As I outlined in a previous post, I’m writing a series of blog posts about what being Cajun means to me – the traits typically found people who identify with the Cajun culture. In previous posts, I blogged about resourcefulness and our joie de vivre. In this week’s post, I’d like to talk about how family is vitally important in the Cajun culture.
As I’ve expressed previously, I wasn’t aware how unique our culture is until I moved out of Louisiana. I thought it was commonplace for everyone to grow up with their first cousins nearby. I actually consider some of my first cousins to be more like sibilings to me than cousins. As children, we spent a great deal of time with one another and we pretty much grew up together. It was completely foreign to me that other families might go months, even years without seeing their first cousins.
In Louisiana, it’s not uncommon to meet someone and when they find out your last name, they ask you “So, do you know so-and-so <insert last name>?” and the common reply is usually a “Yes – that’s my uncle/first cousin/great uncle…”
Traditionally, families in South Louisiana stay close to the area where they were born & raised. It’s only recently that Cajuns are getting educated and leaving the area in hopes of greater job opportunities and better employment. Sadly, I was one of those cases as was my sister. Even though we live out of state now, our culture is still of utmost importance. We value visiting Lafayette, especially around the holidays.
I frequently think of moving back to the area – it’s truly where my heart belongs. I value the relationships with my extended family and through social media, texts and emails – we can stay in touch even at a greater distance. I do my best to visit home as much as possible and when I do, we plan a cousin’s gathering at a local restaurant to visit. I love that my aunts are surrogate mothers to me, that my cousins are more like my siblings and that we all stay in touch with one another. Family is so very important. I always wondered how people would end up with little to no family, but after seeing how other cultures may not emphasize the familial bond as the Cajuns do, I’m beginning to understand and appreciate how unique our culture is in this respect. The first cousins on my mother’s side of the family still gather each Christmas and participate in a white elephant gift exchange. I look forward to these visits each year.
Are you close to your extended family? How often do you visit with them?