How New Orleans Celebrates Its Dead

New Orleans Wine and Food Experience

How New Orleans celebrates its dead is unique to the rest of the United States. And a lot of what we do comes from African and Latin American cultures.


We have something called second line which started as part of a funeral procession from the black community where the mourners walk from the church to the cemetery, the first part the band plays a slow dirge and then after that the music changes to something more lively. Usually the tune is When the Saints Go Marching In.


The first line are the mourners and the family with the band. The second line are the people behind them who dance and celebrate. They may carry umbrellas and some may wave handkerchiefs. This is where the term second line turns into the verb “to second line.”


Now the second line is not only used for funerals but all kinds of celebrations, one of the most popular uses is for weddings. So you might be in the Quarter where a wedding has just occured and you will the bride and groom leading a group of guests waving handkerchiefs with a brass band in tow.


Also, another thing unique to the city are our cemeteries where people are buried in crypts rather than in the ground. This is also something they do in Spain and some Latin American countries. You can walk through these “cities of the dead” with many neighborhoods in New Orleans.


The fact that many of our cemeteries are within our old neighborhoods is another unique custom.