Author Archive

“Do as I say, not as I do”

“Do as I say, not as I do”


“So my father said it, his name was Joseph Lynn Boyd, who is my father and your grandfather. He would say it all the time. It is so bad, he was so bossy. He would say this to boss me around when he didn’t want to do something … and it was very annoying. It wasn’t very empathetic. It was very authoritarian. It wasn’t a democracy, he was the dictator.”

“He said it so much I can’t even think of a specific example. I didn’t want to go to church on Sundays but my mom also wanted to go. ‘Your goin’ to church with your mother.’ And I would say, ‘well you don’t have to go,’ and he would reply with ‘do as I say not as I do.’ It wasn’t every nice now that I think about it. He was pretty selfish.”


What was the significance of this proverb to your family?

“It showed that he was the authoritarian dictator, and he never wanted to listen to anyone else, and he was selfish.”


Who did this proverb affect?

“I’m sure if he had other children he would say it to them but he only had one kid. And if he had a really nice car, we always had a lot of cars … and I wanted to drive one of the nice ones; he would say ‘Do as I say not as I do.'”



This proverb symbolizes the informant’s family dynamic and her relationship with her father. It demonstrates the paternal authority her father claimed over his family and the demands he made of everyone else. This proverb shows that the informant’s father felt as though he were in a position to decide what his family members did, especially his child.


“Money doesn’t grow on trees”

“Money doesn’t grow on trees”


“My father would primarily say that as I got older and would want money. He was very frugal with his money and sometimes he was oddly cheap. Well, you have to put it into context. He grew up in the depression so he was very tight with his money. The oddly cheap, everything, he was so cheap, I remember when he would say when you go to the bathroom, use only two squares of toilet paper. When I was um … when I would have to do back to school shopping he would give me $50 for all of my school shopping. He would give me $20 to buy one pair of jeans. He had no idea how much clothes cost or how important they were to girls. He wasn’t really in touch with reality or how much things cost. He thought one pair of shoes was enough. I had one pair of topsiders, and I didn’t get another pair until that one was falling apart. My mom was sick … when she would talk, she would try to say, use the two squares, turn off all of the lights, use little paper towels. This is why I go over board in the other direction. Another thing, when I would eat a bowl of cereal, and there would be milk in the bottom of the bowl, he would make me drink the milk.”


Have you ever said it?

“Probably to you and Michael [my brother]. I don’t think I’m oddly stingy.”


What do you see as the significance of this saying?

“There is a finite amount of money in the household. So organic.”



This proverb represents the informant’s family’s careful practices with money. It makes sense that the informant’s father was the one to primarily use this proverb, because he grew up poor during the depression. However, the informant says that to her, this proverb represented his stinginess. She complains that he went overboard with the meaning of this proverb, and that her father did not understand the reality of how much things cost or why she wanted things. Through the informant’s story of this proverb, we can see that it sometimes put her at odds with her parents and that she chose to raise her children in a different way.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Senior Lawn and Patio

“So at my high school we had a senior lawn and senior patio. And in everyone wanted to go on it but only seniors could go on it because it was a special privilege when you reached that age. Each year, there would be a big ceremony on um the last day of classes before finals in which that years seniors handed the lawn and the patio to the juniors.”


Where did you first hear this story?

“When you got to the high schools, one of the first things they tell you is to not step on the senior lawn or patio. And from that, you hear the story of how the lawn and patio are passed down on the last day of classes from the senior class to the junior class.”


What happens when you step on the lawn or the patio?

“You get thrown in the pool. Two seniors will pick you up and throw you in the pool. I saw it once.”



“It was a joking thing; they were using it to demonstrate for that year as an example. They had a little seventh grade boy. They recorded this and showed it at morning meeting to the whole school. They did that every year. Every senior class would have a ‘Don’t step on the senior patio’ video.”


What do you think this means?

“It is a just a privilege that has to be earned. It is embedded in tradition, it has been carried on since the schools founding many decades ago. It is an initiation for senior year. It kicks off senior year. Everyone is really excited and they feel really accomplished. Its something you have been longing for three years and the anticipation has been built up.”


Who generally tells this story?

“Seniors will generally tell you this story. Any upperclassman when you come in as a freshman.”



This story shows a unique way that a community determines maturity. We can see that the patio distinguishes the mature, older group from the younger kids. The passing of the lawn represents that the younger group have finally reached a level of maturity and an age deserving of this important lawn. The informant made the lawn appear to be a facet in the “coolness” of being older, a prize to work towards throughout high school. The lawn and patio signify an important turning of age for this informant.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bloody Mary

“Ok. So when I was in elementary school, there was this myth that you went in the bathroom, turned off the light, spinned around three times fast, and looked in the mirror, chant Bloody Mary three times, you would see Bloody Mary. And Bloody Mary was this fictitious ghost.”


What did she do?

“She would just appear in the mirror. She was a scary ghost looking thing and she had red eyes.”


Did you ever do this ritual yourself?



Did she appear to you?

“So here’s the thing. I think there is some biology behind this. If you spin around three times really fast and you look straight, your vision is all kind of blurry, so you do see some kind of image. And when all of the other younger girls were there, it was Bloody Mary! In actuality, it was an after image.”


Who told you this story?

“It was told amongst the little girls. Like they wanted to go to the bathroom and try this out. This was elementary school. Second or third grade. We should go do it now haha.”


What do you see as the significance?

“Looking back on it, it resembles my childhood and all of the imagination it used to have. It was a happy carefree time in my life with my friends, … and Bloody Mary haha.”



I agree with the informant that Bloody Mary usually marks a period in childhood because it is frequently performed by youths. The story represents the imagination and fear found in children and the eagerness to perform such rituals to become part of a group.


For another version of Bloody Mary, please visit: (note a similar mention of Bloody Mary’s distinct eyes)

Wirawan, Anita. “Faces In The Mirror: The True Story Behind Bloody Mary – Anita’s Notebook.” Anita’s Notebook. N.p., 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.


The Long Island Strawberry Festival

“Well this festival is a festival on the east end of Long Island. And it’s um held like by the Lions Club, which is like a local philanthropic organization and they raise money to give to local businesses and schools. They give it to the club scouts, the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, homeless shelter, high school Corus, animal welfare, senior center. You know they give it to a lot of places. The Lions Club organized this festival every year and they give the money to the local businesses, groups, community and non-profit groups. It usually takes place in the middle of June, which is the peak of strawberry season. This year will be the 62nd year. It started out really small. Everything strawberry: rides, games, the strawberry queen, strawberry shortcake, strawberries and chocolate.”


Who is the strawberry queen?

“She is a local high school student and they pick her. The first queen was crowned in 1956, based on her extra curricular actives and giving back to the community, I don’t think she can be dumb either. So they have the semifinalists, a group of five girls, they wear white dresses, and it is a big deal to be crowed a queen. When they announce the winner, they give her a crown and a big scepter with a strawberry on it. And a big picture of her is in the local newspaper.”


What do you think is the significance of this festival?

“Long Island is known for its agriculture and vegetables and strawberries are the first fruit that that gets ready to be picked, the first fruit. It was just a way to build a community thing around it. Strawberries were the first ones in the middle of June. A nice way to kick of summer. It is a way to kick off summer, mark beginning of summer season. They call it ‘Long Islands original and largest strawberry festival, and charity fundraiser.'”



When did you first hear of this tradition?

“When we bought our house out there. We saw a big sign in the field, and I remember wondering what that was about, I didn’t realize they had a whole festival built around the strawberries.”


Who joins in?

“Everyone in the community. People from Long Island, people from all around. It is always packed. Four days and three nights, and they have fireworks every night. Its all ages, from babies to old people and everyone in between, families go with their kids, teenagers, and young adults. Tourists, old people.”



The Long Island Strawberry Festival marks a unique way to bring a community together around one of its most popular crops. While the informant is relatively new to the tradition and to Long Island, it seems as though this festival really brings together people from all areas and all ages. The festival represents the richness of the Long Island land and the abundance of crops that it produces every season. Every summer, the Strawberry Festival will mark the beginning of the warm summer to come and the productive season ahead.


The Dark Night of Soul

“So like there is a night in the year where there are the most evil spirits. The Prince of Egypt – the last of the plagues when the God came to take the first-born sons, they wiped blood on the doorframe. Like what we do one night per year, we shut off all the lights and we light all these candles, and place the virgin Mary in front of the house to protect us from the evil spirits. This is to protect the family. Its just one night a year.”


When did you first hear this story?

“My mom has practiced it my whole life, lighting candles, placing of statue, praying on rosemary beads. My entire Latino family practices it.”



This tradition references a Biblical story, but is incorporated into the informant’s Latino family traditions. I agree that this story is a form of a protection spell from the Black Angel that is said to take the eldest son.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Chinese Lunar Calendar

“Ok so the jist of it is, the Lunar Calendar, the Chinese Lunar Calendar is dictated by the year of the animal. Every year it is a different animal. The year of the tiger, year of the dragon, year of the lamb. There are 12 animals that go on rotation. Every twelve years the same animal will come to be. So depending on what year you were born on, you would be born to the year of that certain animal. And the year of the animal changes every Chinese New Year. So there are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac/lunar calendar and the legend is that the order that the order the animals came is through a race.

“So apparently, a race was called um and animals would have to race together and the first twelve that made it across the finish line would make it onto the calendar. And depending on the order those twelve came across the finish line, that would be the order one to twelve. So the main gist of the story is that the challenges that they would all have to race, they would have to jump a creek and race all of the way through and throughout the whole race, the ox was in the lead. Um during the race, the rat jumps on top of the ox and as the ox is running and right as it is by the finish line, with all of the other animal behind them, and they’re going, just as the ox is approaching the finish line the rat jumps off the ox’s head and steals first place. And so the ox becomes second. Tiger third and all of the other animals follow until twelve. That is the legend of how the lunar calendar came to be.


Who told you this story?

“My dad.”


And in what setting?

“My guess would be a discussion about Chinese New Year.”


Who usually talks about this story?

“People that are native from China or find that the story is interesting to pass along discuss it at Chinese New Year.”


What does this story mean to you?

“Um it doesn’t affect the way I live my life, a funny insight into how the Chinese culture characterizes what western culture tends to objectify. Even years form the Chinese people have a life incorporated into it. The fact that you apply living animals to every year. And there is a story to how they collaborated and how they approach one another and how that came to be.”



I think that this story is a very significant aspect of tradition Chinese culture. It is unique that animals play such a large role in the development of the calendar because I have heard that animals are good luck charms in Chinese tradition. While this story does help us understand the meaning of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, it is also a fun story to listen to and take part in the tradition.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Roscón de Reyes

“In English this means the Ring of Kings. And it is a celebration for … that is celebrated on the Day of Kings, which is usually January 6th and on this day, children receive presents not from Christ or Santa Claus, from the Kings – the three wise men from the story of Christ. And in this day a little figurine of baby Christ is put in a ring-shaped cake and whoever pulls it out is blest for the rest of the year by Christ himself. And in Mexican culture you also have to make dinner for the whole family. Whoever pulls out Christ has to make dinner to spread the blessings. Celebration of the three wise men.


“The cake starts getting cut on January 6th but it can spread out over the whole week. In Hispanic culture we celebrate Christ and the Kings over two or three weeks. Its like a two or week party. Christmas to January 12th.”


When did you start celebrating this tradition?

“I started first celebrating when I was around four. I remember this because my family would actively avoid trying to get Christ from the ring of kings and I saw my sister once get it and put it back because no one wants to make tallies.”


What does this story mean to you?

“To me, it is something my mom liked to do and brought my family together to the same table and see everyone together especially since everyone is so busy.”



It seems as though the celebration of Roscón de Reyes is primarily celebrated to bring everyone in the informant’s family together. I got the sense that no one in the family actually wanted to get the good luck charm because of the inconvenience of having to spread their luck by making a meal for everyone. I have heard of the Biblical Story of the Three Kings but never in a physical celebration. I think that the cake is another way to bring the family together.


For another version of what is celebrated for Roscón de Reyes, please visit:

Harris, Jenn. “Celebrate Three Kings Day with Rosca De Reyes.” L.A. Now. LA Times, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Life cycle
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dia De Los Muertos

“Day of the Dead. It is just the celebration of the past ancestors. It’s celebrated before Halloween or on Halloween, I’m not sure. Wait – it’s November 1st. we usually celebrate it by going to the cemetery and having a picnic, setting up their favorite food and celebrating their memory. Who they are and who they are as a person.”


Do you have a favorite memory from this day?

“When we celebrated my grandfather. We celebrated his memory here in the States. We set up a little shrine for him and set out some of his favorite food: sweetbread and molé.”


When did you start celebrating this day?

“When my grandfather died so when I was like five.”


Who usually participates in this tradition?

“Usually the whole family. Usually go to the big family plot and visit all of the family members, the ones from recent memory.”


I think this celebration is very popular in one form or another for many cultures in order to celebrate the dead. I think it is unique that the informant and his family in their culture celebrate all of their dead on one day. They remember their recently deceased and memorialize them. This tradition enables the family to mourn and celebrate the passing of important people in their lives and bring them together as a whole.


Oyster Cassarole

“So the food I would like to talk about is a casserole that my grandmother used to make and she only made it on special occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. And it was her domain, like no matter where we celebrated the holiday; she was the one who made this dish. And it was an oyster casserole. Don’t make that face it is really good. I can taste it now. It’s an oyster casserole. That reflects – I grew up in Maryland and so the Chesapeake Bay is the body of water where I grew up. And like the Chesapeake Bay is known for seafood. And oysters are one of the biggest crops of the Chesapeake Bay: oysters, blue crabs, and rockfish. Those are the three main like crops or whatever from the Chesapeake Bay. So like when I grew up, life revolved around the water. We always ate a lot of seafood. Seafood was like our way to be connected to our environment. And like you would eat oysters fried, raw, in casserole, baked, like they were really popular. So Grandma Boyd, I don’t know if she developed the recipe but it was like her secret recipe. Um so it was a secret recipe, it reflects our family’s heritage of the Chesapeake Bay.

“And actually, I remember when I was little, Pop Pop [Mona’s father] and I would go, my dad and I would go, to the seafood place and buy the raw oysters for the casserole. We would go buy and bring it home and she would make the casseroles. She would make two big ones, two big casseroles. And she would um bring them and bake them at the house wherever the dinner was. And then everyone would, it was very coveted, everyone would fight over the oysters. Everyone wanted more than one helping. There would be all this good food, but everyone wanted to hog the oysters. And basically, all they are is layers of pan with crushed up cracker crumbs, salt pepper, butter, and chunks of butter, and she would lay the oysters on it, and another layer of cracker crumbs and more layers of oysters and break crumbs. Oh my goodness it is so good you can’t even image. She knew would how to make them just right.


When did you first experience/hear about the tradition?

“Probably when like I want to say 1968 when I was eight years old. I remember they became more popular as the years went on. Like within the family. People just knew how good they were. Like you couldn’t have a holiday meal without the oysters. It wouldn’t have been a prober meal. Grandma’s oysters.”


What was your grandma’s name?

“Ella Louise Boyd – we called her Louise.”


Who typically took part in this tradition?

“Me, and mom and dad, Aunt Liz and Uncle Carl, Grandma Boyd, um and usually Uncle Mike and Aunt Pam, Brittney and Amy my cousins, and anybody’s family who was around. Sometimes Uncle Dan, sometimes Uncle Bob and his wife Francie. Sometimes cousin Trace, my cousin Donna and her husband Earl.”


What do you see as the significance or role of tradition in your family?

“Its like just a very, it’s a comfort food. Some families mashed potatoes or turkey is the comfort food, the oyster casserole was the comfort food.”


And when exactly would this tradition appear?

“Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. It wasn’t ever made any other time. We always used to eat steamed crabs. That’s a whole other business though.”


My Analysis:

This tradition represents more than just a comfort food for the informant’s family. The oyster casserole seems to unite her family during the holiday season, giving them a delicious meal to celebrate around. The informant is clearly very involved in this tradition because she has grown up taking part in it from a young age. The oyster casserole also enables the informant to really take part in her family’s culture because her and her father collect the oysters themselves. It is unique that this tradition also unites the family back to their environment. The oysters represent both her family’s unity but also the local traditions of the Chesapeake Bay.