Author Archive
Customs

Hot Weather, Hot Foods

Text:

“When the weather is hot outside, you’re supposed to eat something hot so it’ll cool you down. I don’t really know why, I think it’s like… what you’re consuming is hotter than the weather outside.”

Background:

When asked about the background of this custom, the informant didn’t really know when or where it originated from. He thinks that the reasoning behind the custom is that temperature is relative, so if the food is extremely hot, it’ll make the weather outside feel less hot. It doesn’t really hold much meaning to him, but it’s just something that he recalls always being told as a kid. He doesn’t really follow it any more either.

Context:

I collected this from a male Korean friend who had heard it from his mom. He said that it’s normally taught to kids at a young age. And he says that it’s “just a Korean thing.”

Personal Thoughts:

I think that this may show an inclination of Asians, Koreans in this case, to like being in control. They don’t like to be controlled by things in which they have no say, such as the weather.

Customs
Game

Jinx, You Owe Me a Soda

Text:

“Jinx you owe me a soda.”

Background:

If you say the same word or phrase as another person, you would say the phrase shown above to them. Jinx means you aren’t allowed to talk, and you have to give them a soda or they have to say your name three times. My informant said that it means nothing to him, just a game. Fun to play with little kids.

Context:

My respondent recalls learning it as a kid in elementary school, but now he says it when he’s with his little cousins.

Personal Thoughts:

I’m curious to learn more about the origin of this game/saying. I wonder what exactly jinx is referring to, and whether or not it has anything to do with jins.  Otherwise, it seems like a fun little game that kids “play” without getting too serious about it. I’ve personally never see anyone actually follow through with the rules.

general

Raksha Bandhan

Text:

“Theres a festival every year for the bond between a sister and a brother. The sister will tie a knot on the brother’s wrist so that signifies their bond… its like a bracelet type thing. There’s a certain type of string for religious reasons but it’s really any kind of string. It’s gotten pretty elaborate now but that’s only to make it look good. The ones that I use are just a very simple red band. In our family, all our cousins do it, 9 cousins total. Eight of them are girls so I’ll have eight bracelets on my wrist, and I’ll give them each a gift. In our family, it’s money, so I will give them each $50. So it’s like they give me love and I give them money… It’s not always money but that’s how we do it in our family. The girls also give us sweets, it’s like a ritual to show the love between a brother and sister. So you keep the string on as long as possible and you’re supposed to let it fall off by itself. I’ve kept mine on for as long as a year. The knots are called Rakhi. It’s a certain time of the year, but I don’t remember what the date is. For the actual event, you have a chair and you have a fire that’s lit, and you put a dot on the brothers forehead, you tie the knot, and you feed them the sweet. The the next one comes… Oh, the sweets are just desserts, and there’s usually a variety of them.”

Background:

My informant loves the festival, because he likes anything that brings family together. But now there are more generations who don’t care as much. Whereas before, 50 or so people would show up, now only 40 or 30 people come because people are living in different places, and people don’t want to go. He still does it though, but it is hard to get everyone together all at once.

Context:

This a festival that is held annually, and each family with host their own. It sounds like each family will have different variations as to who attends the festival, what sweets they have, and what kind of gifts they give.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this festival really stresses the importance of family in Indian culture. However, it’s interesting that it is only about the bonds between siblings, and not the bonds between elders and offspring like most other Asian countries. An image of some sample Rakhis are shown below.

 

http://www.sify.com/news/musical-or-cartoon-rakhi-take-your-pick-this-raksha-bandhan-news-national-mh1okdeaaih.html

Customs
Initiations

University of Georgia Arch

Text:

“At the University of Georgia, there is an arch that people can only walk under it once while they’re a freshman, and they’re not supposed to walk under it again until they graduation. The first time means your entrance into UGA, saying I’m now a student. To walk out of it before you graduate is bad luck. I guess it sort of safeguards you time as a student, it defines your time… It looks like a gazebo.”

Background:

There is apparently a step that leads up to it, and a lot of students were advocating for the university to build a ramp for students for physical disabilities, but university wouldn’t do it. They said that they could just put in a temporary ramp. My informant thought that the custom was kind of cool. She likes the fact that it’ s a tradition and a shared experience.

Context:

She heard it from her best friend that goes there.

Personal Thoughts:

This is an interesting custom that marks the liminal periods of a student’s entrance and graduation from college. It’s probably a way that students at the University of Georgia create a shared experience that doubles as a celebration upon graduating from the university.

general

Witchcraft: Sitting Pretty

Text:

“My mom always told me that I shouldn’t sit with my legs against the wall. Back in the day witches sat like that, so people would think that I was a witch…. I don’t know why, but I think it’s because they were thought to be able to walk on walls.”

Background:

My informant told me that in a lot of Africa, a lot of families were of tribal and animistic religions. There were “really dark tribal things” going on and people would report really weird things like people turning into cats, a lot of kidnappings, and people turning their friends into witches for uses in witchcraft. She felt uncomfortable when she first heard her mom tell her that. She told me that a lot of things in Nigerian culture was stigmatized. Certain ways that you sleep were bad too. For example, sleeping on your side kept you from being robbed. She feels that a lot of it goes back to village culture, before Nigeria was urbanized.

Context:

My informant heard it from her mom when she was young.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this is a great example of folklore showing certain fears that a community has. From what my informant said, it seems like witches were powerful figures back in Nigeria history, but they were seen in a negative light which explains why the informant’s mom didn’t want her to be associated with witches.

Tales /märchen

The Crow and the Bottle

Text: 

“There was a crow and a bottle of water, but the crow’s beak was too big for the head of the bottle. So the crow was wondering how to get to the water, and it started to drop pebbles into the bottle so the water would keep rising. Eventually the water got to the brim and the crow was able to drink. It goes to show that if you’re really smart then you’re able to get what you’re looking for. Persistance is important.”

Background:

This is a Chinese story, and my informant learned it from him mom. He likes it because it shows that persistence goes a long way in achieving your dreams.

Context:

This was just told to him as a child, he doesn’t remember any specific instances that it was told.

Personal Thoughts:

I think persistence has always been a big part of Chinese culture, as well as intelligence and hard work, and these values are very present in this tale. It’s also interesting that a crow is the main character in the story. In Chinese culture, the crow usually has bad connotations, and will oftentimes signal bad luck. However, maybe this tale tries to comment on the fact that even if you are someone of “lower status,” as long as you work hard and are smart, you will still be able to achieve great things.

Musical

I Don’t Wanna Be a Chicken

Text:

“I don’t wanna be a chicken, I don’t wanna be a duck, so shake my butt”

Background:

My informant learned it from a couple girls in second grade who made fun of him and shook their butts at them. He said that it feels like it means an insult because you’re calling the other person a chicken/duck. He remembers being very offended.

Context:

This was a song that was sung from time to time among young kids.

Personal Thoughts:

This seems to be the start of young children learning about gender differences, and a way to cope with them. One could even argue that this was a way that girls started learning about their own sexuality since the butt is a fairly sexualized part on a female’s body. Perhaps this was just a way that kids could bond within their own gender.

Customs

Table Settings: Rice and Soup

Text:

“This is another custom… you’re supposed to have rice on the left side of you, and soup on the right side when you serve it. Don’t know the reason, but maybe because you eat with your right hand.”

Background:

The informant learned this from his mom. He doesn’t really know the meaning of it, but he doesn’t like it because he think it’s annoying.

Context:

This is a custom that is normally taught to kids at a young age regarding table manners.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this is part of table manners that are taught in Korean culture, similar to the ways that we have rules about where the bread plate, drinks, or utensils are placed on a table. This creates more organization on a table, and since rice and soups are a common part of Korean meals, they have rules about where they go within a table setting.

Legends

Origin of the Sikh Khalsa

Text:

“By the time the tenth guru came around, he created the a Khalsa (the body of Sikhs) And they wanted to create a definitive group that would help identify to others who the Sihks were. It’s never been done before because of the caste system. They wanted a shared identity to help them bond. So the 10th guru had this celebration of prayers and hymns being sung. Then guru said that “you guys are all very dear to me” but I need someone to sacrifice themselves. One of them volunteered, so the guru took him into a tent. After a while, he came out with a bloody knife and asked for one more. This happened 3 more times, so 4 others were offered as sacrifice. All five of them and the guru then came out of the tent dressed in navy blue and orange, and the guru called them panj pyare (“five loved ones”). He declared that they were the first members of the khalsa. That day he declared that all have males will have the same last name- Singh (male lion), and all females will be the last name Kaur (female lion). He also created a baptism ceremony where you drink out of amrit, a vessel with holy water that’s blessed by gurus.”

Background:

My informant heard this story from both his grandmas. He likes it because it shows the devotion that people have for his faith. It makes him feel that it’s something you do with a full heart. The fact that they were willing to give their heads for the guru was an ultimate devotion to their gurus. This resonates with him because he believes that if he cares about a certain goal, he’s not going to “half-ass” it. For example, a lot of cousins will shave their beards and trim their hair, which is a forbidden thing in the Sikh religion, but my informant says that if he’s going to believe in it, he’s going to do it all out. A lot of these stories talk about hard work and discipline, which are values that he carries over to his school and work life too.

Context: 

This story is commonly passed down through families, as well as Sunday Schools for Sikhs.

Personal Thoughts:

I think it’s interesting that Sikhism is the only religion that requires it’s followers not to cut their hair. I asked my informant the reasoning behind this, and he said that it’s because they believe that hair is a gift from God, and even after you cut it, it grows, showing that it’s a natural thing. So cutting it is a sign of disrespect. From the information that I gathered from my informant, I can see that respect and devotion are important values int he Sikh religion.

 

Humor

Mole-ster

Text:

“What do you call 6.022 times 10 to the 23… wait I messed up. Why did the 6.022 times 10 to the 23rd ester get arrested? Because it was a mole-ster!”

Background:

My informant doesn’t remember where he heard this from, but it’s his favorite Chemistry joke.

Context:

This is a joke that is usually said in a casual setting between friends since it is slightly crude.

Personal Thoughts:

This joke is probably spread between people of higher intelligence, since it does require basic Chemistry knowledge to understand. It’s a bit crude, which is an interesting juxtaposition against the topic of Chemistry, but that’s probably why the punch line is unexpected.

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