Author Archive
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority and Fraternity Pinning

My informant shared with me how her sorority celebrates one of its members getting pinned by her senior boyfriend in a fraternity. First, the fraternity shares with the president of the sorority that a member of their fraternity is intended to pin a sister in the house. When a date for the pinning is set, the sorority informs the house that a sister is getting pinned, but the girls do not get to know who. Any girl in the sorority who has a senior boyfriend is asked to come to the ceremony wearing a red dress and to send the president the names of her two closest friends in the sorority. Then, on the day of the pinning, all members of the sorority are required to wear black dresses except for the girls who are eligible to be pinned. These girls will be in red. The girls in black gather in the sorority house with the lights dimmed and stand in a huge circle. A ritual song is sung while the girls in red join the circle and stand in-between their two closest friends. A candle is passed to the right, starting from the ritual chairwoman, around to every girl in the circle once. On its second time around, after it passes the girl wearing red who is getting pinned, her best friend standing to her right will make to pass it to the next girl, but then actually pass it back to the sister getting pinned. The two closest friends then blow the candle out together. That signifies that it’s that girl, and this is when she first finds out she is getting pinned. After the candle is passed around, all the sisters line up outside of the house where the fraternity and the sister’s boyfriend are waiting. The boyfriend and his best friend as well as the girlfriend and her two closest friends stay standing on the porch so everyone can see them. The sorority president introduces everyone and officially announces that the sister is getting pinned. All of the close friends give toasts to congratulate the couple and the boyfriend talks about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then the fraternity presents him with his pin and he pins it on his girlfriend.

 

These ceremonies are very fun and exciting for both the fraternity and the sorority as pinning is comparable to a pre-engagement promise. The fraternity brother is giving up his active pin and is essentially reduced to pledge status within the house. It’s a little bit old fashioned, but the girls appreciate this public acknowledgement of their relationship. My informant was just involved in a pinning ceremony at her sorority at the University of Southern California, as her best friend was recently pinned.

Earth cycle
Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Summer Solstice, Santa Barbara

Informant: “We have a Summer Solstice parade which is pretty wild too, but that doesn’t have anything to do with Fiesta. That’s a weird parade. I can’t even… It’s literally– the point of it is to be as weird as you physically, possibly can. There are people in, like, snow globes and they have, like, crazy make-up on. And they’re like, there’s, like, pregnant women doing, like, belly dancing.”

Lavelle: “So it’s like all the weird people come out–”

Informant: “Oh! It’s, like, people, it’s just, like, people who are like, ‘I’m usually a normal person, but I want my freak flag to fly.’ I don’t understand it but, Summer Solstice is the weirdest day in Santa Barbara. Like fiesta it’s, like, everyone’s drunk and blah lah lah… but that’s normal…”

Lavelle: “Where does summer solstice happen?:

Informant: “Uh, State Street. It all happens on State Street. It is the most bizarre parade and just… People make these floats that are, like, so strange and you’re just watching it and you’re like, ‘what drugs are you on?’ Like I imagine people would have a great time if they smoked some weed. It’s trippy, dude.

My informant is a native of Santa Barbara, California. He has never been very involved in the Summer Solstice celebration, but is aware of it’s existence. He seems wary of the population it draws into the town.

Game
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Riding the Pony

“One of them, our biggest one, was called ‘Riding the Pony’ and you might’ve, I might’ve told you about this before, or something, or you might… other people do it too. Yeah, it’s a bunch of people standing in a circle and then people will go in the middle, like 5 or 6 people will go in the middle, and then everyone goes: ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony.’ And under that, while that’s happening you’ll, the people in the middle, will run around the circle and then they’ll find someone, so it’ll go: ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony.’ You go ‘front, front, front’ and then you go, ‘side, side, side’ and ‘back, back, back’ on them and then you say, ‘This is how we do it.’ And you switch and then new people come in and do it so it’s just, like ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. Front, front, front. Side, side, side. Back, back, back.’ Switch. And you do it. And you just do it a million times, um, and it’s really fun ‘cuz when you’re doing the ‘front, front, front’ part, people are, like, grinding up on each other and stuff. And in the back you’re, like, hitting your butts on each other and just pushing each other out of the circle. So that’s a huge, like, energy thing for us that we would do.”

My informant was very involved in the theatre program at his high school, Dos Pueblos High School, in Santa Barbara, CA. This was a game that the casts of shows he performed in would play before a performance. It was a fun thing to do, but also a good warm-up to increase energy before a performance. My informant enjoyed telling this story and he laughed about it a lot.

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fiesta, Santa Barbara

Informant: “So, Fiesta’s a cool thing in Santa Barbara that it’s, like, this week in August where the entire town just agrees that they just wanna get really drunk and everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Um, I think they have a couple of events that’s meant to celebrate our Spanish history because we were founded by Saint Barbara or… (scoffs)

I think it’s meant to celebrate becoming sort of the town that it is today so, and celebrating our Spanish tradition, so a lot of people will, like, just go to all the bars and get really drunk because that’s how they interpret Fiesta, um, And it’s always really funny because State Street, like, our big street, is just filled with confetti and als— cause, do you know what cascarones are? They’re these– the eggs that they hollow out and then they fill with confetti. So they’re hollowed out confetti eggs and you crack– you are supposed to crack them in your hands, this is a lesson I learned, you crack them in your hand and then you just go like this (he rubs the palm of his hand in a circle on the top of his head) and put it on people’s hair. And there’s confettis everywhere so State Street is just littered in confetti because it falls everywhere, like, Starbucks, ugh– over the summer, so much confetti to sweep up, disaster. It turns into a disaster zone over the summer. But if you crack the eggs without cracking them in your hand first, like you just try to put it on people’s heads, the shells are a lot harder than you think and they’ll just… hurt people. So that’s an important thing. But cascarones are a huge thing. And then we have a lot of flamenco dancing that goes on which is amazing. Um, yeah, it’s, like, some of the biggest flamencoing stuff goes on in Santa Barbara, outside of Spain, um, and, yeah. They have all of this, like, the spirit of the fiesta which goes to one of the young flamenco dancers and there’s this whole culture there that I never even knew about. Um and a lot of traditions about flamencoists and stuff which is really cool, um, but one thing I found really interesting about Fiesta is how mixed it got with the Mexican culture because of, just of, our city has kind of a, uh, em, decently sized Mexican population so there’s always, like, mariachi bands playing and stuff which isn’t at all related to Spain. I mean, like, it’s Latin America versus Spain so, like, there’s a really interesting confused mix of, like, Mexican versus Spanish culture and everyone just kind of accepts it. Which, like, the analyst inside of me is just, like, I wonder what’s significant about that about globalization, about, like, people wearing sombreros and thinking, like, you know this is a Spanish thing versus, like, a Mexican thing so that, that was always, like, something I’ve gotten into as I got older. Because as a kid it was like ‘Confetti, hey!’ and now I’m just, like, what are the implications now of, like, this mixed culture. Um, but for the most part, like, it’s pretty Spanish and we celebrate, like, we have streets called, we have a street called De La Guerra which translates into, like, ‘from the war.’ Uh, and that’s a pretty historic street for us and that turns into kind of like a little market with lots of Spanish food being served and, um, it’s a big, it’s a big just part– it’s a week of party; it’s amazing. So. That’s I guess sort of a tradition… And drunk people knock on lots of people’s doors and ask to use their bathrooms. That’s what my friend hates about Fiesta. Constant music, constant drunk people…”

Lavelle: “Trying to use your bathrooms?”

Informant: “Trying to use your bathrooms.”

Lavelle: “That’s really funny.”

Informant: “Yeah, pretty brazen.”

My informant is a native of Santa Barbara, California and he has been aware of the celebration of Fiesta for many years. He enjoyed it innocently as a child and it’s always been a tradition he looks forward to during the summer. My informant loves Santa Barbara and the traditions the community has. My informant has also begun to question some of the practices that are accepted at Fiesta, the drunken escapades most specifically. Also, my informant is interested in learning more about how Mexican culture was infused into this Spanish tradition.

Childhood
Game
Humor

Birdman

My informant told me about this game called Birdman while she was sharing about traditions at Scarsdale High School.

“I don’t know if other schools did this, but it was a game that started. And you basically do this, like, birdman (She holds her hands to her face, palms down, with her thumbs and index fingers making circles around her eyes) symbol over your eyes and if you quote in quote Birdman someone, they have to lie down on the ground for three seconds. And this was, like, a pretty harmless thing that started, but it just started to happen everywhere. So if you’d Birdman, like, you could– there were, like, ways to block a birdman and then, like, if you didn’t respond, you’d get blacklisted. There was, like, a comput—there was, like, an online blacklist for, like, who was blacklisted from Birdman. But seniors especially would take this really intensely and so, like, you, if you got Birdmanned, they would stop in the middle of everything and just get down on the floor for 3 seconds. And it was so intense that you could Birdman someone while driving, while they were driving and they would have to stop the car, get out of the car, lie down on the ground, and get back into the car. Um, and even teachers started to play. I think our librarian was, like, notorious for doing it, like, if you Birdmanned him in the library he’d get down on the ground.”

This was a game that my informant participated in during her freshman year of high school. She says it wasn’t something she was particularly interested in, but many of her friends were very into it. She played if she had to. This is a funny memory for my informant. She looks back on this game and can’t believe the students enjoyed it so much.

Game
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Blue Key Heads

Informant: “Blue key heads are this tradition where we’re like spirit leaders and, um, we… It’s, there’s ten, five boys, five girls, um, it’s picked through an incredibly nepotistic process that is basically half popularity contest, um, it– that’s just how it is and so, um, all five boys and five girls wore skirts, uh, blue skirts that are passed down every year so that’s a big tradition, is, like, who you get your skirt from and who you pass your skirt to is like a big deal, um, and so the blue key heads are at every varsity game in the fall, um, and a lot of varsity games in the spring and we, like, cheer except for basketball we, we cheer, but we—the step team is what mostly did that so, yeah. And so we, like, show up and we cheer and it’s not like cheerleading it’s mostly like running around and painting your face, um, and it’s really cool and we lead a pep rally which is fun, uh, and the, uh, what was I gonna say? There’s, uh, the way the blue key heads are chosen is this, like, big school thing, tradition where you have to audition in front of the entire sc— like in front of school during, like, either lunch or during dinner. So you have to round up all your friends and you have to do, like, a public audition which is, like, you have to do push-ups—oh also everytime the football team scores we have to do push-ups for the number of points we have. So if we get into, like, 50 points we have to do, like, 50 push ups and it’s awful, um, I couldn’t do it. And so, um, so have to do push-ups, you have to, like, throw gummy sharks into a cup. You have to serenade—you always have to serenade someone. You always have to do a bunch of cheers. You have to name all previous 10 blue key heads. You have to name 10 shades of blue. Um, they’ll ask you, like, random questions to see how long you could, like, go without breaking. One of them, the best one that I had was mak- you literally sit there and you just say make me laugh and somebody has to try and make you laugh and its wonderful because there are just certain people who can’t, won’t break. And, um, so that was really good. And so it’s this, like, terrible process and then there’s always, like, a big secret, the, only the blue key heads– the new– only the new blue key heads know how they got, how they find out. Like, it’s a big secret how they find out that they’re blue key heads. So, like, my year we were told that there was a second secret audition and so we came and they actually put us through an audition and then told us, ‘Just kidding you’re the blue key heads.’ Um…”

Lavelle: “They do it differently every year?”

Informant: “Yeah, they do it differently, well because, like, it kind of gets, it’s, like, you know, just to make sure that it doesn’t get out, um, but it’s usually pretty secret in terms of, like, people just suddenly find out and suddenly, like “Oh, they announced it apparently.” And, like, and no one can figure out how they told the people, um, so that’s pretty cool.”

My informant is a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover with the class of 2011. She was one of the blue key heads during her senior year at Andover. This is an important memory for my informant as she greatly enjoyed her high school experience and looks back on her years at Andover fondly.

The idea of appointed spirit leaders is not unique to Andover and many high school students enjoy experiences similar to those of my informant.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Graduation at Phillips Academy Andover

Informant: “At Andover, graduation is a big thing because, so tradition-wise it always, you lead the gradu—blue key heads, which I’ll explain in a sec, lead and, they lead and, uh, end the graduation procession and, uh, the graduation procession follows bagpipers so we have a full band of bagpipers and this is apparently like school tradition since 1778 that a full team of Scottish bagpipers starts off graduation and I hated it. And then we all—“

Lavelle: Did they wear kilts?

Informant: “What? Yeah, they were wearing full Scottish dress and they played the bagpipes. And so then we follow them and then, um, blue key heads, so then, oh and then for ours– so we go throughout the whole graduation ceremony and then what happens is our graduation, instead of people being called up, we all stand in a circle. So the entire grade, and we have like 330 people, you have 330 people standing in a circle and when they call out your name for your diploma, your diploma’s handed down the circle. So it’s passed down through each of your friends’ hands until it reaches you. Um, which was really cool because  a) it went really fast because you didn’t have to wait for people to go by, so that was great, it went really quickly. Second, and then it was cool because, like, all your friends were passing it to you and then, like, everyone could celebrate as you got your diploma and you were all standing in this circle. And then when you all got your diploma you all stood in the circle for, like, a couple minutes and, like, appreciated that you were standing with your class for the last time. Um, and then the blue key heads run in the middle and learn– er, lead everybody in a round of, like, school cheers and then we break the circle.”

 

My informant was a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover with the class of 2011. This is an important memory for my informant as she greatly enjoyed her high school experience and looks back on her years at Andover fondly.

High school graduation is an important rite of passage for all adolescents and every high school has its own traditions that its students enjoy. High school graduation is often the last time students will be together with their class and can be a bittersweet experience. This is just one example of a unique graduation ceremony.

For more information about Andover graduation:

http://www.andover.edu/StudentLife/Commencement/Pages/default.aspx

Legends

La Llorona

Primary informant: “La Llorona, I think is just really a part of every, like, Latin American household, I guess. Um, and specifically, I didn’t hear it from my dad because he doesn’t really believe in that shit, but from, like, my aunts and my grandma, whatever. And, um, it’s basically, this lady who… it’s like, okay, myth, legend, I’m not sure which one, but it’s like this lady who had kids, um, I don’t know what happened to the husband, if it was out of wedlock, or he died or whatever– the guy’s not there and, um, she ends up having a lover and the lover doesn’t want kids or whatever, so she takes her kids and she drowns them, in the river, and he ends up not getting with her anyway. So she just- um, like, got, I don’t know, got really sad or whatever and just, like, walks around. They say- people say that they see her walking around, like, rivers or, like, places with children and she’s always, like, they can, like, hear her, like, crying or something and just being really sad and all of that.”

Secondary informant: “La Llorona, she’s forever cursed to stay on Earth and she—for eternity, to find the remains of her children. And that’s why she’s constantly near rivers, because she’s trying to find the remains of her children and she can’t ascend into the afterlife until she does. So that’s why she’s stuck here, that’s why she’s hanging around here and shit.”

Tertiary Informant: “The one that I’m more familiar with, her husband was cheating on her. And so to get revenge on him, she drowns her children.”

Primary Informant: “The variations of that…”

Tertiary Informant: “But in whatever… ends up, he never ends up with her…”

Primary informant: “And she eventually ends up drowning her kids.”

Secondary Informant: “She’s forever alone.”

Laughs

Primary Informant: “Yeah, forever alone.”

 

Both informants who shared information about La Llorona are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.

 

Legends

Chupacabra

Primary Informant: “The Chupacabra, which is one that I heard from my dad all the time ‘cause he thinks it’s hilarious, um and basically, Chupacabra is like, like “goat sucker” and so, I don’t know if it’s just specifically from people in, like, the rancho or, like, the more, um, I don’t know, pueblo, village, type of areas that talk about this because they own animals. And it’s basically this kind of— they can’t, no one has seen it, but they have seen—or people have said they’ve seen it, you know, speculation – um, but it’s this kind of animal that comes and it, like, literally just, like, sucks or, like, sucks the blood out of and kills goats and other small animals like that, and so there was, I think there was an article recently where some guy was like, ‘Yeah I totally caught it.’ And it was just like a big ol’ rat or something, but that’s basically what it is, the Chupacabra. And so that’s the one he always talks about because he thinks it’s hilarious and thinks he can, like, scare us with that, you know.”

Secondary Informant: “The one that I grew up with was, ah, the Chupacabra was like this fucking, um, government, um, experiment gone wrong that escaped and, uh, is this alien, this half-breed alien thing, you know and, that’s what I got…”

Primary Informant: “And, like, no one can find it?”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, no one can find it, it’s just, like, this fucking thing…”

Primary Informant: “Roaming Mexico and Latin America.”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, it’s like—it’s an abomination.”

Primary Informant: “Right.”

Secondary Informant: “To life.”

 

Both informants who shared information about the Chupacabra are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.

The Chupacabra is a legend that has been around Latin American for innumerable years and almost anyone from a Latin country could tell you the story. It’s primary purpose is to explain away bizarre disappearances of animals on rural farms, but in all likelihood those animals were probably harmed by a coyote or a bobcat. Now the Chupacabra just serves as a tale to help scare children into proper behavior.

For more information on the Chupacabra:

http://www.princeton.edu/~accion/chupa.html

http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/weird-true-and-freaky/videos/legend-of-the-chupacabra.htm

Legends

Los Duendes

Primary Informant: “So, there are these things called duendes, which are like gnomes and I guess they’re, like, cousins or something, they’re, like, related to leprechauns, essentially. And they’re popular, or known about, not just in Mexico, but also in, like, Central America, like El Salvador, or, um, in other parts of South America. And, um, apparently, from what I understand is, these, like, leprechaun-like creatures, these gnomes, they can, they like–, they choose a house or something and, um, when they choose a house, um, like, they’ll, like, try and, like, live in the house, but you can’t really see them, I don’t know, like, adults can’t really see them, I guess. But if you do see it, you have to give it food, um, because if you don’t give it food, it will, like, play pranks on you for the rest of your life. Like, it will just, like, mess with your life I guess after that. Um, and so a friend of mine was saying that, like, uh, he was at his other friend’s house and they had, like, a lemon tree or some kind of tree, a fruit tree, and, um, there would be, a, like, a– they would leave fruits on the ground, like the ones that fell. They would pick some, but they would leave others and he would pick ‘em up and he would, like, throw them or whatever. And I don’t know who it was, but it was like, ‘Noah! Don’t do that!’ and he was like, ‘Why? They’re just—they’re on the ground.’ And it was like, ‘Well, those are for the duendes, you know, so they don’t, like, come in and start, like, messing with my life.’ And, like, there are videos on YouTube, like, of duendes. And the same guy, that told me that story, he said that when he was in El Salvador with his parents, he was- he was young or whatever and he said that he saw a duende, like, following him. And he was like, ‘Mom! Mom!’ And she was like, “No, you can’t pay attention to it, don’t pay attention to it and then it will leave you alone, it won’t bother you.” Um, and that was just on the road. I don’t even think they were at the house. But, if it chooses your house and you don’t give it food, you like, you know, tell it to eff off, it will, like, mess with you forever. Um, but apparently, they really like hanging out with children and, like, playing with children I guess, um, that’s all I really know about that… Yeah. It’s, like, weird, the YouTube video, you see the guy, like this guy’s like playing soccer in his house, I don’t know why, and, um—“

Secondary Informant: “Uh, it’s like South America…. That’s like everyday.”

Primary Informant: “But, like in the house?”

Secondary Informant: “That’s like the pastime, dude.”

Primary Informant: “Okay, in the house, for sure. And he’s playing soccer in the house and he, like, kicks the ball over to the wall and ,like, you just see this little thing just like start running across the… and you just see the guy, like, freak out. He’s just like, ‘What the hell?’

Lavelle: “Is it… fake?”

Secondary Informant: “It looks genuine.”

Primary Informant: “I mean, the only thing is, it’s, like, terrible quality, so you can’t really tell. It looks like a cell phone camera.”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, but do you really think someone would wanna go out of their way to…”

Primary Informant: “To make that up?”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah.”

Primary Informant: “I mean, maybe.”

 

Both informants who shared information about los duendes are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families and friends. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.

What I found interesting about this exchange is how it became obvious that my secondary informant was more open to the possibility of these supernatural beings actually existing, while my primary informant was growing more skeptical.

Here is the YouTube video mentioned in the story:

 

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