CAJUN ('ka:-j@n), n. A person of French Canadian descent born or
living along the
bayous, marshes, and prairies of southern Louisiana.
The word Cajun began in 19th
century Acadie (now Nova Scotia, Canada) when the
Acadians began to arrive. The
French of noble ancestry would say, "les
Acadiens", while some referred to the Acadians
as "le 'Cadiens", dropping
"A". Later came the Americans who could not pronounce
"Acadien" or "'Cadien", so the word "Cajun" was born.
The 700,000 Cajuns
who live in South Louisiana are descendants of French Canadians. About
18,000 French-speaking Catholics inhabitants from Brittany, Poitou, Normandy, and across
France established the French
colony of Acadia, now Nova Scotia, Canada. The year was
1604 -- sixteen years before the
Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, thus establishing one
of the first permanent colonies on the North American continent. By the time
the British won
the colony from France in 1713, they had established a thriving,
For refusing to pledge allegiance to the British
crown, which required renouncing their traditional
Catholic religion for that of the Anglican Church, they were
forced from their homes in 1755.
This cruel and tragic event, known as Le Grand Dérangement, separated
families and forced
people to flee with only the possessions they could carry. Homes and crops
were burned by
the British and the Acadians went to sea under dreadful conditions, more
than half lost their
lives. This event remains a focal point of Acadian history to this
The survivors were scattered along the U.S. eastern seaboard until in
1784, the King of
Spain consented to allow them to settle in South Louisiana. Most
followed the path which led
to New Orleans. There they received a hostile greeting from the French
aristocracy so they
headed west of the city into unsettled territory. They settled along the
bayous of south
central and south western Louisiana where they could live according to their
own beliefs and
For several generations, the Cajuns raised various crops and lived on the bayou
where they fished and trapped. Today, Cajuns are famous for their unique French
dialect (a patois of 18th-century French), their music, their
spicy cooking, and for
their ability to live life to its fullest. They continue to preserve their folk customs.
Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez! (Let the good times roll).
Experiencing the Cajun culture is like no other. The Acadians of today are a
thrifty, hard-working, fun-loving, devout religious folk. They work and play with
"Work like hell to make your money, then spend it all
having a good time!"
-- from Les Blank's film "Spend It All", Flower Films
The Cajun's pleasure-loving nature expresses itself in the community festivals,
dancing and food that are integral parts of bayou life. Cajuns are known for their
"joie de vivre" (joy of living), and to add excitement to their food they
with herbs, spices and ingredients to create some of the most flavorful dishes
that people throughout North America now enjoy.
||One of the traditional favorite Cajun pastimes is an old- fashioned
When the sacred "mud bugs" or "crawdads" go into the pot a breath of
fills the air. Before the great feast of the boiled crawfish, potatoes, onions and
corn, youngsters make a mad dash for the crawfish tub poking the live crawfish
with sticks while other family members participate in crawfish races.
|Boiling crawfish is not the only way to enjoy the crustaceans. When crawfish
go into the pot a number of delicious dishes result because there are almost as
many ways to cook crawfish as there are swamps, ponds and ditches in which to
catch them. Crawfish are served up in gumbo, bisque, étouffée, jambalaya, pies
or patties. When the Cajuns aren't eating crawfish, they enjoy other world
famous cuisine of Louisiana such as oysters, shrimp, boudin, pralines, gumbo and
red beans and rice.
||What better way to experience Cajun food than at a festival? Any time is
festival time in Cajun Country. Towns and villages throughout Acadiana
celebrate every season with their special blend of music, food and the colorful
Cajun heritage. Most festivals feature live music of all sorts, contests, native
crafts and food and, of course, dancing.
|Cajun music is also distinctive. It can be lively or
melancholy, and sometimes both at the same time. The main reason why
many attend festivals is for the unique Cajun music. Cajun music, once
deemed as "nothing but chank-a-chank" has infiltrated radio, television
and classrooms and is becoming world famous for its unique sounds of
instruments like accordions, fiddles and triangles.
Courir du Mardi Gras
One of the largest festivals is old-fashioned Courir du Mardi Gras
(Mardi Gras Run),
the local traditions that makes Mardi Gras in Cajun Country truly unique. The
spectacle celebrated in small towns and villages in Acadiana is a favorite of
interested in off-the-beaten-path experiences. With its roots firmly in the
tradition of ceremonial begging, bands of masked and costumed horseback and
riders led by the unmasked "Le Captaine" roam the countryside
"begging for ingredients
for their community gumbo. The day's
festivities end with a fais-do-do and, of course,
lots of savory gumbo.
In Cajun Country, a week hardly goes by without chants of praise to crawfish,
rice, alligators, cotton, boudin, yams, gumbo and andouille, all the necessities of
bayou life. Within the triangle of Acadiana's 22 parishes, you'll experience the
"joie de vivre" of the Cajun lifestyle. Whether in food, music or fun, the Cajun
tradition continues to live on in the hearts of Cajuns and visitors alike.