Author Archive
Childhood
Tales /märchen

Big Cookie Hero

 

My informant is an American from Minnesota, who has ancestors from Czech republic and Sweden, back to 1880.

“My grandmother used to tell me a story of a big cookie that could roll around and have adventure.  Sometimes it was oatmeal cookie sometimes it was a chocolate chip cookie, but they would roll around have adventures, save kids…She may have the story come down from her ancestors. Sweets are big product in Sweden. She may possibly hear this from her mother. It was like a bed time story. The big cookie was the hero. He would roll down the streets and rescue a lot of stupid kids. I think the cookie did talk, say things like ‘you stupid kid, how did you stuck in the mud? how did you lock yourself in the room?'”

“My grandma, who lives in St. Paul now, she still always has a mass amount of cookies and pastry that she baked before we came. So much culture pass down through food. ”

As an animation filmmaker and teacher, Christine loves this kind of tales that she heard from her family, which has also inspired her a lot in her creation.

I think this kind of folklore tales is really playing a positive role in people’s childhood, which could make the children grow up happily and imaginatively.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs

Shoes always facing outward

My informant is a student who was originally from China but came to study in US since high school.

“There is one habit that I’m still afraid to break even now, which is to place my shoes facing inward to my bed. People in my country, well, maybe mostly in my family, that if you let you shoes facing inward, it’s like welcoming the ghosts to wear on your shoes and step onto you at night. Well, I don’t really believe in it that much, but I would still avoid doing that anyway haha.”

I think it’s very interesting that sometimes even though people don’t really believe in the reason behind certain behavior, they still make the decision to do that anyway. It could be a inner fear of those ambiguous things, like “what if they really happen? it’s always better to be safe.”

 

Childhood
Customs
Festival
Homeopathic
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Red pocket money under pillow

My informant is a student who was originally from China but came to study in US since high school.

“You know, red pocket money is one of the biggest tradition during Spring Festival in China. But in my family, not only we get red pocket money from people much older than us, we also put them under our pillow at night. It’s like really coordinating with the word “压”(push down) in “压(push down)岁(age)钱(money)” (red pocket money). And my grandparents would also put ivy leaves inside there, just for good luck.”

“I know they are many superstitions from Chinese family, especially my family haha. But we still do that, I don’t think the truth matters that much in this case, I like these traditions.”

I think it’s really interesting that in both asian and western culture we have this kind of gift thing for kids during important festivals. Hoping for good luck with ivy leaves inside red pocket money that placed under their pillow to Chinese children, waiting for christmas gift to be put inside the christmas sock for western children, they both serve as a good method to give them hope and believes; as well as for better sleeping quality since they all happen during bed time.

 

Folk Beliefs
Foodways

Soul Food

My informant is an African-American from Dallas, Texas.

“We have soul food. I think only African-American have this term to use on food. Sometimes they’re not healthy, but we love them. Other people could make those food with same names, but I like the ones we made with special recipe. like those macaroni with cheese, creamed corn…they’re very different from what we have at school dining halls. My grandma always makes them for me during holiday. But I can’t cook haha.”

I think this is a really sweet and proud thing that black people have their own favorite recipes on certain food that have been handing down for generations, which could also become a pretty identical thing for each family.

Folk Dance

Electric Slide Dance

My informant is an African-American from Dallas, Texas.

“We dance the Electric Slide when we gather together. Whenever music starts, we do that. But usually it’s happening during the big gathering like party, graduation or wedding. I don’t know why we do that, but ever since I had memory I started doing that with other African-American people, anybody any age.  I like doing that, it’s really fun!”

He also mentioned that this dance is pretty exclusive to African-American, not the African immigrants in US. Since they’re more like a group fused with pieces of African cultures, it seems like they created a new culture after they lived on this land. I find that even though those cultures could be lost, but what built in their genes, in this case the talent of dancing and singing in people originated from Africa, are strong enough to revive a new culture.

 

 

Game
Musical

Throw the handkerchief

My informant is a 48 year-old woman who has lived her whole life in China by now.

"This a game we have all played in kindergarten. Several people sit in a circle. 
except for one stands outside of the circle; they are in charge of throwing a 
handkerchief. After running around the circle, the person will drop the 
handkerchief behind someone’s back. That person must now get up quickly and chase
the person who dropped the handkerchief. If the chaser catches the person, 
then they are winner. If not, they are the loser and will have to pay a penalty. 
The game is played until each person has had a chance to throw the handkerchief. "

丢手绢
(diu-shou-juan)
Throw the handkerchief
丢手绢
(diu-shou-juan)
Throw the handkerchief
轻轻地丢在小朋友的后边
(ching-ching-de-diu-zai-shiao-peng-yoo-de-ho-mian)
Put it back of our friends quietly
大家不要告诉他
(da-gia-boo-yiao-gao-soo-ta)
We all do not tell her
快点快点捉住他
(kuai-dian-kuai-dian-zhuo-zhoo-ta)
Quikely,quikely catch her
快点快点捉住他
(kuai-dian-kuai-dian-zhuo-zhoo-ta)
Quikely,quikely catch her



She thinks kids are taught to play this game along with singing this song at 
kindergarten is a good outdoor activity for them to interact and get along well 
with each other.

I've also played that game in my childhood, I think it's really much more fun to 
play with each other face to face back to those times, comparing to nowadays kids
just each holding an iPad alone.
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Material
Protection

Kitchen Witches

My informant is an American from Minnesota, who has ancestors from Czech republic and Sweden, back to 1880.

“The other thing that Sweden has, we have the kitchen witches. So hang a witch in the kitchen and they protect the kitchen. I still have kitchen witches, I have several.  It’s like a little figurative witch on a broom, but they go in the kitchen, they’re called kitchen witches. They protect the food in the kitchen. So it’s a very Scandinavian sort of thing. It may have different looks in each family, but it has to be a witch, and you hang it in a kitchen. It keeps you up from messing up your kitchen.”

She is very proud of this specific object that they keep in Sweden culture, even though she has been immigrated to US for a long time. I think it’s very lovely that in many Scandinavian cultures they believe in magic and magical creatures, and sometimes they really work when you believe in them. In this case if you do believe in the kitchen witches can protect you from messing up your kitchen, and hang them there, you may really become more cautious while cooking.

 

folk metaphor
folk simile

오비이락 烏飛梨落

My informant is a student who originally came from Korea, but moved with her family to Los Angeles since her middle school.

 

烏飛梨落

오비이락

Bird flies away, Pear drops off.

 

My informant told me Korean also use this kind of  four-word phrases to convey some philosophy as Chinese people do; many of them are written in Chinese characters but pronounced in Korean.

For this specific one, she said, “You didn’t do anything, but something happens coincidentally, then people think you did it.”

It is quite interesting to me that there are many metaphors like this in asian cultures, which I think more or less relates to their hieroglyphic language (especially traditional Chinese) that allows them to randomly connect two things that share similar features together.

 

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Tale of a girl and his blind dad

My informant is a student who originally came from Korea, but moved with her family to Los Angeles since her middle school.

“There was a girl lived with his blind dad. There were both poor, peasants. One mean lady tried to steal money from them. That lady married with the blind dad, and then grabbed the money and left them alone. There was a superstition at that time that if you sacrificed your body into the river, you would get better weather in exchange. Then the girl decided to do that for her dad. But she didn’t tell her dad the truth, she just told him she found a way to have better harvest. Then his dad got five packs of rice, but the daughter died. Actually after that, we saw the girl dived into the water, and there was a kingdom underwater. She then married with the prince there, and told him about his dad and that she missed his dad so much. Then she was sent back up from the water and saw his dad again. Even though his dad was blind, he could still hear her voice, and then his sight magically came back. The mean lady was just gone away then. That was a happy ending.”

She told me that the one she heard about should be the latest version, but people in Korea started talking about this story about 200 years ago; this is a very traditional one. It was in the time period that there was a big gap between rich and poor people. People told these stories with happy ending to comfort themselves. It also tell people to take care of their parents, and give people hope for living.

I think even though this kind of folk tales seems to be pretty naive in terms of its plot and causality, they do have their positive values in a society. They provide a guide of morality that is good for social stability.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic

Chopstick in rice bowl

My informant is a student who was originally from China but came to study in US since high school.

“In China we are not allowed to place our chopsticks perpendicularly into rice bowl while eating. It is very inappropriate to do that there, because it would look like you are worshiping dead people.”

This is a common habit that parents always forbid their kids to do on the dining table since their very young age from decades to decades. My informant says that she still keeps that rule in mind every time she eats with chopsticks now, even though she no longer thinks about the reason behind it anymore.

It is quite interesting to me that there are many homeopathic folk beliefs like this in Chinese customs, which I think more or less relates to their hieroglyphic language that allows them to randomly connect two things that share similar features together.

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