Read The Book, It Tells All
Early Creole Women
The Indian Ocean Creole
Rodriguez Island Creole
Famous 19th Centuary Creole entertainer
Louisiana Creoles
Dominican Mulattos
Creole Band Leader




Early Creole Lifestyle

( White Black and Multi Racial )










Early New Orleans



New Orleans used to be called Vieux Carré (Old Square). It was the capital of the area which now includes the states of Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Minnesota



The city is divided into three sections:

Vieux Carré (Old Quarter) the “bastion of the established Creole families,”

the Faubourg St. Mary, a growing American district;

the Faubourg Marigny built by the Creole Bernard de Marigny on land across from the Esplanade on the banks of the Mississippi



The Vieux Carré as the heart Of New Orleans was composed of eight streets in a square. As new streets were added, the square became a rectangle surrounded by a wall. After a while the walls were removed and three large avenues bordered the city.

Fifteen streets left Rampart Street and ended at the river, and seven streets went from Canal Street to the Esplanade. In the center was the Place d’Armes surrounded by an intricate wrought iron fence. The streets were straight and wide, with brick sidewalks called banquettes. The houses sported decorative balconies and iron grillwork.

The Cathedral, City Hall, and the Presbytery were all magnificent buildings located here. To the southeast was found a levee which served as a port of export for products for the West.

Between Levee and Bourbon Streets was located the best commercial and residential area. The houses had court-yards with fountains and tropical plants. The main entrance or porte cochEre was a wide gate behind which was kept the family carriage. Beyond the gate was a wide staircase that led to an upper apartment. Wide windows opened to the patio. There were iron balconies. There was no cellar. The first floor was raised above street level and was used for storage.



From Bourbon to Rampart Street the houses were low and made of mixed brick and woods There were some simple wooden houses as well The roofs were made of tile or shingles and extended over the sidewalks. The two front rooms opened into the street with French glass doors. One room was the dining room and the drawing room. The other was bedrooms.

There were excellent street lights in New Orleans dating from 1796. Oil lamps hung on chains at every street corner. They were lit at sundown and extinguished at dawn. The lights were financed by an annual chimney tat of nine reales per chimney per owner.

The Saint Louis Cemetery was originally Catholic. Eventually it allowed Protestants and Blacks to be buried there in their own sections of the cemetery The cemetery was established during the early days of the Spanish settlement. The tombs were placed above the ground because of the water level.

The marketplace was located near the Place d’Armes-. All kinds of food was sold there. A little something extra, lagniappe, was given with every purchase: a rose, a bunch of radishes, etc. There were makeshift stands selling refreshments like gumbo, or flowers. There were street vendors too.

The inside of the mansions reflected the plantation owner’s wealth; hand-carved rosewood furniture, mantles, stairs, etc.; winding mahogany staircases, decorated ceilings, etc.



1).... White Creoles, Americans, and inhabitants of European origin made up the highest class ***

2)......Free Blacks Creoles, emancipated slaves and their descendants made up the middle class ***

3).... slaves who were household property, were the lowest class.

The people who could trace their noble ancestors called themselves “Creole.”

Others were “chacas” or tradesmen, “chacalatas” or countryfolk (peasants), or “chacumas” for anyone with Black blood.

All Creoles, no matter what level of society they were in, including slaves, looked down on the Americans.

*** Both Black , White and mixed Race People were considered Creoles




The Life and Culture of the Early New Orleans White Black and Mixed Race Creoles



The people who could trace their noble ancestors called themselves “Creole.” Others were “chacas” or tradesmen, “chacalatas” or countryfolk (peasants), or “chacumas” for anyone with Black blood. All Creoles, no matter what level of society they were in, including slaves, looked down on the Americans.

Young men were given their own quarters for entertainment purposes. They had mistresses who were Black or mulatto, but they couldn’t marry them. Having a mistress was an accepted custom because marriages were usually business arrangements, not for love, and the men expected their wives to be passive and innocent lovers.

A gentlemen took fencing lessons, went horseback riding, dancing, or played cards. He would fight duels if necessary and preferred to die rather than be dishonored.



Creole Marriages


Girls needed a dowry and had to marry before they were twenty-five years old. They usually had a “coming out” during an evening at the Theatre d’Orleans which marked the beginning of their search for a husband. The whole family attended the performance and sat in a box. Young men who were interested in the girl stopped by the box to pay their respects.

They had intermediaries talk to the father that they would be permitted to call on the girl at home. The first formal visit was brief, with the girl's mother and perhaps other relatives in attendance who would find out the young man’s intentions. After four home visits the father asked the young man if he was serious about his daughter.

If the young man wanted to marry the girl the two fathers negotiated the dowry. A notary came to write a list of the couple’s possessions and drew up the marriage contract. Once the contract was signed, the families announced the engagement.

The girl’s family gave a big dinner at her house where the young man gave her an engagement ring. As a fiancee the young man could visit the girl whenever he wanted and take her out, but they were always chaperoned.


A few days before the wedding, the young man gave his fiancee a wedding basket with lacework (handkerchiefs, mantilla, fan), a cashmere shawl, gloves, jewelry. She could not wear the jewelry before the wedding, nor could she leave the house for three days before the wedding.

The Creoles liked to have weddings on Mondays or Tuesdays in Saint Louie Cathedral in New Orleans in the late afternoon. The bride wore a silk dress with pearls and lace. The veil was held in place with a crown of orange blossoms. The bride carried the same flowers in her bouquet. Later she left the bouquet in the church, put it on a relative’s grave, or sent it to the convent where she studied.

After the ceremony the members of the family signed the register. The guests then went to the bride’s home for the banquet. The bride cut the cake and gave pieces of it to single girls to put under their pillows. When the guests began to dance, the bride and her mother went to the bridal chamber where she took Off her wedding clothes and changed into her nightgown. The bride and groom spent their honeymoon in her parents’ house. They were expected to stay in the bedroom for five days or more.


Creole Dress Style


Wealthy planters and townspeople dressed as if they lived in London or Paris. “The men wore tightfitting pants, waistcoats, high and pointed shoes, and high hats. The women were dressed in full skirts with hoops, tight bodices, fragile shoes, and well-trimmed hats. Their accessories included ribbons, parasols, and much jewelry.”



Creole Entertainment


The King’s Ball opened the Carnival season. It was held on January 6, Epiphany. Special pastries were made. A King and Queen were chosen. Admission to this ball was limited to the elite. The people who were left out ran their own balls.

Public dances were very frequent. They were inexpensive and lasted long into the night. From January 1 through Mardi Gras masked balls and costume balls were held often.

Two other kinds of dances were incorporated into the social season. Black and White balls were held with the lowest elements of society. Dance hall girls, call girls, and kept women, usually dark or lighter skinned, would attend to dance with the white men. The Quadroon’s Ball or Blue Ribbon Ball was held for Black women and white men.

Other social evenings included the soirée dansante or dinner dance which was held quite often. At-homes on Sunday evenings included a big dinner and dancing. On plantations the guests stayed for several days after the balls.





Creole Customs


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 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


Non-religious customs of the Creoles can be illustrated by two activities: 1) lagniappe, which comes from the Spanish word la napa 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) chiavari, which is a kind of cerebration of the remarriage of a widow or widower.





The Creole Language


The language spoken by the Blacks, according to Alcée Fortier was not a broken-down French but their own language.




Creole Literature


The literature of the Blacks, such as their proverbs and folktales were African in origin, used animals as heroes, had a humorous tone and contained elements of surprise and the supernatural. They showed a good understanding of human nature.

The music of the Blacks contained the flavor of eighteenth century Branch because as slaves, they were exposed to minuets, waltzes, polkas, operas, concerts, and ceremonial music. The African and Caribbean rhythms of their recent past also influenced their music.


Creole Music



Voodoo or všdum was a form of religion brought to this hemisphere by slaves from Dahomey and the Guinea Coast. Immigrants from Santo Domingo settled near New Orleans in the 1820’s and brought their worship of voodoo with them. It was a matriarchal institution giving much power to women. Even though the slaves were baptized and considered to be Catholics, they continued to worship their African gods. Catholic saints and the African gods coexisted peacefully.


The slaves worshipped the gods of the sea, thunder, iron, trees, mountains, fire, wind, and rivers. A loa was a divinity-which could have a double nature. There were three kinds of gods: good spirits like Moses and the Catholic saints; spirits of death and overlords of cemeteries; and evil gods who used magic. “Because they look’ ed on natural phenomena as supernatural forces, they made a place in their pantheon for Saint Sun, Saint Moon, Saint Earth, and the Sainted Stars.” (Crété, p. 169)

The followers of voodoo met at night for their ceremonies. They worshipped the snake god or gran zombi. Free Blacks were the priests and priestesses. The ceremony usually began “with the snake ritual, presided over by a voodoo ‘king’ and ‘queen.’

The bow containing the snake was placed on the ground, and the voodoo queen climbed upon it and began to ‘writhe about, possessed by the snake’ 8 Spirit 2 and to give tongue to oracular pronouncements.’ The voodoo king then ‘traced a large circle with some black substance, and beckoned the candidates for initiation to enter the circle. A small bundle containing herbs, horsehairs, fragments of horn and other strange substances was placed in his hands.’

The king then tapped the initiate on the head with a wooden paddle, meanwhile intoning an African chant that was taken up by the crowd. Gradually the entire group of spectators fell into a trance.” (Crété, pp. 167-168) Some participants fainted, others moved in a frenzied manner.

Creole Cooking


The difference between Cajun and Creole cooking is that Cajun cooking is hearty country fare with a very dark roux or type of broth which is the basis for most dishes, along with an extremely spicy flavor, using a lot of animal fat. Creole cooking on the other hand, is citified, using a great deal of cream and butter. The seasoning of food is the key to its authenticity.

Creole cooks use everything they have in their dishes. Leftovers combine to make heavenly new taste sensations, especially when combined with green onions, celery, bell peppers, and parsley.

Coffee is extremely important to Creole cuisine. When combined with chicory, Creole coffee leaves an indescribable taste in a person’s mouth! Café BrHlot is served for special occasions. It is coffee served in demitasse Cups after it has been mixed with cinnamon, orange and lemon zest, coriander seeds, bay leaf, cloves, pecan halves, sugar cubes, and two different kinds of brandy. Café au Lait is hot black coffee and hot milk served with carmelized sugar.

Rice is an important staple in the Creole kitchen. It forms the base for several typical Creole dishes.

Rice is a main ingredient in Creole gumbo a kind of stew made of meat and rice and seasoned after cooking with sassafras leaves or file (ground sassafras leaves). It is used in jambalaya, a mixture Of meat or fish, vegetables and rice. Beignets are small cakes of rice combined with vegetables and poultry. Calas is a rice patty made with a heavy syrup and eaten for breakfast.

Many dishes have fish as their main ingredient: shellfish, crayfish, oysters, trout, redfish, swordfish, etc. Bouillabaisse is a fish chowder containing at least two fish with one being a shellfish. It is highly seasoned, and similar to French bouillabaisse made in Marseille or Paris.

Creole pastries come from French pastry: cream puffs, éclairs, Napoléons, Duchesses, Vol-au-vent. The best-known pastry from Creole country is petite fours, small cakes, thickly iced, with candied violets or other delicacies on top.


The Creole Language


According to Griolet, there is enough linguistic evidence in the language spoken in Louisiana of Old French, regional or provincial French, and Canadian French to warrant more research than is possible in this unit. There is an excellent explanation of Creole or Acadian French in his book, Cadjins et Créoles en Louisiane (see Bibliography).

Griolet speaks about “franglais” (Frenchified English or Americanized French), as it appears today in Louisiana. This “franglais” is “le sympt™me de leur dissolution progressive: introduction de mots anglais francisés (électer) accolés et prononcés ˆ la franCaise (Ftre smart, revenir back, Ftre gone, faire friend) puis ˆ l’américaine, changements de langue continuels ˆ l’intérieur du récit, voire de la phrase, traduction mot ˆ mot d’une pensée américaine.”

(the symptom of their progressive dissolution: introduction of Frenchified English (to elect) coupled with and pronounced in French (to be smart, to come back, to be gone, to make friends) then like in American English changes in the structure of the speech, in truth of the sentence, translation word by word of an American thought. (author’s translation- H.J.B.)

Another book, New Orleans Stories, edited by John Miller and Genevieve Anderson, contains a variety of stories by famous authors with the setting and/or theme being New Orleans. Many, if not all of these stories can be used in class for students to experience Creole culture and life.


French Creoles in Louisiana: An American Tale

Harriet J. Bauman




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