Cajuns fete carnival with pig slaughter

Far from the Carnival balls, parades and raucous crowds of New Orleans, Cajuns in St. Martinville held their last ”bon temps” before Lent in a far different fashion: with a grand boucherie, or slaughtering of a pig.

Associated Press reports that hundreds of people watched at least part of the ritual Saturday, though most have seen it before. The pig’s skin was being shaved for cracklins, a Cajun snack, while the carcass was being prepared for transport to a butcher shop.

Every year, Catholic Cajuns in this community about 140 miles west of New Orleans hold ”La Grande Boucherie des Cajuns” the weekend before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

Stephen Hardy, 38, who leads the group organizing the event, said,

"This is a celebration that was started out of necessity. Before refrigeration, they had to share the slaughter. One family could not consume a whole hog before it would go bad. They would have family and friends over to help, and everyone would leave with something."

With meat readily available at any grocery store today, the boucherie is simply a celebration of an old tradition, bringing family and friends together once a year for one last hoorah before the Catholic season of fasting begins.

Federal health code regulations prevent attendees from eating what is slaughtered during the celebration, Hardy said. So the butcher, after showing what is done traditionally, will take the carcass and byproducts to his shop to finish preparing the meat.