I needed to brush up on what the rules and etiquette were during Creole / Jazz funerals as well as All Saints Day. You’d think I’d had learned them already, having a BA in Religion. But, sadly, the education behind my BA in Religion wasn’t allowed to cross the street and had to come home when the street lights turned on. And those who encouraged us to go out and play usually got sent off to a boarding school, far away.

Put Up Notices

Where I come from, you called the church and put in an obituary in the newspaper. But now one of the newspapers back home charges $67 to run one. Assholes.

In Creole Funeral / Jazz funeral traditions, you hang up notices throughout the dearly-deceased’s neighborhood. Nice, ornate, Victorian black pieces of construction.

Invitations and Service

Once the word is sent out, invitations are sent for the in-home funeral ceremony for family and other loved ones. The quite-Catholic service itself is actually an intimate, ornate affair. Grand deuil (black, formal mourning wear) is the expected attire for those closest to the deceased, usually immediate family…and perhaps a bold mistress.

It’s impressive because one expects New Orleans Jazz to play throughout the ceremony. It’s how Hollywood shows it on television and in the movies. But that isn’t the case. Jazz can and is often played during the funeral, but it’s not the happy-spirited, upbeat sounds we expect to see & hear. Like the celebration, the mourners put everything they have into mourning. Full-out.

No Invite? No problem. Join the Second Line.

Add this to my bucket list: once the service is done, the funeral party begins the walk down to the cemetery, the procession starts to pick up speed. This is when the celebration Jazz begins. There’s really no rule to what they play and how they play it, which is all the more awesome.

If you didn’t go the funeral, then come as you are. Stay as long as you like. Just celebrate. Out with the bad, in with the glad.

This is when people start to fall in and follow the procession, singing, dancing, twirling parasols and handkerchiefs. You NCIS watchers should remember Abby doing this at Kate’s funeral at the beginning of season 2. Queue the Walkman.

For those looking for a more relevant example, here’s a sample of the second line celebrated for jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain passing:


I like when I have crossovers with artists I like. And God knows I got my second wind in life by first listening to Amos Lee. Hell, Katie got inspired to move us out to Bay Area when she meditated on Amos Lee’s, “Supply & Demand “because something had to give with the way,” she was livin’ during her work day:

And while the idea to take the Prequel even farther out into the beginning, the Creole / Jazz Funeral inspiration had nothing to do with Amos Lee’s new album, “Spirit,” nor the single by the same name. In the title track, he even sings about how “Everybody out here is waiting on the second line”.

And while I’d love to credit my Creole inspirations to Amos Lee, the truth is the reason I needed to brush up on the customers is now over 10 years old. It’s just being focused on now. You know: ain’t gettin’ any younger. And shit.

Still, if you haven’t listened to the song, do it now. This acoustic version might be my favorite version of it. So far.

Gifts or Donations or Food Baskets?

The rest of it is surprisingly Catholic from what I can find. Rather traditional. It depends on the family’s request. Hmph. Things you learn along the way.

I was hoping there was a crawdad boil or three songs that had to be sung or casting memories to sea on a boat lit a-flame Viking-style. So shit goes.

As for Flowers: Fresh Cut

This whole search started because I needed to know specifically about the flowers used in the ceremonies.

What I found.

As for the flowers for Creole / Jazz Funerals, they just only to need be fragrant and fresh cut. None of that silk crap. Otherwise, there’s no one special flower to be used in Creole / New Orleans / Jazz Funerals or during All Saints Day.

I’ll admit, at first that threw me off guard.

What I expected

I was expecting some kind of ancient, traditional flower to be the predominate decoration. Something like the Cempasuchil (the plant that produces African Marigolds) in Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), that some say are, and some say are not the flowers of the dead.

I found in pictures and on church and cemetery websites in New Orleans during All Saints Day of white above-ground tombs, fixed, fixed up, and simply, beautifully decorated by loved ones. Some are given new bronze emblems to refresh, or upgrade their loved ones resting place.

Then, it dawned on me

A funeral backboned by music that’s known for bold, audacious improvisational expression isn’t probably going to tie itself down to just one flower. Like the music, they’d want to keep their options open.

Good on y’all.

Final thoughts…and instructions for my loved ones 🙂

The Creole / Jazz Funeral is another example of how the most beautiful things stay simple. Not a lot of rules. Not a lot of procedure. Like Jazz, it’s a little guidance to identify the moment and the rest is up to the participants.

As for my funeral, I’d like it very much Jazz Funeral-style, with a few addendums:

  1. Someone needs to start a fight: preferably with my enemies. Leave them with less teeth and even less inclination to retaliate. Remind them why they suck. Put them in their place.
  2. At least three of you need to end up in prison: Seriously. If there’s not at least 3 drunk & disorderly charges, y’all did it wrong.
  3. Two jokes at my expense for every tear shed: Seriously, let it out, then let it out.
  4. Party for three days: Just in case Jesus takes pity on me and shows me how he did it. Someone’s gonna have to dig me out. Stick around.
  5. Leave my personal effects at my meccas: Wrigley Field, Assembly Hall (IU Bloomington), Tillamook Bay, Indiana Dunes, The Mucky Duck on Captiva Island, and our bedroom. Make sure y’all do this on a roadtrip. And remember to take pictures. Many, many pictures. I’ll want to see them when we’re again on the same side.
  6. Make sure people remember it forever: No point of doing something unless you do it right.
  7. MOST IMPORTANTLY – make sure my family’s cared for: make sure to provide for anything that got lost in the shuffle. I’ll get you back on the other side.

Now, let’s just hope it doesn’t happen for awhile.

Did I miss Creole / Jazz Funeral custom, etiquette, tradition? Please let me know.

I’d love to know what I missed. I write for what I learn, not for what I know. Life only goes in one direction.

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