gras sees teams of vibrantly costumed (some theatrics remain) individuals going from house to house, calling out for donations of ingredients for gumbo. Led by capitaines who typically guide the procession on horseback, these groups dance and sing in exchange for their food. The running part comes as the homeowners release a live chicken into the crowd, setting off a frenzy of limbs and wings until the bird is captured.

And so the the group progresses, collecting vegetables, rice, meat, and spices for a giant gumbo at the end of a long day. Modern events are more ceremonial, as making gumbo for hundreds of participants is a day-long process and must begin long before the participants have collected all the ingredients. The chase, nonetheless, continues on.

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