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What's so fun about Acadian Mi-Carême?

Acadian Mi-Carême (Mid-Lent) is a traditional and carnivalesque celebration, perhaps even one of the most heartwarming, amusing and eccentric of winter celebration traditions. Above all, it is one that comes from the heart of a vibrant and colourful culture: Acadia!


1. It's whimsically topsy-turvy:

Bursts of colour & Acadian symbols of fun at the Mi-Carême Centre
Bursts of colour & Acadian symbols of fun at the Mi-Carême Centre in Grand-Étang. Photo credit: Tourism Nova Scotia.

Historically, Mi-Carême served as a carnivalesque respite at the midpoint of Lent, a 40-day-long period of penitence, abstinence and fasting for Christians. Several centuries ago, Lent used to be an austere ordeal, and various sorts of foods were prohibited.


2. It comes with delicious Acadian culinary delights:

The purpose of Mi-Carême is to bring back a temporary joyful taste of Carnival and playfully upturn the strict order imposed by Lent. It is a time for fun and entertainment, during which everyone indulges in all sorts of delightful Acadian snacks and meals. From the mouthwatering and hearty traditional Acadian chicken Fricot to delightful homemade fudge, traditional hand-pulled molasses tamarin, and molasses cookies, all are prepared according to local Acadian tradition, offering a wonderfully authentic culinary experience.


3. ...and marvellous music:

music plays a significant role in the Acadian Mi-Carême celebration, more specifically lively and cheerful fiddle music. In fact, it quickly becomes obvious that the upbeat fiddle tunes, whether traditional Acadian songs or not, greatly contribute to spreading that fabulous Acadian "joie de vivre" and carefreeness that defines Mi-Carême. Acadian fiddle music, characterized by its speed and enthusiasm is often accompanied by small percussions such as musical spoons (salt and pepper shakers!) or a tapping heel; this creates far more than an enchanting ambiance, it’s completely fun-inducive!


4. It's a centuries-old mystifying game of Mi-Carême Masks:

Hundreds of colourful hand-painted masks at the Mi-Carême Centre
Hundreds of colourful hand-painted masks at the Mi-Carême Centre in Grand-Étang. Photo credit: Tourism Nova Scotia

Masks are another distinctive feature of Mi-Carême, adding an air of mystery and playfulness to the celebration. In the 18th century, young men in the Acadian regions of Cape Breton, known as "mi-carêmes," would disguise themselves and visit houses in the community, performing short theatrical and musical acts to amuse their hosts. The latter, affectionately called "les watcheux," would try to guess the identities of these disguised performers, but the facetious runners crafted their outfits to make identification challenging - the longer the guessing game lasted, the greater the laughs and hugs when the hidden faces were revealed!


5. Everything about Mi-Carême is designed for fun:

The tradition of “running la Mi-Carême” still continues today, with families inviting the whimsical mi-carêmes or "courreux" into their homes. The “watcheux” will typically add their names to a list announced on local radio, so that the mi-carêmes know which houses to visit. As for celebrations organized by the Mi-Carême Centre in Grand Étang, the festivities always include playful guessing games, a variety of local music artists, disguises, and costumed performances. As per tradition, the costumes are carefully designed to both confound and amuse. The mi-carêmes will wear masks of politicians, figures of authority, or even religious figures, symbolically overturning order and authority by playfully mocking them.


6. Mi-Carême is an Acadian time capsule:

Cheticamp mi-carêmes circa 1945
Cheticamp mi-carêmes circa 1945. Photo credit: unknown, photo collection of Centre de la Mi-Carême, Grand-Étang

Did you know that the Acadian communities of Saint-Joseph-Du-Moine, Grand-Étang, and Cheticamp have proudly celebrated Mi-Carême since 1785? Making it a tradition that has endured for well over two centuries. Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual celebrations organized by the Mi-Carême Centre allowed enthusiasts to connect and share the joys of the tradition through social media. Mi-Carême holds deep Acadian cultural and historical significance, and several historians agree that it likely even traces its origins to the European Middle Ages!


7. It's the most unique celebration ever!

The Mi-Carême Centre in Grand-Étang
The Mi-Carême Centre in Grand-Étang, nestled along the spectacular shores of the Cabot Trail. Photo credit: Romane Souchko (design@playground-agency.com) & Visitez Nouvelle-Écosse / Le Conseil de développement économique de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

There are only a handful of places in the world where you can experience all the excitement and inspiring joyfulness of Mi-Carême. The Mi-Carême Centre in Grand Étang itself is now the only one of its kind in North America. Let the spectacular natural coastal surroundings of the Centre astound you, treat yourself to a wonderful week-long Acadian winter festival, or enjoy the exciting immersive experiences inspired by this amusing carnivalesque celebration organized by the Centre de la Mi-Carême during the summer season.


Let the joyful spirit of Acadian Mi-Carême forever capture your heart: Long live Acadian Mi-Carême!


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