Part of why I love to travel, is learning about culture. I especially love to learn about the uniqueness that Louisiana, particularly, south Louisiana, has to offer.
I set out to find a Cajun French speaking, Mardi Gras'er to teach our kids about the history of rural Mardi Gras. Through social media, I was connected with Mrs. Jackie Miller from Iota, La.
I gave her a call. Set up a date/ time and anxiously awaited the day we would learn of the traditions surrounding Mardi Gras.
We had families from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas. Two places that celebrate this holiday quite differently than what you will find in Tee Mamou.
Mrs Jackie greeted me with open arms. She was ready for us with tables, supplies and bowls of water--just in case one of us burned our finger tips with the glue guns ;)
She began the session with the history of the Tee Mamou Mardi Gras and ended it with traditional mask-making and of course a group picture!
Mrs. Miller explained that the tradition comes from Europe quite some time ago. Tradition has it that peasants would dress up in extravagant costumes begging for food from the wealthy. Costumes were made so that faces were covered up, in order to hide their identity. After long winters, the peasants often were short on food. The peasants would literally run from house to house putting on a show, hoping for the wealthy to give them a bit of food to eat .
Today, you will find very similar traditions.
Tee Mamou Mardi Gras is the only groups to have been continuously running since the Acadians were exhiled to south Louisiana. Mrs Jackie's husband, Mr. Miller, shared that back during WWII, many of the groups in the area had to stop their traditions because the men were fighting in the war. In Acadia Parish, rice was farmed, which was a staple for the soldiers out in the Pacific, so the government allowed one son from each farm to stay behind and farm the rice. This allowed the tradition to continue as it was only men who would run Mardi Gras.
Now, you will find that women, children and men all participate in the running of Mardi Gras, however, Mardi Gras day is reserved for the men only. Women typically run on the Saturday prior and the children on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday!
Just like the peasants once did, the runners, dress in costume, from head to toe, run from one house to the next begging for food. The runners chase chickens that will be used to make a huge gumbo for all to enjoy!
Mrs. Miller wrote a children's book, " Why Run Mardi Gras?" We all left with our own signed, personal copy!
Check out the YouTube videos of La danse de Mardi Gras in Cajun French:
As a homeschooling mom who found that her children thrived more when living life together instead of being stuck in a classroom 8 hours a day, I turned my love of travel and educating my kids into the perfect mix: unschooling.