Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler/But Not That Way

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. And I would love to hear Dr. John, but he’s on tour.

It’s just that being part of a big drunken, topless party isn’t my idea of fun, even if N.O. has bragging rights as the Super Bowl winner, too. It might be OK this year since the daytime temps were in the 50s.

Larry and I visited the city 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.

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

The tradition involves men 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 that will go into the gumbo pot that will feed the town. This site has great courir photos. The outfits are uncomfortably close to Klan robes that fell into a dye vat, but 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 butts,” or words to that effect. One web site said the hats were meant to make fun of the hats worn by noblewomen during medieval times.

This courir suit is less threatening – looks more like modified harlequin garb.

And here’s a terrific Mardi Gras horse — wonder what he thinks about his punk pink mane.

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

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.”)

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.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, old style.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: