Sunday, April 4, 2010
Sentimental Sunday: The Cajun tradition of "pacques" (updated 2013)
Although I'm part-Cajun and grew up in Southwest Louisiana, there are some Cajun traditions I seem to have missed out on in my youth. One of these is the Easter tradition of pâques-pâques (pronounced pock-pock), or egg tapping (Pâques is "Easter" in French). It's battle with eggs; two people each take an Easter egg in hand, tap the ends against each other, and whomever comes out with an uncracked egg wins. I don't remember hearing about this game while growing up in Sulphur, not far from the Texas border, but my cousins in the Lafayette area, in the middle of "Cajun Country," are quite familiar with the tradition, which they call pacques (pronounced pock-kay).
Last Easter, a couple of young men on a 50-state motorcycle trip visited my cousins, posting video on the website chronicling their journey. My second cousin Annette demonstrates silk egg dyeing, a craft at which her late sister Mattie excelled, and then a round of pacques is played. I thought readers might enjoy seeing a bit of Cajun tradition. It's the top video link on this web page.
In the towns of Marksville and Cottonport, egg battles get serious. There are organized competitions! The Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program has a great article about it on their website.
Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention another tradition I found out about: Good Friday is "Pie Day" in Scott, La. It's like pot-luck with pies, a Begnaud family and Scott tradition, where everyone goes and visits and eats free homemade pie! One lady last year reminisced to my cousin about her grandmother's friend who made the best pies--and the friend was my great-aunt Philomène Stemmans Weber, who died in 1968! She must have been some cook for her pies to be remembered more than 40 years later! Wonder if I can find a cousin with her recipe? I'm guessing she did it from her head, like most Cajun women then.
UPDATE: This post always gets a lot of hits around Easter, so I wanted to point everyone to this great article I just found by Kathryn Begnaud about Scott's Good Friday traditions. She captures the spirit of the town just beautifully, plus she points out a possible Medieval French connection I, having grown up Protestant, had never considered.
I hope all of you reading had a wonderful Easter, Passover or Spring holiday with family and friends. Does your heritage have an interesting spring holiday tradition? Leave a comment!