The Best Festival to Experience in East Coast Canada: La Mi-Carême

Celebrating Mi-Carême in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia

If you’ve ever been to Cape Breton, I’m sure you’ve heard of Chéticamp. It’s a small french village on the west coast of Cape Breton, with a population of less than 3000 people. It’s quaint, friendly, familiar, a place I still call “home.” And the best part of coming home is always to celebrate something you love. For me, that has always been and will always be Mi-Carême.

Michel Soucy Photography

Kitchen parties, singing, dancing, laughing, fun and frolic. These words best describe what Mi-Carême is all about. But it’s so much more than that. Let’s start by taking a look at the history of this festivity and why it came to be.

Mi-Carême, in french, means Mid-Lent. The period of lent in Christian religion begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter. This is a time of penance for Christians, wherein they would make sacrifices or abstain from doing something (usually fasting in one way or another) leading up to the day when the Christ was resurrected. The purpose of lent is to take a look at something sinful you are doing, acknowledge that you are doing it, and then abstain from doing it in hopes that you will rid that bad habit from your life.

Although the exact history of Mi-Carême is not known anymore, it is said that it began as a one day event in the middle of lent when the townsfolk would have a carnival like event. They would drink, eat, dance and sing (most of which were sins) and get disguised so that the priest wouldn’t recognize them. At some point, it turned into a week-long festival where the people who get dressed up, which are called “Les Mi-Carêmes,” visit neighbours doing silly things. The neighbours would then have to try to guess who was who. After guessing who they were, “Les Mi-Carêmes” would remove their masks to unveil their true identity. Everyone gets a huge kick out of it, they share laughs and hugs, and then treats are offered to “Les Mi-Carêmes.”

This tradition used to be practiced in lots of different areas in eastern Canada, among others, but has since ceased to exist in many of those places. It is now commonly associated to Cheticamp, Nova Scotia, where the people have kept the traditional alive for many many decades.

Michel Soucy Photography

My grandma was a big Mi-Carême lover. I still remember getting so excited about it every year, especially digging through all the bins filled with costumes. The masks were my favourites. Every day I would try to see if I could find something cool to put together to go out that evening with family or friends. I might not be able to experience it the same way today, but those memories will always be there, and they stay with me every year Mi-Carême comes around.

I was so fortunate to be able to come down to my hometown this year to partake in the festivities after many years of missing out. It’s a lot harder to make it down after you move away, but I think it’s the one thing that will always keep me coming back. And the best part – I got to share it with Max this year!

I’m sure he was a little sceptical about the idea of coming down to celebrate a festival where you dress up and people try to guess who you are, but he was a great sport about it all! I told him we could go “watching” the first night if he wanted – that’s what we say when someone is doing the guessing, not the dressing up. But he was dead set on “running” Mi-Carême – that’s what we call it when people get dressed up!

Both the people who “run” and who “watch” Mi-Carême are crucial parts to the week-long event. It’s not just about the people who dress up, but also about the people who are opening up their homes for the event and the rest of the community who comes by to help guess who every one is. The town of Cheticamp is so fortunate to have such an amazing group of people who are willing to invite hundreds, sometimes even thousands of people into their houses or garages. They host family and friends and offer food and drinks to everyone coming by. To me, this is what sense of community means.

Don’t miss Mi-Carême in Cheticamp – make sure to plan it out, three weeks before Easter every year!


*All photos are the sole property of Michel Soucy Photography*

3 thoughts on “The Best Festival to Experience in East Coast Canada: La Mi-Carême

  1. LMaybe if people’s heads weren’t buried in the sand of ignorance and they took the time to understand, instead of judging and thinking it won’t happen to them because they have the perfect family, life would be a little bit easier for people that do experience this!
    This hits close to home for me, for family and friends who live under this shadow.
    The days of ‘it’ not being talked about or being taboo should be over.
    In the most difficult moments of life you realize who your true friends are, and the people who really appreciate you.
    Unfortunately, most social media ‘friends’ aren’t true friends. They will send you a “like” here and there, but in reality they do not take time to read your status if they see it’s lengthy. More than half will stop reading right here, or have already scrolled on to the next post on their page.
    I decided to post this message in support of all those who continue to battle with their mental illness.
    Now, let’s see who will have taken the time to read this lengthy post right through to the end.
    If you have read everything so far, please “like” it so that I can put a thank you on your page.
    More mental health awareness is urgently needed. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean people aren’t suffering.
    Please, try to spare a little of your time with someone who may just want to talk (about anything). Talking can help us all to cope a little more, keeping things bottled up just makes it worse.
    Most people will say, “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me, I’ll be there to help you” but will they?
    I believe a select few of my friends will post this, to show their support for those who may be struggling.
    You just have to copy and paste rather than sharing.
    I’d like to know who will take a minute out of their day to read this all the way to the end and then copy and paste it to their page, will you? If so, please write “done” in the comments.
    NWT # 1-800-661-0844
    BC 1 800 784 2433
    Saskatchewan 306 933 6200
    Manitoba 1 855 942 6568
    Ontario 1 866 996 0991
    Quebec 1 866 277 3553
    Newfoundland 1800 737 4668
    New Brunswick 1800 667 5005
    Nova Scotia 1 888 429 8167
    PEI 1 800 218 2885
    Bell Let’s Talk Day is Jan 31st. Please help end the stigma.o

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