Author Archive
Customs
Life cycle

Filipino Birthday Tradition

Informant:

June is from Chicago, Illinois and is a current junior in college.

Piece:

So a family tradition that we have is for all of our birthday’s um instead of baking a cake, my mom would cook a traditional filipino dish called pancit. It’s basically like noodles with like vegetables, chicken meats. All the things you would want. It’s a very healthy dish and it’s supposed to be that instead of a cake which is very fattening and sugary um something that’s healthy so you can live a longer life. There are various i guess different noodles you can use, but my parents always use i guess these same very thing ones.

Collector’s thoughts:

The idea of eating healthy food at one’s birthday in order to guarantee another year of good health is an interesting idea that makes a lot of sense. Not only does the yearly meal work as a good luck charm for good health, but also connects the informant back to his filipino heritage.

Holidays

Christmas Time Nut Tradition

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

“Each year around Christmas time my grandfather would take us to this little nut shop in San Francisco. The shop was extremely small and barely had enough room for two people to fit between the door and the giant glass case of nuts. It was run by this tiny Russian lady who looked like she was birthed from a matryoshka doll.  We would always buy cashew butts, the broken pieces of the cashews, because they were much cheaper. But somehow a few full cashews always snuck into the bag. Those were the best nuts. Not cause they tasted better but cause they were special.

The shop closed and I’m pretty sure it’s a hat store now. But I always think about it whenever I have cashews.”

Collector’s thoughts:

The informant truly performed this piece of folklore when it was collected with large gesticulations and a more dramatic voice than normal. Additionally, the use of the specific russian word matryoshka is interesting because it is the russian word for what are commonly referred to as  russian nesting dolls in the United States. The informant has no russian heritage which adds to intrigue of where he learned this word and why he decided to use it when most of the americans to whom he was performing the piece were not aware of its meaning.

 

 

general

Lucky Items in Investment Banking

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

“So whenever a huge deal goes through, the company that is acquiring another will give a little gift to everyone on the group that helped. Like we helped MLB buy this streaming service and they gave MLB baseball bats to the 10 guys who worked on that deal. And it’s considered lucky to hold onto a gift from a past deal when you’re on the phone with someone from a new deal. So if you look around the office people are always fiddling with little trinkets and shit that they got for completing deals as like a good luck charm.”

 

Collector’s thoughts:

I find the dichotomy between the the extremely analytic, numbers based aspect of being a banker with the dependence on items of luck to be very interesting. The trinkets seem to remain not merely as good luck charms, but also as visible trophies of past success signaling one’s competence to those around them. In such a quantitative profession, the presence of lucky items suggests that often times the quantitative isn’t enough, even for professionals

 

 

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Spirit week

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

 

My high school took spirit week super seriously and every single person got super hyped for it and dressed up every day. It was awesome. The whole week culminated on thursday nights when we had the annual Rock N Jock tournament which was a game of basketball with modified rules. Each player on the court dressed as a different character and had different limitations and scoring potential. Like the granny had to only shoot underhand but got a 3 points no matter where she shot from. And the traveler could travel all he wanted, but had to carry a small piece of luggage with him and wasn’t allowed to shoot. Scuba diver had to wear a scuba mask, wetsuit, and flippers, but got 5 free throws if he ever got to the line. The most important character of all though was the flamingo who had to hop on one foot whenever he was on the offensive half of the court, but got 7 points if he made any shot, 3 if he hit the rim, and 1 for just hitting the backboard. The game essentially boiled down to boxing out so that the flamingo could take shots and try to get as many points as possible. It was the best part of spirit week for sure.

Collector’s thoughts:

Once again, the idea of multiplicity and variation arises. While the game of basketball has official and standardized rules, this adaptation of the famous game also has its own set of very specific rules and regulations. While this game might not be “official” it represents a great amount to the informant. This game was the essential part in determining the winner of spirit week.  

Holidays

Peppermint Pig

Informant:

Dina is a college freshman from Northern California, she comes from a large yet close knit Italian family.

Piece:

Informant: So every christmas eve my entire mom’s side of the family gathers to celebrate and we have this one tradition we do every single year. Its called um… the peppermint pig. And we take this…. We have this peppermint pig and you’re not… it’s wrapped in a velvet bag and you’re not allowed to look at it. You aren’t allowed to take it out. And after dinner we all gather around the pig and everyone takes turns hitting the pig once with a silver hammer from youngest to oldest. Take your turn, hit the pig. And then once everyone has gone, which is like 20 people, you open the bag and there’s all these fragmented pieces of a peppermint pig and you HAVE to eat a piece for good luck for the next year”

Collector: Do you have any idea where that tradition comes from

Informant: No clue

Collector: Why is it lucky

Informant: It just is. yeah it just is It just gives you good luck. Everyone has to, my aunt won’t let anyone leave the room unless we all eat a piece.

Collector’s thoughts:

What most interested me about this piece is that the informant has no idea of where the tradition came from, but is still adamant that it gives good luck. She stressed the fact that everyone has to eat a piece of the pig for good luck. When asked why the tradition is luck, the informant replied in a confused tone, not understanding why an explanation for the luck was necessary

 

 

Rituals, festivals, holidays

St. Anthony’s Good Luck

Informant:

Dina is a college freshman from Northern California, she comes from a large yet close knit Italian family.

Piece:

“So…. I am very forgetful person and when i was little, my mom and grandma used to tell me to say a prayer to St. Anthony whenever I lost something so that I could find it. And I’d be “like what do I say to St. Anthony” and they would say “well say dear St. Anthony please help me find whatever it is that you can’t find.” And I would say a little prayer and I would look really hard and I would find something and then they would tell me “well you have to remember to thank St. Anthony.” So I would say “thank you st. Anthony.” And then I would always attribute it to St. Anthony that I found my missing item thinking he was the reason I found my missing item. As I got older I began to do it myself without praying to him.

Collector’s thoughts:

The informant performed this piece in an apologetic fashion, seemingly embarrassed to admit that she had done this. To her, the praying to St. Anthony was not so much of a religious performance, but rather as a way to find a physical thing that had been lost.

 

 

Game

Improv Game with Many Names

Informant:

Cameron is an avid improviser who specializes in long form improvisation.

Piece:

So it’s interesting in improv because the same game will have many different names based on who is playing it along with ever so slight differences in how it’s played. So like the game Pan-left pan-right which is a game where four people stand in a square with each side being a different two-person scene. And then when the caller calls either pan left or pan right, the box turns and the scene that is at the front is the one we watch. Anyways i’ve heard a bunch of different names for that same game like we call it pan-left Pan-right, i’ve heard it called switch, i’ve heard it called four square, i’ve heard it called merry-go-round, i’ve heard it called squarey-go-round, ummmm lets see i think there are a few more…….I can’t right now, but i know there are more.

Collector’s thoughts:

One of the essential aspects of folklore is that it exhibits multiplicity and variation and this performance demonstrates that. The difference in names shows how improv games spread through word of mouth rather than by “official” books or documents.

Folk speech
general
Humor

Dentist Joke

Informant:

Terry is a second generation Irish american who grew up in los Angeles in the ‘60s and 70’s. He is now a dentist working and living in the Bay area.

Piece:

Ok, so here is a joke that I learned in dental school. It goes like this:

What did the dentist see in the North pole?

A molar bear

Collector’s thoughts:

This short dentist joke is a pun which replaces polar bear with the word molar. The informant laughed at his own joke and got great pleasure from telling it. To me it seemed that half of the fun in telling this joke for the informant came from the fact that it is a somewhat boring joke.

Musical

Mozart and Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere Mei Deus

Informant:

Karl is a freshman aerospace engineering major. He spent thirteen years in a traditional boy’s chorus. He is also an avid soccer player

Piece:

So there is this famous song called Miserere mei deus by this italian composer gregorio Allegri. And most people either call it the Allegri or just Miserere. But there is this super famous story about it cause like it was written for the catholic church and only ever sung by the Vatican chorus during holy week within the sistine chapel because it was considered to be too perfect to ever be performed anywhere else. So in like the 1770’s or around that time Mozart got to go with his dad to listen to the Miserere and observe the holy week service within the sistine chapel. Wolfgang Mozart was only fourteen years old but his dad was an important composer who was invited to come to the service by the pope. That night though, when they got back to where they were staying Wolfgang Mozart wrote the entire piece down just from his own memory after hearing it just once. So when I hear the piece I don’t just hear the beauty of Allegri’s writing, but I also better comprehend the true genius that Mozart was.

Collector’s thoughts:

The Informant said that he learned this legend from his choir director who claimed to have heard it when they were young. The fact that this anecdote, independent of its validity, is told to young children helps to reveal that it is a way to inspire young people to unlock their musical potential by giving an example of what a famous composer accomplished when he was young. This legend is somewhat well document and more can be read here:

 

http://www.classicfm.com/composers/mozart/guides/mozart-allegri-miserere/

Additionally, Allegri’s Miserere can be heard here:

 

 

Game

My Movie Improv Game

Informant:

Cameron is an avid improviser who specializes in long form improvisation.

Piece:

One of my favorite improv games has definitely got to be My movie. The way my movie is played is that a group  A group of improvisers  get in a line in front of a caller. They  get an audience suggestion for a letter and  suggest movie titles that start with that letter as the caller points to them. If the caller wants to hear a tag line for the movie he signals for it. When the caller finds a title he likes he says “let’s watch” and a very brief scene from the movie follows. Then the improvisers return and move on to the next letter. I like this game because it is super fast paced and you get to see a lot of variety in such a short time.

Collector’s thoughts:

My movie is a game that heavily relies on references or nods to famous movies. In this way copyrighted material is acknowledged and used and also changed in a way. This works to show that even if material is copyrighted, it is impossible for the owners of the copyright to prevent the material from being used in some way or another.

 

 

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