Charivari was brought to Louisiana by the
Acadian settlers and European immigrants. The custom has been
practiced in France since pagan times. It is a celebration,
observed by ancient peoples, where by beating drums or making
loud noises drove evil spirits away from the newlyweds. Evil
spirits are bad, and if allowed to enter the celebration they
would cause bad luck. Loud noise and loud music chased the evil
spirits away. Mardi Gras, in many ways, is a similar celebration
brought over from France and Europe, but faire le charivari has
not be done as much in modern days.
Harnett T. Kane, a New Orleans journalist and
author wrote in his book "The Bayous of Louisiana", published in
1943 by Bonanza Books of New York, , "The more I saw of
this place and people, the more I came to appreciate them.
" Mr. Kane attended a charivari in southwestern Louisiana,
he wrote, "Only one other South Louisiana institution can
match the Mardi Gras in its semi regulated horseplay, and that
is the French-style charivari. The custom has been common along
many bayou areas, but it seems to have survived in particular
style along the prairies. It is a matter of inequality, or lack
of balance, that makes for charivari. A widower of fifty-eight
takes a bride of eighteen. Ho-ho, he has a noise coming to him,
that one. What you think, ahn?" Kane states that when a
widower marries a widow there is generally no cause "pour
faire le charivari." Charivari was always best as a
surprise. The cans and bells attached to cars was also a form of
noise making to chase away evil spirits that is still done on
occasions now. Kane said he was once surprisingly invited while
visiting in Cajun Country to a charivari. A hurried man knocked
at his door and asked if he wanted to see a charivari. On the
way Kane was told that an old businessman after his first wife
passed away married a young girl, and had returned with her from
a private wedding in New Orleans. The old businessman was cheap,
so as usual a charivari developed spontaneously by men in the
community. Kane said they stopped in a crowd on the road a short
distance from the couple's home. A loud procession went to the
couple's house but the noise grew louder upon reaching the home.
For about 2 hours, the charivari noise went on out side the
house. The rules were the group had to be invited in, the noise
would go on until the invitation was given.
One man knocked the door of the old
businessman's home. After several discussions the husband came
out . He knew the rules, there would be no end to it until the
bride as well as the groom joined in the charivari. Reluctantly
the husband fetched the bride. They were urged to kiss and the
husband then asked the question expected by the crowd.
"Quoi vous voulez, mes bons hommes?" (What do you
want, gentlemen?) The leaders of the charivari group, told him
they wanted wine, beer, cake, sausage, cheese and whatever
available, and they'd even wait for him to go get more food.
"Entrez!" called the leaders. Thus the charivari
For the next hour music played, food was eaten
and toasts made. "Que le Dieu benit les maries!" (May
God bless the married ones.) "Que le Dieu benit les noces!"
(May God bless the nuptials.) Eventually charivari ended and the
couple left in peace.
In "Gumbo Ya-Ya" by Lyle Saxon, et al,
Bonanza Books it is stated a charivari may "continue night
after night". The most famous "lasted three days and
nights". The couple finally moved away to France. Generally
given only "to widow and widowers who
remarried", but for a Cajun any reason is good enough for a another
Fop further reading on Louisiana Cajun
Customs of marriage and the actual marriage celebration see:
Pouponne et Balthazar: Nouvelle Acadienne by Mme. Sidonie
de la Houssaye; Librairie de l’Opion, Nouvelle-Orleans: 1888 a
retelling of the "Evageline" story by a Louisiana
Creole author of the time period. See also Cajun
by Barry Jean Ancelet, et al.
Paperback / Published 1991 ISBN: 0878054677 a link
is provided to the left.
For further reading into traditional Louisiana
Folk Ways see Louisiana
Folk Life Program.
For assistance in planning a Cajun Style wedding
contact Dr. JK Schwehm at New