For 300 years on the Sunday after the vernal equinox, people have gathered to celebrate Detroit’s liberation from the Nain Rouge. That fiendish red devil and the harbinger of doom was said to have plagued Detroit’s founder Antoinede la Mothe Cadillac … and many fear he still will appear.
The celebration continues this year with the Marche du Nain Rouge on March 22. The parade and festivities are to ward off the Nain Rouge, or Red Devil. The whole event is about standing against doubt and antagonism and standing up in favor of success and happiness. It’s a stance well known by Detroiters.
Taking down the Nain Rouge isn’t a one day event, the whole week before will be a showing of support for the city … or possibly defiance of despair … by local businesses, which will offer special events, deals and parties the week before the march (March 16-22).
More on that in a minute.
Those marching and watching the Marche du Nain Rouge wear in masks, costumes, and cowls to disguise themselves from the Nain. While the festivities are to inspire hope and look forward to a better year, it is said devilish imp may still come out and seek revenge on those who would make a stand against him.
This year the parade will start at Traffic Jam and Snug at the corner of West Canfield and Second, in Detroit at 1 pm. More than 4,000 people are expected to gather in Midtown for the start of the festivities. Parking will be available on the street and at Wayne State’s lots and structures.
A sense of hope and civic pride will follow the path of the parade, as it winds through the city and down Second Avenue, ending at the Masonic Temple. Here the marchers will meet the Nain, if he shows his face, with an overwhelming spirit of positivity.
Given how much Detroit has progressed, they should have an abundance of positivity to share.
After the stand for faith in Detroit is made there will be a party inside the Temple. Food, drink, a kid zone, official merchandise and more will be waiting for those making their stand against Detroit’s existential threats. There will also be a contest for best in parade for best non-motorized floats and crews displayed by neighborhood groups.
Local businesses have joined in the celebration to ward off the returning ill will and doom. In a show of faith, unity, and seeing an opportunity, some businesses have come up with special events and deals. Here are some of them:
- City Bird at 460 W. Canfield St. #103 sells official merchandise all week. City Bird and Nest will also be hosting Fete du Nain Rouge from 11am to 1pm. The two stores have been doing this hosting with free red Nain Rouge beads with purchase and free themed refreshments for six years. It also has vintage masks and limited-edition Nain themed merchandise to help with costumes.
- Go! Sy Thai, at 4240 Cass Ave. Suite 103, has a special dish, “Du Curry Rouge.” The special event food is a stir-fry consisting of bamboo slices, red bell peppers, mushrooms, choice of protein or mixed veggies in a savory red curry sauce.
- All week it’s 20% off bottles of French wine – bottle, glasses and bottle to go – at Great Lakes Coffee.
- From March 15-22 Hop Cat, at 4265 Woodward Ave, there are Sang de Nain Rouge (Nain Blood) cocktail and Nain Nuggz “Eat Nain’s Balls” Red Hot Pretzel Nuggets. Also, there will be Brunche au le Chat Houblon, a special pre-Marche brunch featuring Rouge Tacos.
- The Hub Detroit will have 10% off of standard tune ups, 15% off the deluxe tune ups, and 20% off accessories. They are also offering a free Hub water bottle, if you spend $10.00 or more.
- Drink specials like “Bloodt Sangria,” and “Sangre del Nain” (tequila, tamarind, lemon and lime) are available at Le Feria.
- The Peacock Room and Frida will give out a free gift with purchase of an item, along with 15% off of anything red.
- Red Hook, 8025 Agnes St. – Special Marche location at Motor City Brewing, selling hot coffee and red macaroons on 3/22. Special Red Hot French Macaroons will be available all week at their shop in Indian Village.
- There will be a special red tag sale for 10-25% off at Source Booksellers.
- On March 19 Traffic Jam and Snug will have Square Dancing from 7pm to 10pm. There will be food and drink specials to honor the week of Detroit’s hope too; crayfish boil – A wild mess of fiery red hot crawdads just up from New Orleans, with Redskins, corn on the cob and Andouille sausage.
- You can get a free class between March 16 and 22 with the password “Blame it on the Nain,” at Yoga Center-Midtown.
As any flamboyant and colorful celebration with deep themes, this centuries-old tradition is steeped in legend. Here’s a little history.
In 1701, legend says Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was warned by a fortune teller to beware a red devil, or Nain Rouge, which appeared in his dreams. He was told this was an omen of doom.
Cadillac saw the Nain Rouge in person as he settled upon the straits between Michigan and Ontario, where Detroit now sits. The creature was promptly chased off by Cadillac with a stick, setting a precedent of the city being known for courage and the ability to endure, even when it seems improbable.
The fortune teller’s warning wasn’t that the city wouldn’t prosper but rather it would be an uphill battle. It was but things did not fare so well for Cadillac. The man who brought Detroit to the world died penniless upon his return to France.
During Detroit’s darkest hours it is said the Nain has been seen taunting and mocking the city. So to fend him off and make sure he doesn’t do his dirty work, Detroiters gather just days after spring has sprung to welcome a new beginning and cheer about all that is good in Detroit. However, just in case he shows up, attendees are encouraged to come in costume so as they celebrate and revel in hope for their city the Nain will not be able to seek revenge.
That’s how the tale goes.
Taking from the rich past and interesting legends, Detroit has decided on better tomorrow while standing against those that would claim it’s hopeless. More importantly, Motown is having some fun with local flavor while holding strong.
– Picture of Nain Rouge by Kate Cho Photography