By the time you read this, I will have become Acadian – at least for a moment. I’m in Caraquet, New Brunswick, Canada, where the entire Acadian Peninsula has been celebrating their Acadianess for the past two weeks – in earnest. Truth be told, these folks celebrate year round, but the first two weeks in August are special.
A quick drive or even a walk down most streets provides visual evidence of Acadian pride – flags, banners and red, white, blue and yellow yard displays are everywhere. Aug. 15 is the culmination of the celebration with the Tintamarre at 17:55 (5:55 p.m.). No doubt, some of you understand, but for those like myself who may be less familiar, here’s the background.
Aug. 15 is the Feast of Assumption, the day that recognizes the Virgin Mary’s passage into heaven. The Virgin Mary is the patron saint of the Acadians. The height of the celebration occurs at 5:55 p.m. to coincide with the year the Acadians were deported – 1755. So, to make sure the world knows Acadians still exist, on Aug. 15 at 5:55 p.m., everyone in the region makes as much noise as possible.
My primary guide for my trip to the Acadian Peninsula is a man named Percy Mallet. Percy loves being Acadian. He loves living on the Acadian Peninsula. He loves speaking French. He loves life in general – and it shows. Percy gets so excited telling others about the Tintamarre he practically bursts with joy.
“And in that moment, with people banging on pots and ringing bells and blowing horns and making noise any way they can – in that moment, you can be Acadian too,” he says with a smile that’s hard to resist.
Percy is proud of his home, his culture, his people, his music and his food – sound familiar? In fact, I’ve noticed many similarities between Acadians in New Brunswick and their Louisiana cousins. For one thing, you can drive down the road and pass Landry’s Auto Repair – just beside Michot’s. The names are much the same. But that’s not where the similarities end.
The relationship to water plays a common bond between the two cultures, as well. Once deported, the Acadians left one land dotted with marshes and came to another. Mosquitoes, although not as plentiful here, are menaces in both places. Boats are as much a part of life here, maybe even more, than in Acadiana.
Families here have camps near the water – and call them that. Beyond the coast, when the Acadians arrived in this land in 1604, and for long afterwards, the Micmac natives helped them adjust and learn to live with local resources.
Though my name is still Risher and not Richard, I’ve had the opportunity to embrace my inner Cajun.