Author Archive
Childhood
Game

Seven-Up Childhood Game

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: When I was in elementary school, my music teacher taught me a game called seven-up. Basically, she would pick seven people to stand at the front of the room, and the rest of the class would sit at their desks with their heads down and their thumbs up. The seven chosen would then walk around the room, and each would tap one seated person’s thumb. They would put their thumbs down once they were tapped. Then, when the seven people were done, they would return to the front of the room, and the seven whose thumbs were tapped would stand at their desks. Each would then choose whomever they thought tapped them, and if they were right, they would switch places and roles with them. If they were wrong, they’d sit back down. At the end of the guessing, the people a the front would admit whose thumbs they tapped. Then the process would happen all over again.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s a childhood game. It’s important to me because of my memories tied to it. My friends and I got so excited to play this game, and it was always the biggest deal to figure out who tapped your thumb! Also, everyone from other schools played something similar to seven-up growing up, usually just with slightly different rules or a different name, but it’s something to reminisce on not only with my classmates but really anyone my age.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed hearing about this piece of folklore because I played the same game in elementary school and feel the same way about other people knowing a similar version. It’s very interesting to see how games in different schools compare and how they were a major part of our lives. We even go so far as to argue over which version is right.

Gestures
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jumping the Broom at Weddings

Informant: The informant is Briana, a nineteen-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Vacaville, California, in the Bay Area, and has lived there for her entire life, until she moved to Los Angeles for college. She is of African descent.

Context of the performance: This performance was done while we were sitting on the grass outside of our dorm building on USC’s campus- Arts and Humanities at Parkside.

Original Script:

Informant: So, at weddings, African Americans have a tradition of the newlywed spouses jumping over a broom after they say their vows. Basically, someone brings a broom up to the altar so that when the spouses are leaving, they have to jump over it to exit the ceremony area, whether it’s a church or not. It’s supposed to represent sweeping your past behind you, whether that was any issues you had dating or just your past as single people.Your lives as single people are behind you, and you enter into your relationship as a married couple and your new, shared life together.

Interviewer: Who taught you about this ritual?

Informant: My grandmother told me this when I was in middle school.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s cool because it’s a tradition that’s been done for a long time. Also, my mom and dad did it, and so I want to do it. I would keep the broom, personally, and I would show my kids. It would be really sentimental for them to see it.


Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed hearing about this ritual because I, personally, have never been to a wedding. However, I do know that my family does not follow this tradition, so it was quite interesting to learn about. At first, I was confused as to why the couple would step over a broom, but, with Briana’s explanation, the ritual totally makes sense. It is also interesting that she knew the reasoning behind this piece of folklore because many people who observe or participate in folklore do not know about its true message.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The Legend of Rozafa Castle

Informant: The informant is Mrika. She has lived in the Bronx, New York for her whole life. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She is of Albanian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat across from each other at a table at a diner in Yonkers, New York during our spring breaks from college.

Original Script:

Informant: In Albania, there is a castle called Rozafa Castle, and it’s not in the best condition right now. These three brothers were trying to build the castle. They would work all day, but when they would go home at night and come back in the morning, the walls would all fall down. So, one day, they came across an old man who said the walls would only stay standing if they sacrificed someone. So the three brothers couldn’t decide what the right thing to do was. The ended up deciding to sacrifice one of their wives. Their wives would always drop off lunch for them while they worked. They were going to sacrifice the first wife who showed up, so that it would be by chance. They promised not to tell their wives about their plan, but two of the brothers lied and told their wives not to bring them lunch the next day. The youngest brother was honest, and when she came, they buried within the castle’s walls. Her name was Rozafa, which is the name of the castle. She accepted this because she thought it was her fate. She figured the city needed the castle, so she could do this for the city, but this role was put on her. It wasn’t actually her fate to show up first. Anyway, she gave in because she thought it was her destiny. She said that she was only worried about her infant son. So she asked to be buried in the wall with one of her breasts out so that she could breastfeed him and one of her arms out so that she could caress him. When the brothers buried her in the wall and came back the next day, the walls were still standing.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: This is important to me because it’s a story about the city where my parents grew up- Shkoder, or Shkodra. My mom told me this legend when we saw the castle while we visited Albania. She believed it to be true, and learned it from my grandma, who also believed it. It has been passed on through my family. Also, the name Rozafa was kept in my family. My cousin’s name is Rozafa.

Personal Thoughts: This legend is definitely compelling, and it is interesting to see Mrika’s connection to it. I loved hearing about how she visited the castle when she was in Albania and that her cousin was named after Rozafa. I actually graduated high school in a church called Our Lady of Shkodra, but I never knew anything about the city itself. Hearing this story made me think about how often I neglect the background information of different places I have visited, even if they are important to me.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Albanian Broom Superstition

Informant: The informant is Mrika. She has lived in the Bronx, New York for her whole life. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She is of Albanian descent.

Context:We sat across from each other at a table at a diner in Yonkers, New York during our spring breaks from college.

Original Script:

Informant: So, if someone accidentally hit you with a broom while they were sweeping, it would be bad luck. If they hit your feet, people would say that you wouldn’t get married. It seemed like an allusion to slavery. Brooms deal with the ground and the dirt. You had to get rid of the bad luck. To do that, you have to spit on the broom.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I learned about this while I was on vacation in Albania, so it reminds me of that culture. I must have been eight years old. This is the one superstition that makes me remember the month I spent in Albania when I was growing up.

Personal Thoughts: I find it interesting that not only did Mrika explain the piece of folklore, but she also had developed a sense of the potential meaning behind its reason. Usually, people do not really know where the folklore they follow comes from or its meaning, yet Mrika, as she got older, was able to infer why getting hit with a broom is considered bad luck.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Albanian Superstition

Informant: The informant is Mrika. She has lived in the Bronx, New York for her whole life. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She is of Albanian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat across from each other at a table at a diner in Yonkers, New York during our spring breaks from college.

Original Script:

Informant: So, it was kind of like a superstition. Most Albanian superstitions are about luck, and they think that when you have bad luck, you’re not going to get married. As a kid, whenever I would hit my head on someone else’s head, people said that I was giving someone bad luck. To remove that bad luck, I’d have to bump heads again with that person. Then, it would go away. My grandma taught me this.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s important to me because as a kid, I knew that the whole thing was dumb, and I didn’t believe it, but it’s something you hold onto. Someone older than me taught that- my grandma. It would always remind me of her. It was something that seemed like a game.

Personal Thoughts: This piece reminds me of the connection folklore gives people to other people. This superstition connects Mrika with her grandmother and her siblings and cousins with whom she spent time growing up. This piece also has a bit of humor to it, which helped Mrike to create childhood memories.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Albanian Proverb

Informant: The informant is Mrika. She has lived in the Bronx, New York for her whole life. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She is of Albanian descent.

Context:We sat across from each other at a table at a diner in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: There’s a proverb that Albanians say. It goes, “When you have given nothing, ask for nothing.” So, it has a lot to say about respect in Albanian culture. We believe in returning favors and that, basically, you only get what you give. If you don’t give anything, you don’t get anything. It’s kind of like karma. I learned this from my dad. He was trying to teach me valuable lessons about appreciation and hard work .He taught me this when I was in middle school and I asked him for money. Like always, he had to turn this into a life lesson.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s important because it taught me about not being greedy. You only get what you give. I feel like it’s so opposite of American culture. It reminds me not to be selfish. Honestly, so much Albanian folklore has that message.


Personal Thoughts: I think that it is fascinating to learn about the central messages of folklore of different cultures. I found it very interesting that Mrika said that much of her folklore is about not being selfish and making sure to return favors. The fact that their proverbs revolve around other people aside from themselves is admirable.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sleep Paralysis Ghost

Informant: The informant is Nabila. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Northeastern University. She grew up in Bangladesh.

Context of the Performance: We sat on the living room floor of a mutual friend’s house in Yonkers, New York over our spring breaks form college.

Original Script:

Informant: So basically, do you know about sleep paralysis?

Interviewer: Yes.

Informant: Basically, it’s a condition which doesn’t allow you to move or talk when you’re waking up or first falling asleep. In Asian culture, when that happens, people believe that it is a form of nightmare or that it is a ghost sitting on you. When you have sleep paralysis, since you can’t move, and you might be screaming out loud but can’t actually make any noise, people think that he’s sitting on you. Because he can’t speak, since he’s a ghost, you can’t speak either. I actually don’t believe it though. My mom told me this when I was about thirteen, but now I know that it’s actually sleep paralysis.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s important to me in the sense that when it happened to me, it really scared me. I had a bunk bed, and it happened to me the first time I slept on the top bunk. So, I never slept on the top bunk again because I thought that the nightmare would happen again.

Personal Thoughts: I find this piece interesting because I have known about sleep paralysis for years now and have never heard of this type of fear of it. In fact, I, along with many of my friends, have tried to achieve sleep paralysis because you need to do so in order to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is something so many people try to do, so it is compelling to me that Nabila and her family are so afraid of sleep paralysis.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Foodways

“Your mother-in-law loves you” Greek Tradition

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:
Informant: This takes place when you are eating at the dinner table. Say my aunt will call us. In Greek, my mother will say to my aunt, “Your mother-in-law loves you.” When she says this, my aunt will understand that she is at the table eating. That way, she doesn’t have to explain to my aunt that she is eating; she just gets it. This phone conversation has to take place between two Greeks because you speak the phrase in Greek. My aunt, or whoever is on the phone, and my mom can laugh it off, and my aunt will tell her to enjoy her meal and hang up. My mother taught me this when I was about thirteen. That’s around the time I saw her do this for the first time. I just remember that one day, my mom kept saying it.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s just kind of important to know because it’s part of my culture. Also, it’s useful to know because if I called someone and they said that my mother-in-law loves me, I should understand what it means.

Personal Thoughts: I like this piece of folklore a lot because I think it is very unique. It is interesting to me that Greeks have a general understanding of what to do when they hear the phrase, “Your mother-in-law loves you” over the phone. I also find it compelling because it seems that this phrase takes just as long to say as something like, “I’m eating right now. I’ll call you back.” Since the two are just as simple to say, it is interesting that Greeks choose to say something which most people would deem more confusing, rather than just explaining what they are doing.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Protection

Protection Against Compliments and the Evil Eye

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: So, in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, they make fun of this, but it’s kind of true. In Greece, we believe very heavily in the evil eye and that its disease very easy to get. If you receive a lot of compliments, and you don’t do this one superstitious thing, you can get the evil eye. Everyone, or at least every Greek, knows that one person who died from the evil eye. Honestly, maybe he or she died from cancer, but there’s always that one grandmother who believes the death was because of the evil eye. Basically, when you get complimented, someone will warn you that you will get the evil eye. If a family member complimented me, for instance, then someone would probably say that he or she is giving me the evil eye. Then, I would have to make a spitting noise three times. Sometimes, someone else can do that for you. Also, sometimes people compliment you but say that you don’t have to do the three spitting noises. They will explain that they are just stating a fact and not complimenting you in an envious way. Some people give compliments out of jealousy or resentment, but if they don’t and say that they don’t, then you don’t have to make the spitting noises. If you do make the spitting noises in front of someone who complimented you, they will not take offense to it. Also, people can walk up to you and make the spitting noises three times  and say that they did it just in case someone compliments you today. People will not stop complimenting you. You just have to do this to avoid the evil eye. Everyone in Greece does this. I learned this from my mother when I was really little.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s important because I don’t want to get the evil eye! Actually, one time, one of my cousins had a friend who died when she was little. She told me that it was because of the evil eye, and it really freaked me out. I asked my mom, and she told me not to believe that too heavily but to always follow the superstition to be safe. Once, in high school, I got a really bad headache for days. My mom asked if I had been doing the spitting noises, and I hadn’t for a while, so I got back to doing that. Also, sometimes when my mom gets lightheaded, she blames it on that. It’s all in our heads, but in the back of our minds, we think it’s possible.


Personal Thoughts: I really enjoyed hearing about this piece of folklore because I never realized how seriously Aliki, and Greeks in general, take the evil eye. What is also interesting is that this piece promotes those receiving compliments to take caution. In a sense, it keeps them from being conceited and just accepting compliments, which is admirable.

Childhood
Game

“Red Light, Green Light” Childhood Game

Informant: The informant is a twenty-two-year-old named Samantha. She graduated from Providence College last year and is currently working in New York City as an Advertising Sales Assistant for VERANDA Magazine. She lives in Yonkers, New York with her parents and has lived there for her whole life. She is of Italian, English, and Russian descent.

Context of the performance: We sat next to each other on the living room floor at her house in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: Back in elementary school, my friends taught me a game called Red Light, Green Light. Essentially, one leader would stand facing the rest of the group of people, who would stand far away from him or her. Then, the leader would turn around and yell, “Red light, green light, 1, 2, 3!” While the leader said this phrase, the group would run toward him or her, but when the leader turned around, they would all have to freeze. If any of them moved while he leader was turned around, he or she would call them out and tell them to go back to the start line. Whoever reached the leader first while he or she was turned around saying the phrase would tap the leader and become the next leader. The game would continue with a new leader, and the old leader would join the group.

Interviewer: Why is this game important to you?

Informant: This game reminds me of my childhood and my days in elementary school. I remember thinking that it was so funny if someone tripped during the game or couldn’t stay frozen long enough, and I remember the suspense of trying to stay still in the group or waiting to be tapped on the shoulder as the leader. Also, this game reminds me of the end of the school year, which was the best time of year, because it started to get warm out, and we could play outside again. We would play during recess or, if we were lucky, our parents would let us stay and play after school. That was the best, especially if the Ice Cream Truck showed up.

Personal ThoughtsI played “Red Light, Green Light” when I was little as well. What I find interesting about this game, and other games that my friends and I played as children, is that it has to do with topics we would face as we got older. For example, this game is about red lights and green lights and stopping and going, so it pertains to driving. Children always long to grow up, and the games they play often highlight that.

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