Harriet J. Bauman
Creole customs can be divided into two kinds: religious and non-religious. Religious customs focus on holidays : All Saints Day, Mardi Gras and Easter, for example.
On All Saints Day Creoles bring flowers made of white, black, or purple tissue paper to place on graves in the cemetery. The week before this holiday shops display crowns and crosses with black beads and immortelles, which might be pictures of saints (I couldn’t find the definition of immortelles in Magruder’s book).
Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent.
The custom of masking on Mardi Gras was brought from France by the early settlers. During the period when Louisiana was a French, and later a Spanish province, the maskers went from house to house, but there was no regular street parade until after the Americans came into the State. The Americans thought Mardi Gras might become a business enterprise, and be made 80 attractive as to draw visitors to New Orleans. There is now a fixed programme. Rex, the King of the Carnival, who is some wealthy citizen, comes up the river on Monday, and is royally welcomed. Early Tuesday morning the merry children, noisy with tinkling bells and dressed in masks and gay dominoes, come out of their houses and visit from door to door in their neighborhood. Later in the day there is a street parade, and another one at night. . . . The Mardi Gras gayeties end with the most brilliant ball of the season. (Magruder, pp. 353-554)
At Easter, rabbits come out at night. The children try to stay up as late as possible, but they don’t see the rabbits. The rabbits nests are found filled with colored eggs both outside and inside the house. When the children find all the eggs, they have a contest of egg-breaking. The child who breaks the egg takes it. The child with the most eggs at the end of the game, is the winner.
Non-religious customs of the Creoles can be illustrated by two activities: 1)
, which comes from the Spanish word
meaning a sweetening. Grocery stores in Louisiana give a small addition to one’s purchase, such as candy or small cakes as a token of appreciation to a customer; and 2)
, which is a kind of cerebration of the remarriage of a widow or widower.
. . . A man ran around screaming Spire e Fire!’ Men, women and children then gathered before the house of the newly married couple, shouting, beating on old kettles, tin pans, drums, clashing shovels and tongs together, blowing on combs, tooting horns, and making every loud noise imaginable. . . . The chiavari lasted until the bride and groom made their appearance. They were usually sensible enough to come out on the gallery and invite the people in to have a glass of wine. When this was done, the noise suddenly ceased, and after drinking the health of the newly wedded pair, the crowd went quietly home. (Magruder, pp. 345-346