Author Archive
Customs

Mom cooks, Dad cleans

“My mom and dad always divided the responsibilities. My mom would always cook, and my dad would always clean.”

“I grew up in Westchester New York in the suburbs. My parents are both originally from New York. My mom moved all over when she was younger because her dad was in the Military Forces, but dad was born and raised in Queens. He went to school at Buffalo State and then moved into the city to start work. My dad is Syrian and Polish and my mom is Swedish, Irish, and Russian. My mom is more European decent and my dad is more Syrian.

“My dad’s side of the family all stayed close together, they all raised their kind in New York. We’re more spread out on our moms side because they were used to moving as kids. My dad’s side of the family never really moved.”

“My dad doesn’t really know how to cook. He can work a grill and do some basic stuff but my mom is the real cook of the family.”

“My mom learned to cook from her mom. She was from Sweden so a lot of the dishes are kind of similar to Swedish foods, she makes a really good beef stew. Then she converted to Judaism, so now she makes a lot of matzo ball soup which she learned from my dad’s father. She makes a lot of traditional food, like brisket and potato latkes. Since my mom converted, I eat a lot more traditional Jewish food. Because my whole family is from New York, we celebrate a lot of Jewish holidays, so yeah I guess that’s why we eat more Jewish cultured food.”

“My dad’s mom was a stay at home mom, so she would always cook for him. I guess that that tradition was passed down into our family. Well, my dad never really cooked or saw the man of the household cook growing up, so I don’t see why he would think that’s normal. My mom is a great cook though and I think that has a lot to do with why our family does meals that way. Also, like, if my mom’s gonna slave in the kitchen my dad might as well clean up. Team work.”

 

My Interpretation:

In modern times, there is much discussion about gender roles in society and in the household. Certain cultures stress that the woman is in charge of all domestic accounts, like cooking, cleaning, etc. Through listening to this dynamic, I was able to decide that I think that this set up is solely about cooking ability. If the wife makes better food, let her cook. Looking into their past lives, their modern and past cultures, and their heritage, there is little to determine that their meal set ups are structured this way due to cultural tendencies. Personally, being of Jewish decent and practicing their culture, I know that food is a huge part of their culture and lifestyle. In my experience, the people who know how to make the food make it, there is no worth in making food the wrong way and not letting everyone enjoy it. It is important to note that there are different types of Jewish cultures though. The interviewee’s family is of Sephardic decent, which is a strain of Judaism different from mine, therefor they could have different cultural characteristics than those of my own. I still believe that there is not much underlying cause for this teamwork, rather just how the family makes it work.

Game

Toilet Freeze Tag

“We had a couple different types of freeze tag growing up. The one I remember everyone always wanting to play was toilet freeze tag. Once you were frozen by the tagger you had to stay in sort of a toilet position. You kind of squatted down and left your arm out to be the flusher thingy. Someone on your team would then have to sit on you like a toilet and ‘flush’ your arm. Once that happened you were unfrozen.”

 

“Depending on how big the group was there would be more taggers. If it was just a couple of us we would only have one or two, but I remember at tennis camp having like 10 different taggers.

 

“There was no real winner I guess because the game only ended once everybody was frozen. So if you think about it, the tagger only really had the chance to win. We played until everybody was frozen, it wasn’t timed or anything.

 

“I feel like throughout all the different types of freeze tag, toilet freeze tag was always suggested. It was usually by one of the boys trying to be funny or something but somehow we always ended up playing it.”

 

“We played it anywhere. Outside, like around my neighborhood,  and at different summer camps and stuff. Sports camps used it a lot as a warm up activity. A lot of times the staff had never heard of toilet freeze tag and thought it was funny so we got to play a lot.”

 

“I grew up in New Jersey but went to different camps all over where people knew about toilet freeze tag. Like at my sleep away camp in upstate New York most people knew what it was. Most of them were from Quebec in Canada, so I feel like the game is pretty universal. I’ve also met a lot of people that don’t know what it is but I feel like they’re a little older or something.”

 

My Interpretation of the game:

 

I remember playing freeze tag when I was little with a bunch of different themes. The toilet freeze tag was always a hit with the young boys. I’ve asked a couple people around to see if they also played toilet freeze tag when they were little and got an assortment of answers. There didn’t seem to be any consistency with knowing the game and being from a similar place. There also was no consistency in age. I think that attending different camps where they require you to do group activities and games like that has an effect on if you know the different types of freeze tag or not. In those situations, you already have a large group of kids together from different places and backgrounds and at least one of them are going to know toilet freeze tag. Therefore, I believe that kids that attended activities like camp and other group kid stuff are more likely to have heard of or played toilet freeze tag. I think it’s interesting how many different types of freeze tag there are because realistically you can make anything the key to unlocking your teammates. With kid’s creativity, the freeze tag possibilities are endless.

Childhood

7 Layer Burrito

“When I was a probably a toddler, my dad would give me a bath and clean me. So like he’d bathe me and then when I got out he would rap me in a towel and like tuck in the sides super tight. Basically, I was a burrito. Then he’d pick me up in his arms and carry me to the living room. My brother would be playing video games or something and my mom would be working over in the corner at her desk. He’d lay me on my Thomas the tank engine rug where you’d build like train tracks over. It was a fat rug, play mat type thing. I’m still fully tucked. Then he’d say ‘who ordered this 7 layer burrito’ and look around at  my bother and mom. My mom would then get out of her chair and pretend she was eating me like a burrito.”

 

“The 7 layer burrito was my favorite burrito from Taco Bell. Whenever we went to taco bell I’d always get it, but the funny part was I would always take most of the stuff out of it so it wasn’t even 7 layers.”

 

“This didn’t happen every bath I took, but it happened a lot. At least twice a week. My dog would come over and lick my face and then my dad would yell at him to stop eating human food.”

 

“My grandpa didn’t do that to my dad. I think it was more of a thing just between my direct family. It had a lot to do with my obsession with the 7 layer burrito.”

 

My Interpretation of the story:

 

I think that it is completely normal and in most cases encourage to have traditions like this in your family that are directly related to each member personally. This story, to me, shows the importance of generating specific and personal relationships with your family. Your family knows you best, your like and dislikes. Generating traditions that stick have to stem off of ideologies and characteristics that are all shared, meaning that they are hard to create with larger groups, especially if they come from different backgrounds. Creating a tradition with in your family can have a lot more success because as a unit you should share a lot of beliefs and tendencies. Also, it allows you to continue the tradition through the family and maintain your identity as a family into the future generations. It is important to establish traditions and rituals in your family to develop closer relationships and enforce the importance and relevance of your family. Certain cultures stress family and personal matters over work ethic and individualism, offering them the opportunity to develop deeper relationship with those they grow up with and live with. The Interviewee’s father spent the majority of his life in Greece, which can be looked at as a collectivist society. The father is demonstrating his cultural values of family and group work through developing traditions and enforcing relationships in his family.

Riddle

Eenie Meenie Miney Moh

“When I was little I always heard different versions of the riddle ‘Eenie Meenie Miney Moh’. It was a rhyme that was supposed to help you decided between different options. You would say the rhyme and point to a different object or thing for each word in the rhyme and whatever thing you were pointing too on the last word was the object that was chosen. It started to get more complicated though, because I would keep hearing different endings being added from different people.”

“So it started off like ‘eenie meenie miney moh, catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers let him go’ and that was how I started doing it originally. Then different additions started to be created, I think because people weren’t happy with what it landed on so they just kept going with words that rhymed. The first additional ending was ‘my mother said to pick the very best one and you are it’. So everybody in my lower school started adding this on to the end so it seemed like it was just how the saying went. Then another addition was added and that was ‘red white and blue I choose you’. This seemed a little extra to me, but of course I still did it. After that I cut myself off with the additional endings, but I continuously hear other ones being added or completely different ones. One I heard recently was ‘take me to the movie theaters and I’ll by a chocolate bar for you to take me to the movie theaters right now’. They all followed the original tune of Eenie Meenie Miney Moh, so it was easy to follow along if you just wanted to add another ending.”

“My family was Swiss growing up, and I didn’t learn this from my mom. I just kind of heard it around and in school and picked it up on my own. I spent the majority of my childhood in Texas, so I probably learned most of the different endings there. Currently, I live in Los Angeles, and hear through my children and their friends so many different knew endings that rhyme.”

 

My interpretation of the story:

 

Growing up, I also had heard many different renditions of the riddle or rhyme “Eenie Meenie Miney Moh”. In this story, what stood out to me was the tellers recognition of the additional endings being for people that didn’t necessarily want what they got. I agree with this assumption, because I personally remember being a kid and not liking exactly what I got and adding another ending or not adding one because I wanted what I first landed on. Because the riddle or rhyme “Eenie Meenie Miney Moh” does not seem to have one origin and is used over most of the country and most likely the world, it is not surprising that it is altered differently throughout different places. I believe that in geographical terms, there should be similar additional endings for people from or in similar places. On the other hand, people are constantly moving and sharing their cultures and traditions with other people, so it is not alarming to see so many different additional endings in one place. Because of this, I don’t think that you can specifically assign the origin of one ending to a place, and that only the original Eenie Meenie Miney Moh part of the rhyme is perpetually consistent across the world.

Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

My dad’s whistle

“Growing up, I loved running errands with my dad. He always took me to, what seemed to me at the time, the coolest places. Realistically it was just like home depot or ace hardware, but all of the fun tools and stuff fascinated me. Being a kid though, I always had the tendency to wander off and explore on my own and see what I could find.”

“It’s not really safe for a kid to be wandering around the store alone, especially in that day and age, so my dad sort of developed a call to let me know where he was so I could find him. It was a whistle with three different tones. The first tone was lower, and then the second tone went higher, and then the third tone went lower again. It’s not like it was the most unique of calls, realistically anybody could do it, but I always knew that it was him whenever I heard it. I knew that if I heard that whistle that I was needed somewhere for some reason and immediately had to find my dad, even if it wasn’t an urgent situation.”

“I asked my dad where he learned that tune from and he said that he just kind of made it up. He said growing up he was never able to whistle and that when he finally learned to a little bit, those were the only three pitches he could hit, and together they made that tone. That was the tone he always whistled to I guess I just associated it with him. Now I do that whistle too when I’m looking for people, even though they probably don’t know what it is.”

 

My Interpretations on the story:
The whistle in this story can be considered a symbol to that family. The tone is specific to that family because of the way it originated, therefor can be looked at as symbolic to that family. Because the father generated that call through the only tones he was able to whistle, it is unique to him and his family. Additionally, this call has imprinted a meaning in the mind of his family as something that is specific to their father or husband and represents him, giving the call more of a purpose than just finding other family members. I think that it is also gives the family a sense of uniqueness, because this tone is specific to them rather than taken from other wavelengths of life.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Yom Kippur

“Yom Kippur is the holiday after Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year. It is celebrated exactly 10 days after Rosh Hashanah every year. Growing up, my family always went to temple for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to celebrate the holidays and fullfil their purpose. Yom Kippur is a holiday that allows the Jewish people to think about their mishaps and their sins and improve yourself in the coming year. In temple, we were always given a couple minutes to have self-reflection, but what my family did differently was we also did it afterwards at the break fast. On top of self-reflection, we had a tradition of passing around a roll of challah, each taking a piece, and then once everybody had a piece, we would throw it at each other.”

“There is a common tradition in Jewish culture that does something similar to this. People usually put a piece of bread into a bowl of water as a sign of repenting their sins. I guess you could say that this is my families version of that.”

“None of my family is super religious, but we do follow the general holidays and ideologies of our religion. Like, we go to temple for major holidays and have a Passover Seder, but nobody turns off all their technology and walk to work like you are supposed to on Shabbat.  I guess this tradition can be looked at as the reformed version of the other bread in water tradition, just like we are the reformed version of the Jewish people.”

 

My Interpretations of the story:

 

I personally enjoy the fact that this family has taken a broader tradition and altered it slightly to personalize it. With this being said, it is important to note that by doing this, the tradition isn’t technically the tradition it was before. While there are certain aspects that remain consistent, there are reasons for the original tradition being the way it is. In changing or altering the tradition, many important parts of the tradition can be lost and therefor change its meaning or purpose. In this specific case, the tradition is supposed be a symbol of repenting for your sins, while the rendition version seems like more of a fun, family bonding experience. Traditions, when applied to specific cultures, have much history going into their making, purpose, and requirements, and can be somewhat exclusive to their specific culture. When these traditions are altered and spread to others, the cultural uniqueness can be lost in addition to the ultimate goal of the tradition.

Game

Annual Pizza Competition

“Every summer my whole family comes together in Malibu for a pizza making competition. It’s usually me and my direct family, and then also like my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.”

“It starts by us all going to Ralphs together. We each have to buy our own ingredients. You can buy anything you want that you think will make a good pizza. I always get the basics, the dough, the sauce, and cheese, but I usually add different other ingredients every year. I’ve never won so I figured I might as well keep switching it up. Some of my family comes up with some crazy pizzas. One year my cousin won because she made a dessert pizza. It was so good, the crust was made out of brownies and the sauce was frosting. The toppings we all different kinds of dessert items, like M&M’s and sprinkles and gummy worms. Then we’d all go back to my Uncle’s house, it was just down the street, and start cooking.”

“He had a giant kitchen and we all had different stations. It became really competitive at points, nobody wanted someone else to steal their ideas! We had 30 minutes to prepare our pizza before it went in the oven, so everybody would be running around all hectic. Once the 30 minutes were up, we put all of them in the oven at the same time, the oven was super packed haha.”

“Once all the pizzas were done we would cut all of them into at least 12 slices so everybody could have one. After everybody tried each pizza we would all write our favorite on a piece of paper. You weren’t allowed to vote for yourself, which makes a lot of sense if you knew my family. Then everybody would vote for themselves and nobody would win.”

“The winner got the right to choose all of our meals for the next couple days that we would all be together. I’m not sure who came up with this prize, because my families been doing this competition since before I was born, but I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I think there could probably be a better prize, but every time I bring it up I’m immediately shut down because it’s part of the ‘tradition’.”

 

My Interpretation of the story:

 

It is very common for larger families to have annual reunions in order to get the whole family together. Most families end up moving all over the country or even the world as they start to move into their own personal lives. Because of this, families grow and get additions that weren’t originally part of the family and most likely were raised differently with different traditions. This is why family reunions are so important, to solidify your family and the new additions and create a greater sense of in group. By having the whole family participate in a competition like this every year, it allows each person of the family the opportunity to develop a sense of in group competition, which drives you to learn more about your competitors, in this case being your family members. This offers a greater bonding experience, not only because it forces family members to be more aware of their opponents but also, because this happens every year, it allows them to attribute specific characteristics to each family member and know them on a deeper level. Competitions such as these at family reunions, that don’t have specific ties to cultural or religious beliefs, allow families to become closer and know each other better and in turn, develop future traditions that appeal to every member of the family.

Folk speech
Riddle

St. Ives

“In my third grade class we had a week where each student had to present a riddle to the class and see if the class could figure it out. That was a long time ago, so I don’t remember them all, but one was so absurd that I’ll never forget it. It was this boy in my class who usually didn’t say much. He got to the front with no paper of notes with the riddle on it and just began without any indication.”

“The riddle was.. ‘I was going on a trip to St. Ives when I met this man. This man had seven wives. Each of his wives had seven cats. Each cat had seven homes. Each home had seven balls of yarn. Each yarn had seven different thimbles. Each thimble had seven different boxes. Each box had seven different shelves. How many people or things did I run into on my way to St. Ives?’.”

“So immediately I see all my classmates on scratch pieces of paper writing 7×7 over and over or 7+7×7 or something like that. I remember not even wanting to put in the effort to figure out how many sets of seven there were. People started punching numbers into their calculators and shouting out random answers. They all started off being really high numbers because the riddle made it sound like there were so many things. After a few minutes of chaos, our teacher took back control of the class. She then started to chuckle at us and said that we needed to pay more attention rather than get lost in the numbers.”

“The boy then had the ability to tell us we were all wrong. ‘The answer is 1’ he said. We all looked around at each other like what? How could the answer possibly be 1? He further explained that the most important part of the riddle was the beginning. He met one man on the way to St. Ives, not all of his wives and their kittens and the kittens yarn. I remember feeling played! It was so easy but we all made it so difficult.”

 

My interpretation of the story:

 

In the riddles I have seen throughout my life, I can usually find a common theme of the answer was a lot easier than I originally had imagined. I think that there is something in our minds that allow us to make things more complicated, especially when we think the answer is supposed to be complicated. This riddle reminds me of a similar one about a bus. It begins by saying that you are driving a bus with 18 people on it. It continues by saying that there are all these stops and this many people get on and that many people get off at each stop. I remember listening to it and thinking that I have to keep track of all of these numbers to get the riddle right. The end question of the riddle was “What is the color of the bus drivers eyes?” When I finally heard what I was aiming to figure out, I was annoyed because the whole time I had been focusing on the number of people getting on and off the bus at each stop, that I couldn’t even remember who was driving the bus and couldn’t possibly know the color of their eyes. The part to focus on of the riddle was the beginning, that stated I was the one driving the bus, and there for the answer to the riddle was the color of my own eyes, something so simple. Riddles have a way of causing distractions to take the person being questioned’s focus away from the part that will give them the answer. This can be seen a lot through magicians also. The trick to magic is distraction and confusion, which allows the person who is watching to think that things are actually happening when, in fact, they are not.

Folk Beliefs
general
Homeopathic
Magic

Soccer Voodoo

“I played competitive soccer through most of my grade school experience. I started when I was 4 years old, in a recreational league, and then eventually moved up to different travel leagues and varsity soccer for my high school. Because I had played for most of my life, I was always really competitive when it came to specific teams that I had encountered in previous games. I always remembered specific girls that were either really good or played super dirty.”

“Before every game we would gather in a circle with our coach and discuss our game plan, lineup, and players on the other team to look out for. He didn’t know this, but after he left one girl on my team would bring out this little doll that she had gotten in Jamaica. She told us originally that it was a voodoo doll, and that if we wanted to win we had to kick around the doll and that would make their best player have a bad game. Obviously I didn’t actually believe that this would work, but we did it before every game. Each person would have to kick the doll at least once to make sure it worked. If it didn’t work we would all come up with different reasons or excuses as to why it didn’t work, like maybe we didn’t all touch it or did something wrong.”

“The girl was one of my good friends, and that I know of didn’t have any personal reasons behind this doll. She said she just saw it in a random tourist shop in Jamaica, and because she was a competitive player like the rest of us, figured that this doll could give us the pregame boost and confidence that we needed. Honestly, I think it did help us a lot. Even though we knew that kicking around a little doll wasn’t actually going to have an effect on the girls on the other team, it helped us better mentally prepare for the game and come out stronger.”

 

My Interpretation of the story:

 

It is clear throughout the story that the girls on the team did not exactly believe that this voodoo doll was directly effecting the girls on the opposing team. It seems as though it was primarily used as a mental game, for the girls to think that they have an advantage and in turn play better than they would have without performing this ritual. Traditionally, voodoo dolls have a lot of prerequisites to get them working and commonly have to be activated and have some sort of relation to the individual that it is effecting. Usually, voodoo dolls are tailored to a specific person, rather than able to be used for multiple different people. If the voodoo doll were to be used on different people, there would be no specific link between the doll or the person, which is a vital part of creating a voodoo doll. This ritual allows the team to become closer and prepare themselves as a group for the game they are about to play, but does not actually paranormally hurt anyone on the opposing team.

Musical

Happy Birthday Song

“Growing up, on my birthday my mom would always sing an interesting rendition of Happy Birthday. It wasn’t the normal happy birthday song that people usually brush their teeth to or something to make sure they brushed them for long enough. I’m not sure exactly where she got this version from, but I do know that her mom sang it to her every year on her birthday.”

“It goes like this, ‘Happy Birthday Sophia, Sophia it’s your birthday” over an and over again and she does this little dance with her arms. I think it’s really cute but whenever I sing it to my friends or my roommates on their birthday they always look so confused. I was actually called out for it once, like ‘Sophia what is that, that is not happy birthday’.”

“So my mom’s mom always sang it to her growing up, so I assume that’s why she does it too. When I’ve asked her in the past, she always just said that’s what my mom sang to me. Her mom was born in America and lived in New Jersey and she said that she has no idea where her mom got the rendition from, but knew it was important to keep it going in the family.”

“I don’t think there are any like cultural or religious ties to it, I mean I am Jewish but all of my friends who are also Jewish have never heard of it before.”

 

My Interpretation of the story:

 

This tradition seems as though it is rooted deeply in the family rather than in a specific culture or heritage. I find it interesting that most people have not heard this rendition before, as to there are many different versions and tunes to the song happy birthday. Traditions within a family, I feel, tend to last longer and go into further generations than larger cultural traditions. Larger cultural traditions can be lost in the mix as well as be interpreted differently by different followers. Because of this, the tradition can be altered within different groups of a larger group and lose its original purpose or meaning. Keeping smaller traditions within a family can allow that tradition to remain intact and exclusive, preserving those that practice its’ ideologies and beliefs. It is important for families to somewhat separate themselves from the rest of the world with their own traditions and customs to generate tighter bonds and also, keep them on the same page because they are bound for life. I think that this rendition of Happy Birthday and the fact that it is an annual occurrence allows the family to have a sort of uniqueness that differentiates them from other families and people, and gives them the opportunity to create a personal, in group tradition.

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