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Louisiana Cultural Symbols

Louisiana has nearly 30 official cultural symbols, focusing largely on food and symbols of the arts.

Cultural Symbols  
Symbol fleur-de-lis 2008
Colors blue, white and gold 1972
Tartan 2001
Boat Pirogue 2012
Cuisine gumbo 2004
Jellies Mayhaw Jelly and Louisiana Sugar Cane Jelly 2003
Doughnut beignet (ben yay) 1986
Meat Pie Natchitoches Meat Pie 2003
North Louisiana Meal ** 2015
Drink milk Redundant Symbol 1983
Cocktail of New Orleans Sazerac 2008
Hog Dog Trial Event Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials 2003
State Museum of Natural History Louisiana State University Museum of Natural History 1999
Cajun / Creole Heritage Hoop nets, castnets, and shrimp trawls 1992
Christmas in the Country Elizabeth, Louisiana 1990
Gateway to the Atchafalaya Basin St. Mary Parish 2004
Song You Are My Sunshine 1977
March Song Louisiana My Home Sweet Home 1952
Environmental Song The Gifts of Earth 1990
Hurricane Katrina Song Come Back to Louisiana 2006
Musical Instrument diatonic accordion 1990
American Folk Dance square dance Redundant Symbol 1999
Cultural Poem I Am Louisiana 2006
Senate Poem Leadership 1999
Judicial Poem America, We the People 1995
Painting Louisiana 1995
Language English Redundant Symbol 1807
Pledge of Allegiance 1981
Symbols of Local CultureClockwise from top left: Mayhaw and cane jelly; a flag featuring Louisiana’s official colors (blue, white and gold), along with the official state symbol, a fleur de lis (five of them, actually); a beignet; Louis Armstrong sitting in a pirogue; a bowl of gumbo.

Louisiana’s official colors are blue, white, and gold. Its official symbol is the fleur de lis, French for lily blossom. More precisely, a fleur de lis is a stylized lily blossom traditionally associated with France. A white fleur de lis is featured on the Louisiana Creole flag pictured above.

Creoles are persons descended from the inhabitants of colonial Louisiana during the period of both French and Spanish rule. The Creole flag is not an official state symbol.

Hoop nets, castanets, and shrimp trawls were adopted as symbols of Louisiana’s Cajun / Creole heritage. Louisiana shares its state boat, the pirogue, with Illinois.

Louisiana may have been the first state to adopt an official language. When Louisiana was introduced to the union in 1803, its major language had been French. In 1807, the state adopted English as a condition to admittance to the union. As laws were passed, they typically spelled out which languages could be used to comply with each regulation.

But does this qualify as a state symbol, or is it just an ancient law? Moreover, this legal act can probably be considered a historical anachronism, rather than a state symbol. In fact, it isn’t clear if the law is still on the books. Current lists of Louisiana’s state symbols don’t mention an official language, and some sources clearly state that Louisiana has no official language.

It would be rather brazen for a state with such a strong French heritage to designate English its official language today. Just ask residents of neighboring Texas

Culinary Symbols ˆ

Food Symbols

As you may know, cuisine is another word for food. More precisely, it describes a manner of preparing food, or a style of cooking. Louisianans take their cuisine seriously.

We’ve already met the crawfish and Creole tomato. Either or both of them can be used in gumbo, which is Louisiana’s official cuisine.

Gumbo can be broadly described as a very convenient, flexible multicultural stew. If you have leftover perishable meats or seafood, just put them in your gumbo. If you have a big crowd to feed, heat up some gumbo. Gumbo is widely associated with social events and community celebrations.

Gumbo is a central feature of Mardi Gras celebrations in rural Acadiana in southern Louisiana. Bridge City, Louisiana, calls itself the Gumbo Capital of the World and hosts an annual gumbo festival (www.bridgecitygumbofestival.org). However, Louisiana legislators designated Chackbay—which hosts the annual Louisiana Gumbo Festival (www.lagumbofest.com)—the Gumbo Capital of Louisiana.

Louisiana also has an official meat pie (the Natchitoches meat pie), doughnut (beignet), and two official jellies (mayhaw and Louisiana sugar cane).

Chef Hardette Harris was concerned about southern Louisiana, particularly New Orleans, getting all the glory. Northern Louisiana also has some wonderful cuisine. Thanks to her efforts, legislators adopted an official North Louisiana meal. The main dishes include fried catfish, fried chicken, barbecue ribs, barbecue chicken, barbecue smoked sausage, and baked ham.

Milk and crawfish, anyone?

There’s nothing special about Louisiana’s official drink, milk. California produces more milk than Wisconsin, The Dairy State.

Tartans ˆ

Louisiana is among the states with an official tartan (below left). Blue represents Louisiana’s sky, lakes, bayous, rivers, and waterways. Green represents agriculture and forests, while white is symbolic of rice, sugar cane, cotton, and magnolias. Black symbolizes petroleum and natural resources. On the right is my vision of a Louisiana tartan, highlighting the state’s official colors, blue, white, and gold. Lavender represents the official state wildflower.

Louisiana tartans