by Nicholas Iovino
During her second interview for the “Haitian Culture and Stories” project, Medford storyteller Sharon Kennedy learned new details about celebration rituals and was treated to the singing of a lullaby. Kennedy conducted her second interview in the Everett home of Marie Andre, who left Haiti for the United States in 1986. Andre speaks Creole and some English.
Haitian native Kettly Tucker joined Kennedy to help translate for the interview.
TALE OF TWO CITIES
Andre grew up traveling between two Haitian cities — Port-Au-Prince, where she went to school, and Croix-Des-Bouquets, a smaller city where she stayed with her grandmother and cousins on the weekends. Croix-Des-Bouquets means “Cross of Flowers” in English. Andre said she enjoyed visiting the smaller city because her family had a big yard and she liked playing with other children in the open space.
Andre recalled how a big festival occurred in early October each year to celebrate the patron saint of the Notre Dame des Rosarie church in Croix-Des-Bouquets. The Haitian native said she had particularly fond memories of parades and music during the annual celebration.
On Christmas Eve, many Haitians get together for a party called “Revellion,” where they sometimes roast a goat and listen to Kompa music, which consists of traditional band components like a guitar, keyboard, drums and singer. Many Haitians also go to church for midnight Mass that night, she said.
On Jan. 1, Haitians celebrate their Independence Day by eating squash soup. While under French control prior to 1804, Haitian slaves were forced to plant and harvest squash, but they were not allowed to eat the soup. Now, children are invited to go from house to house eating soup on New Year’s Day as a symbol of their freedom and equality.
Sharon learns a lullaby from Andre and Tucker.