Acadia . . . a single word that resonates with a past steeped in tradition and evokes the vitality of a people who preserved their language and culture in the face of adversity. Every year on August 15, Acadians proclaim their pride and joie de vivre loud and clear at festivals punctuated with music and joyful tintamarres, flying the blue, white and red Acadian flag with its distinctive yellow star. Armed with pots and wooden spoons or other improvised instruments, Acadians parade through the streets during the traditional tintamarre, a noisy procession where they joyously display their cultural vitality.
In Bouctouche, Acadians march through the streets of the town and converge on the Pays de la Sagouine, a popular tourist attraction where Acadia comes alive through music and theatre. Comedians, musicians and a cast of characters, including Claudie Landry, vice-president of the Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick (in French only), welcome them with a big smile. “August 15 is THE party,” enthused the 17-year-old.
“To me, Acadia is the people,” explained Claudie. “It’s a sense of belonging. It’s how I feel about my culture and my language.” Her summer job at the Pays de la Sagouine has kindled her interest in her language and culture. Claudie believes that Acadia is part of modern life and that, through activities like the August 15 festival, young people will continue to celebrate it. The World Acadian Congress and other large-scale events also provide opportunities for young people to develop an interest in their language and culture.
Isabelle Pelletier of Edmundston is a case in point. This 13-year-old artist has been part of the L’Acadie des terres et forêts (in French only) show for eight years. Starting out as a pint-sized extra, Isabelle has become one of the lead singers in this summer festival that recounts Acadia’s 400-year history. She says that being involved in the show has helped her to develop a strong sense of belonging. “Being Acadian is my pride and my roots. It’s who I am. My ancestors were Acadian. I can’t stress this enough,” she says, looking forward to celebrating August 15 with her family.
Rachel Losier can also trace her pride in her Acadian heritage back to her childhood. Her English-speaking mother felt that it was very important to pass her Acadian husband’s culture on to the next generation. A cake in Acadian colours was always on the menu on August 15, and the whole family participated in community celebrations. At school, attending history classes and participating in various activities, Rachel continued to develop her pride in her heritage. Today, she loves to show her Acadian colours. On a recent trip to Mexico, she put her Acadian flag on her backpack right next to her Canadian flag. “The Acadian flag is a symbol of my culture. It shows where I come from and where I live,” says the 22-year-old Moncton resident.
Like Rachel, Christina Allain is looking forward to celebrating August 15 with her friends. “What is Acadia?” she asks. “Acadia is a nation without land. You can be Acadian anywhere because it’s in your heart.” The 22-year-old waxes eloquent when she talks about her beloved Acadia. “On August 15, the Acadian people get together to show that we are still here, despite the hard times, and we will always be here.”
Christina will most likely be celebrating August 15 in her hometown of Bouctouche. Who knows, maybe Claudie Landry will be on hand in her traditional Acadian costume to greet her on Acadian Day!