Mardi Gras Courir

Chickens are not fond of Mardi Gras in Cajun country.

No Mardi Gras celebration anywhere where folks celebrate carnival is more exotic than the Prairie Cajuns of South Louisiana.  The rag-tag crew of horseback riders, clad in splendorous costumes rooted in Medieval times, strike out Mardi Gras morning on a pre-determined route around the countryside, stopping at appointed places to perform the ritual “chase of the chicken.”

Animal rights activists have lately weighed in on the activity as cruel.  They have a case–any chicken confronted with the ordinary horror of being slaughtered would be terrified enough, sure, but the poor Mardi Gras chickens are subjected to a significant extra measure of terror as they’re chased by this noisy, drunken mob (Yes, the Mardi Gras riders’ spirits are customarily elevated by inebriating drink, typically consumed in immoderate proportions).

Not only are the chickens chased, but once caught, they’re tossed high in the air to prolong the thrill (or insanity) of the chase (for the chasers, of course, not the chasees).  The chicken’s destiny, of course, is a seething cauldron of gumbo, so there’s hardly any reprieve once the immediate exasperation of the chase is over.

Alas, poor chicken.

Why struggle to describe the fate of the Mardi Gras chicken in mere words?  Film-making Cajun ethnographer Pat Mire made a video a few years back, Dance for a Chicken, that portrays the multi-sensory pageantry much finer than words of mine.  Here’s an excerpt of that video available on YouTube.