Cajun Culture (from WikiPedia)
Geography had a strong correlation to Cajun lifestyles. Most Cajuns resided in Acadiana, where their descendants are still predominant. Cajun populations today are found also in the area southwest of New Orleans and scattered in areas adjacent to the French Louisiana region, such as to the north in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Over the years, many Cajuns and Creoles also migrated to the Beaumont and Port Arthur area of Southeast Texas, in especially large numbers as they followed oil-related jobs in the 1970s and 1980s, when oil companies moved jobs from Louisiana to Texas. However, the city of Lafayette is referred to as "The Heart of Acadiana" because of its location, and it is a major center of Cajun-Creole culture.
Cajun music is evolved from its roots in the music of the French-speaking Catholics of Canada. In earlier years the fiddle was the predominant instrument, but gradually the accordion has come to share the limelight. Cajun music gained national attention in 2007, when the Grammy Award for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album category was created.
Outside Louisiana, and even within, some food writers wish to distinguish between Cajun and Louisiana Creole cuisine, maintaining that Creole dishes tend to be more sophisticated and continental while Cajun food is rural, more seasoned, sometimes spicy, and tends to be heartier. This distinction is based mostly on encounters with the cuisines as encountered in eateries in New Orleans.
Outside the city, Cajuns and Creoles often intermingle socially and culturally, and chances are that the cooking of Cajuns and Creoles living in Lawtell, for example, have more in common with each other than the Creole dishes of a Lawtell resident and one from Isle Brevelle. Both cuisines tend to focus on local ingredients like locally available wild game (e.g., duck, rabbit), vegetables (e.g., okra, mirlitons), and grain (e.g., rice), which is where they remain distinctive, since many of these ingredients have never truly entered American mainstream cuisine and thus were available to displace local traditions.
Since many Cajuns and Creoles were farmers and not especially wealthy, they were known for not wasting any part of a butchered animal. Cracklins are a popular snack made by frying pork skins and boudin is created from the ground-up leftover parts of a hog after the best meat is taken, which is mixed with cooked rice. It is usually formed into a sausage, but can also be rolled in a ball and deep-fried.
Cajun French is a variety or dialect of the French language spoken primarily in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. At one time there were as many as seven dialects spread across the Cajun Heartland.
Recent documentation has been made of Cajun English, a French-influenced dialect of English spoken by Cajuns, either as a second language, in the case of the older members of the community, or as a first language by younger Cajuns.
For more details on this topic, see List of Louisiana parishes by French-speaking population.
Cajuns are predominantly Roman Catholic. However, Protestant and Evangelical Christian denominations have made inroads among Cajuns, but not without controversy — many Cajuns will shun family members if they convert to any form of Protestantism because of the extreme persecution the Cajuns were subjected to by Protestants during the Great Expulsion of 1755, and throughout their history for maintaining their Catholicism.
The 1992 cookbook, Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic and Can You Make a Roux by Cajun Chef Marcelle Bienvenue outlines long-standing beliefs that Cajun identity was rooted in community, cuisine, and very specifically, devout Roman Catholicism. Traditional Catholic religious observances such as Mardi Gras, Lent, and Holy Week are integral to many Cajun communities.
Mardi Gras, (French for "Fat Tuesday", also known as Shrove Tuesday), is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, a 40 day period of fasting and reflection in preparation for Easter Sunday. Mardi Gras was historically a time to use up the foods that were not to be used during Lent, including fat, eggs, and meat.
Mardi Gras celebrations in rural Acadiana are distinct from the more widely known celebrations in New Orleans and other metropolitan areas. One tradition is the wearing of a capuchon, which is a cone-shaped ceremonial hat. Another distinct feature of Cajun celebration centers on the courir (translated: to run). A group of people, usually on horseback, will approach a farmhouse and ask for something for the community gumbo pot. Often, the farmer or his wife will allow the riders to have a chicken, if they can catch it. The group then puts on a show, comically attempting to catch the chicken set out in a large open area. Songs are sung, jokes are told, and skits are acted out. When and if the chicken is caught, it is added to the pot at the end of the day. The Courir de Mardi Gras held in the small town of Mamou has become well known. This tradition has much in common with the observance of La Chandeleur, or Candlemas (February 2), by
After New Orleans, the city of New Roads in Louisiana has the 2nd oldest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana. New Roads is located in Pointe Coupee Parish.
On Pâques (French for Easter), a game called pâquer, or pâque-pâque was played. Contestants selected hard-boiled eggs, paired off, and tapped the eggs together — the player whose egg did not crack was declared the winner. This is an old European tradition that has survived in Acadia until today. Today Easter is still celebrated by Cajuns with the traditional game of 'paque', but is now also celebrated in the same fashion as Christians throughout the United States with candy-filled baskets, "Easter bunny" stories, dyed eggs, and Easter Egg hunts.
One folk custom is belief in a traiteur, or Cajun healer, whose primary method of treatment involves the laying on of hands and of prayers. An important part of Cajun folk religion, the traiteur is a faith healer who combines Catholic prayer and medicinal remedies to treat a variety of ailments, including earaches, toothaches, warts, tumors, angina, and bleeding. Another is in the Rougarou, a version of a Loup Garou (French for werewolf), that will hunt down and kill Catholics that do not follow the rules of Lent. In some Cajun communities the Loup Garou of legend have taken on an almost protective role. Children are warned that Loup Garou can read souls, and that they only hunt and kill evil men and women and misbehaved horses.
Celebrations and gatherings
Cajuns, along with other Cajun Country residents, have a reputation for a joie de vivre (French for "joy of living"), in which hard work is appreciated as much as "passing a good time."
In the culture, a coup de main (French for "to give a hand") is an occasion when the community gathers in order to assist one of their members with time-consuming or arduous tasks. Examples might include a barn raising, harvests, or assistance for the elderly or sick.
Laissez les bons temps rouler is a more than a cliché phrase of the local culture, which means "let the good times roll", as nearly every village, town and city of any size has a yearly festival, celebrating an important part of the local culture and economy. The majority of Cajun festivals include a fais do-do ("go to sleep" in French) or street dance, usually to a live local band. Crowds at these festivals can range from a few hundred to more than 100,000.
Other festivals outside of Louisiana
In Texas, the Winnie Rice Festival and other celebrations often highlight the Cajun influence in Southeast Texas.
Major Cajun/Zydeco festivals are held annually in Rhode Island, which does not have a sizable Cajun population but is home to many Franco-Americans of Québécois and Acadian descent. It features Cajun culture and food, as well as authentic Louisiana musical acts both famous and unknown, drawing attendance not only from the strong Cajun/Zydeco music scene in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York City and California, but from all over the world. In recent years the festival became so popular that there are now several such large summer festivals near the Connecticut-Rhode Island border: The Great Connecticut Cajun and Zydeco Music & Arts Festival, The Blast From The Bayou Cajun and Zydeco Festival, Rhythm & Roots Festival also in California the Cajun/Zydeco Festival; Bay Area Ardenwood Historic Farm, Fremont, Calif. and The Simi Valley Cajun, Creole Music Festival.
To write or book the band by mail, write to:
PO Box #1122
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055