'A special feeling in your heart': 5 things to know about being Acadian

With National Acadian Day just around the corner we spoke with some Islanders about what being an Acadian means to them.

'I don't think being an Acadian today means what it meant 300 years ago.'

'So there are songs, and stories and fiddle tunes and music written for all different parts of life. Happy and sad, but mostly when you hear Acadian music you hear the happy side,' says Anastasia Desroches (Pastelle Leblanc)

There are common threads of food, music, and language that intertwine and intersect through the day-to-day lives of Acadians on P.E.I.

With National Acadian Day just around the corner (August 15) we spoke to Islanders about what being an Acadian means to them.

Here are five things they highlighted about what it means to be Acadian.

1. There will be kitchen parties

Music is a big part of Acadian life on the Island, and Mario Leblanc, a singer/songwriter living in Summerside, P.E.I., said that it is a mix of several types of styles.

"A mixture of Irish and Scottish and Celtic sound mixed with a bit of American country and French-Quebecois," he said.

"All of that mixed together would give you an Acadian sound."

Genevieve Ouellette (left) teaches step-dancing to children and adults. (Submitted by Genevieve Ouellette)

Anastasia Desroches, who lives in Mont Carmel, P.E.I., fiddled as a career for about 20 years.

"Music always holds a high place in Acadian culture, but of course it's not the part that everyone identifies with," she said.

Anastasia Desroches played fiddle professionally for about 20 years. (Submitted by Anastasia Desroches)

"For me it's those kitchen parties, neighbours getting together to play music for fun,"

"When you hear them play and you're in their kitchen, you can't believe the talent that exists there. That's a big part of the culture for me."

2. Food is part of the culture

Leblanc said that the sounds of Acadian song mix with the culinary aspects of the culture.

"Often if you're going to eat Acadian food, you're going to listen to Acadian music at the same time."

From left clockwise: fricot, galette blanches, rapure and chicken pate. (Jennifer Bernard)

Genevieve Ouellette, a literacy and French teacher at l'Ecole la Belle Cloche, said that her favourite Acadian dish is chicken fricot, a soup or stew, served with galette blanches, similar to a scone.

Rapure or rappie pie, made up of potato and meat, is another favourite.

3. French is part of the identity

Ouellette and Desroches both made an effort throughout their lives to learn French and worked to keep their ability to speak it.

"I wanted to live as a French speaking Acadian all of my life," said Ouellette.

Desroches said that though she took French immersion, and it gave her the tools to speak the language, it fell short in teaching her about her roots. 

"When you go to French immersion you don't always have that education around the cultural piece," she said.

Everywhere in New Brunswick you hear different accents and here in P.E.I. you hear different accents also.- Mario Leblanc

"I learned some of the language but I didn't learn to identify with my community."

Ouellette said that one reason many Acadians fell out of touch with the French language was because of the way it was viewed among the community. 

"There was a time that French speaking Acadians were ashamed of speaking French outside of their homes," she said.

Ouellette said that isn't the case anymore.

"The shame has been replaced by pride."

Anatasia Desroches says that kitchen parties are an amazing show of talent. (Pastelle Leblanc)

Leblanc said that language is one of the unique aspects of being Acadian as words that fell out of the French language over the past 300 hundred years have stayed in the Acadian lexicon.

He also said that there is a diverse range of dialects among the places Acadians reside today.

"Everywhere in New Brunswick you hear different accents and here in P.E.I. you hear different accents also," he said.

4. They know how to make a lot of noise

If you hear a lot of loud noises on August 15 don't be alarmed.

Ouellette said that the way every Acadian festival starts is with a tintamarre, "when you make as much noise as possible in order to mark a sad or joyful event."

People use trumpets, spoons and pots or their voices to erupt in sound together.

I don't think being an Acadian today means what it meant 300 years ago.- Genevieve Ouellette

Ouellette said it is to let people know, "'Hey we're still here we're having fun, we survived, we're a vibrant culture, we like to be loud, we like to sing, we like to dance.'"

"The tintamarre is a very old tradition that we still do."

5. Being Acadian comes down to 'a special feeling in your heart'

For Ouellette, she said that being an Acadian has changed over time.

"I don't think being an Acadian today means what it meant 300 years ago," she said. 

She said that while many people consider Acadians as French speaking, now an Acadian could mean being an anglophone going to French school.

Desroches also said that language has become less of a cultural identifier.

Mario Leblanc, a singer/songwriter originally from N.B, now lives in Summerside. (Submitted by Mario Leblanc)

"I think today language is maybe less prominent, but I think that we have to accept that we belong to the culture even if we don't speak the language, make some efforts to learn it, find a place for it in our lives," she said.

For Leblanc he said that the community's history still plays a role.

"The deportation really marked our history," he said.

"That's something that we still carry today but now we're in 2017 and I think most Acadians realize... we need to open up to the world like the world is opening up to us here in North America."

Anastasia Desroches (left) and Genevieve Ouellette perform together. (Submitted by Genevieve Ouellette)

For all three, being an Acadian is part of their national identity, as well as their cultural and linguistic ones, but that being Acadian is a unique and positive thing.

"I'm a Canadian also, I'm not just an Acadian but I think that being French and being Acadian in the Maritimes is something very special," said Leblanc.

Ouellette concurred: "Of course I'm Canadian, but it seems like, a French speaking Acadian to me is who I am."

For Desroches, she thinks that Acadians may not check every box in what many consider an Acadian, but that doesn't mean they aren't part of the community.

'Every time I see a blue red and white flag with the gold star on it … it just gives me hope, it gives me a sense of belonging,' says Genevieve Ouellette (Submitted by Genevieve Ouellette)

"If you don't speak French you can still be Acadian, if you don't play music you can still be Acadian," she said.

"Each person has to find that thing for them."

"Being an Acadian today is just having … it's a special feeling in your heart," said Ouellette.