Wednesday, October 16, 2013
We spent the first several days of our visit to Cape Breton in Cheticamp, one of two French Acadian districts on the island. Cheticamp is the gateway to Cape Breton Highlands National Park and has been a fishing town since its founding in the late 1700s. Until the middle of the 20th century, Cheticamp was only accessible by ship and its inhabitants had a difficult way of life. They grew or made almost everything they needed. The only employment was the fish company that paid them in company store credits to buy stoves, utensils, musical instruments and such. The Acadian culture is very communal and is filled with simple amusements, mostly around music. We visited a small museum about “La-Careme”, which is basically a mid-Lent party dating back to the 5th century where people dress up in elaborate costumes and go door-to-door trying to fool their neighbors about their identity. Cheticamp seems to be the only place La-Careme is still celebrated.
Cheticamp is also a center of rug hooking, which started as a necessity to help make their homes comfortable, but grew into an art form much sought-after by wealthy city dwellers. Some of the most elaborate rugs contain 500 colors of yarn (each hand dyed separately) and over 1,500,000 individual stitches. Cheticam Museum
It was fun meeting several people with our last name—very common here and throughout Acadian Canada and Louisiana. The vast majority of people named LeBlanc are descended from one Daniel LeBlanc, who landed in Nova Scotia about the time the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. Like most French Canadians he had a huge family of 15 or so children and subsequent generations of that kind of breeding resulted in a virtual army of LeBlancs (my father was one of 10 children and my mother one of 18). Like most of my generation, we stopped well short of those numbers, so the danger of LeBlancs overpopulating the globe is diminishing.