Louisiana and Cajun culture all started with the 1755 exile of the Acadians, more commonly known as the Cajuns, from their home in Nova Scotia, Canada. The French-speaking Acadians eventually settled in the rich, fertile soils of the Atchafalaya Basin.
The Atchafalaya became a lifeline for its inhabitants with over 100 species of fish, shrimp, crawfish, crabs, and other wildlife. After their exile and journey to Acadiana, the Cajuns remained as a close knit community ruled by their own customs and traditions entering into industrialization. Still today, Acadiana has kept its culture alive and intact and has spread its influence across the state.
Courir de Mardi Gras runners are after a chicken for communal gumbo.
Lafayette's Festival Acadiens et Creoles.
Experience a fais do-do in Cajun Country.
An alligator sunbathing in the swamps.
One might say that the cheerful beats and rhythms of zydeco make up the soundtrack of Louisiana. Fiddles, accordions, triangles, and washboards contribute to the unmistakable sound that echoes throughout the state. Anyone looking to have a good time will no doubt find what they’re searching for at Cajun music and dance halls or Fais Do-Dos, where the music always has everyone on their feet.
With all that dancing comes a big appetite, and nothing feeds the soul quite like the Cajun dishes that are so special and unique to Louisiana. One can tell right off the bat that some of Louisiana’s favorite and most iconic dishes are rooted in Cajun backgrounds just based off of the names - like étouffée, boudin, jambalaya, and gumbo. Cajun food packs that punch of flavor and spice that you just can’t find anywhere else. This Cajun influence will always live on – as part of Louisiana’s culture to this day is based on the ideal of gathering around with loved ones over these types of meals.
The Cajun influence also thrives every year during Mardi Gras. When thinking of Mardi Gras, the popular New Orleans celebration with parades, floats, beads may come to mind. However, in the more rural areas of Louisiana like Church Point, Mamou, and Eunice, you’ll find Cajun Mardi Gras – or Courir de Mardi Gras. In this one-of-a-kind of festivity, participants in colorful garb team up on horseback early on Mardi Gras day and ride through town searching for ingredients that will later be used in a giant pot of communal gumbo (yes, everything in Louisiana revolves around food). For some, the highlight of the celebration is watching the costumed revelers during the chasing of the chicken.
It’s safe to say that Louisiana wouldn’t quite be what it is today without its Cajun heritage. To experience it yourself, plan your trip and follow this Guide to Cajun Culture in Louisiana.