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Folklorist/Historian Georges Arsenault to Speak of Ancient Acadian Winter Celebrations in Pre-Congrès Event

September 4, 2013

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The University of Maine at Fort Kent and the Acadian Archives Acadiennes will welcome well-known Acadian folklorist and historian, Georges Arsenault, to campus on Thursday, September 12 at 7 p.m. in the Grindle conference room. Arsenault will give an illustrated talk on two ancient and popular Acadian winter celebrations -- Mardi Gras and Mi-Carême.

Arsenault's talk is a pre-Congrès event made possible by a grant from the Regional Committee of the Congrès Mondial acadien 2014.

Georges Arsenault has researched the origins of these joyful traditions and how they were observed in Acadian communities in eastern Canada. Published by Acorn Press and translated by Sally Ross, the English titles of his two books on these winter festivities are: Acadian Traditions on Candlemas Day: Candles, Pancakes, and House Visits and Acadian Mi-Carême: Masks and Merrymaking.

Mardi Gras signals the beginning of the Lenten season. Observant Catholics were given a break from the rigors of Lent on the fourth Thursday. This day was referred to as Mi-Carême.

Candlemas Day at one time was an important religious and social festivity. Pancakes were the symbolic food of choice. In many Acadian villages, young men went door-to-door, collecting food for a communal feast or for the poor.

To celebrate mid-Lent, people visited other homes dressed in masks and costumes; many still do in the Chéticamp region of Cape Breton. In some villages, a scary woman called the Mi-Carême distributed candies to good little children.

Arsenault will trace the evolution of the traditions, highlight modern-day celebrations, and look at the role they still play in Acadian culture.

For further information about Arsenault's presentation, please contact the Acadian Archives Acadiennes at 834-7535.