Cajun French: Nanny

Before I begin, the kind of nanny I’m talking about today, isn’t this kind:

Although those kinds of nannies are cool—I guess cause we never had them growing up—the nanny in Cajun tradition, is a godmother. In our tradition, when parents baptize their children in the Catholic church, they choose a set of godparents to act as spiritual guardians. Sometimes those godparents can become legal guardians if the parents pass away.

Technically, the Cajun French word is nâ-nân (pronounced nah-nahn). I’ve rarely heard this particular word and I can only guess it’s because it was easier for kids to say nanny.

It’s important to remember that in the Cajun culture (if you’re planning to write about Cajun characters) that these are vital parts of our culture and tradition. Most everyone has a parrain (godfather) and a nanny (godmother). The relationships between godparents and godchildren can be indifferent, or they can be a very bond formed between godparent and child.

When my sister asked me to be nanny to her youngest child, I was fifteen. In the Catholic church, unless you have made your confirmation, you can’t become a godparent. I’d been out of the church for years, but when I learned about my soon-to-be godson, I bit the bullet and finished my confirmation so I could stand up in front of the church with him.

So be sure when you’re writing your Cajun characters that you take into consideration the heavy Catholic influence and spiritual aspects of the traditions here. Having godparents is a very fundamental part of our lives.

Do you have godparents and do you call them by a special name?


Filed under Family

3 responses to “Cajun French: Nanny

  1. I have a nanny and parrain, both of whom I adore! My dad had a godmother that he called Na-nan, just like you mentioned above.

  2. Love it. I don’t have godparents myself but my kids do.

  3. Dee

    My sister is my son’s Godmother, and her first name is Kimmy. He combined that with Na-Nan and came up with “Nammie”. Now, all the kids in the family – even those who are not her Godchildren – call her Nammie! It is, indeed, very special!

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