A Brief History of Louisiana Mardi Gras

Of all the things Louisiana is famous for around the world, Mardi Gras is probably the number one association people make when they think of the boot-shaped state located at the mouth of the Mississippi River. While several different accounts continue to circulate about who celebrated this holiday first, many historians  and historical websites generally agree that it was born from a different Commonwealth holiday called “Pancake Day” or Shrove Tuesday. 
Explorer Pierre La Moyne discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River on such a Shrove Tuesday and named it Bayou De Mardi Gras. He named the actual place where he made landfall “Pointe De Mardi Gras.” His brother Jean Babtiste would later form a settlement in the crescent of the river, a hundred miles north of the mouth. He would name this settlement “Nouvelle Orleans.” In 1702, he also founded Mobile, Alabama as the first capital of French Louisiana.

Some records show that the first record of an organized Mardi Gras occurred the following year in Mobile, which was part of Louisiana’s territory at the time. This is why you find such French sounding destinations like “Dauphin Island” in or near  Mobile to this day. Back in New Orleans, slaves were escaping with the assistance of American Indians, who would collaborate together to become the first Mardi Gras Indians and start the ages old New Orleans tradition of “Les Flambeaux.” The New York Times would eventually write an incredible history of these “keepers of the light,” which can be found in their archives here. 

Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras Origins

Further west in South Louisiana, Cajun settlers celebrated their own version of Mardi Gras. It was less glamorous than its New Orleans counterpart, and mostly held in rural areas.

According to CODOFIL president and Louisiana folklorist Barry Ancelet, the traditional Cajun Mardi Gras, also known as the “courir de mardi gras” borrowed much of it’s origins from Catholic Medieval Europe, specifically the act of begging for food, which was at the time, an acceptable behavior. This act of going house to house and asking the head of the household for ingredients to prepare a later meal for the participants eventually led to the tradition of chasing chickens by the courir participants as a form of entertainment for the land owners. 
Though Mardi Gras season in Cajun Country became notably more quiet during the Great Depression and WWI/WWII, a revival began to surface in the 1960’s with a much needed boost from the increasing cultural significance of Cajun/French music, also in the midst of its own renaissance. Cajun artists like Floyd Sonnier, Herb Roe and Frances Pavy have dedicated a lot of their time to preserving the look of the original revelers in their substantive bodies of work. 

Visit South Louisiana
During Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in Cajun Country will begin February 14th with events and parades throughout Acadiana popping up until Fat Tuesday, February 25th. If you are looking for a more family friendly, slower paced Mardi Gras, Acadiana has what you are looking for. Book an airboat swamp tour today by calling 337.228.7880. 

Atchafalaya Basin Airboat Swamp Tours: Our 20th Year in Review

2019 has been a year of growth and change for everyone at Atchafalaya Basin Landing. From the addition of Tucker’s son Nick to our team of airboat captains to a new brand and website, the maiden voyage of our newest airboat “The Henderson Hurricane,” our 20th anniversary has been a memorable and exciting year for all of us. We are incredibly grateful to our visitors for making us the #1 Swamp Tour in Henderson on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Google and Yelp. We are thankful to each and every person who visited us for a tour, our amazing fishing community, and our Turtle’s patrons who helped us to make so many wonderful new memories both on and off the water.

2019 Highlights

Some of the highlights of this year have been our back porch live music party celebrating La Fete du Musique, the installation of brand new signage on the levee road, a gator running off with (and returning) Tucker’s beloved LSU hat, hosting the Junior Bass Masters Tournament (our largest ever fishing tournament), hosting The King of Henderson tournament, over $5000 of giveaways for everything from concert tickets to airboat tours to weekend getaways, and a visit from @TheJurgys, a travel-loving family that has over 225,000 followers on YouTube. Because of the support of our Facebook community, we were able to max out our annual donation of $1000 to the Louisiana Cajun Navy.

Family Owned and Operated

We have always been a family business, deeply rooted in the Henderson community at large. The Friedman family has also grown this year by two new grandbabies, and we hope to pass our beloved airboat stories from the swamp down to their generation in a few years time. We consider ourselves blessed to not only love what we do each and every day, but to share the glorious beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin with visitors from all over the world.

2019 was a banner year for us, and we can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store. Our fleet of custom, covered airboats ran just about every single day that we had safe weather in 2019, and we are meeting ongoing goals of steady and sustainable improvement of our boats and facilities to provide the best experience for our guests possible. We thank everyone who stopped by for a tour, a cold beer, a t-shirt or just to say hello! Book a tour by calling 337.228.7880 today.