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Rituals, festivals, holidays

1. Julmust: A Crucial Part of a Swedish Christmas

Background information:

Julmust is very easy to find in grocery stores all around Sweden from November to January, as it is in high demand and often replaces the original Coca-Cola. At any other point of time during the year, however, it is very difficult to find as it is not Christmas season during the months outside the range of November to January. Therefore, as this drink is not always available, it makes the drink much more appealing to people because many enjoy the taste, feel that they can better celebrate Christmas with it, and feel that they will miss out if they do not drink it when it is available during the Christmas season, as they will need to wait until the next year to drink it if they choose not to drink it that Christmas.

 

Main Piece:

In Swedish Christmas traditions, food is an extremely important part of the celebration. Usually the array of Christmas foods or “julbord”, literally translated to “Christmas table”, does not vary much from family to family. The “julbord” usually always contains the Christmas ham among many other Christmas foods typically found around the world. A specific Christmas food that is significantly different from others around the world, however, is the Swedish “Julmust”. Anyone who has celebrated Christmas in Sweden knows about the importance of Julmust at the Christmas table, as a Christmas meal is not complete without Julmust. Julmust is a staple for many Swedish families, including mine, around Christmas time as it is basically a more festive version of Coca-Cola. It is seen as festive because it tastes very similar to regular Coca-Cola but also has a blend of spices mixed into the drink that give the flavor more of a holiday feeling. For this reason, many, including my family, feel that Julmust is essential to celebrating Christmas because they have the perfect Christmas drink to complement the Christmas foods at the julbord. Because I was raised with Julmust being an integral part of my Christmas celebrations, I cannot imagine Christmas without it. Julmust not only tastes good, but also is a drink that everyone in my family enjoys and therefore brings us together around the holiday season.

When we moved from Sweden to California when I was almost six years old, however, it was very difficult to find Julmust in grocery stores because American grocery stores do not know what Julmust is and therefore do not carry the drink. As a result, through searching online forums, visiting special Scandinavian grocery stores that were hours away, and going to IKEA, we were able to locate Julmust at IKEA and the Scandinavian markets and were thus able to celebrate Christmas in the United States with this drink every year thereafter.

 

Personal thoughts:

I am a huge fan of Julmust and cannot imagine my Christmas experience without it. Even though I have lived in the United States since I was almost six years old, I will never forget my Swedish roots and will continue to practice even the most trivial Swedish traditions such as drinking Julmust when celebrating Christmas.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Magic

Hia Hia Witch (Swedish)

Background information:

My grandmother was born in the suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden, and has three sisters who are roughly the same age as her. Together, they have always been best friends and have supported each other through everything. My grandmother and her sisters all have grandchildren, and us grandchildren go out to our collectively shared summerhouse in the Swedish archipelago every summer. This summerhouse was built by my grandmother’s parents and has been in the family for a while, giving it immense sentimental value. The shared summerhouse is located roughly two hours outside of Stockholm, Sweden by a boat ride and is very peaceful as it is located on an island called Södra Träskö that is completely without cars or internet connection.

 

Main piece:

Ever since I was young, my grandmother and her sisters talked about the famous witch that lived in the middle of the island where our shared summerhouse is located: her name was Hia Hia. Every summer when we visited the summerhouse, my grandmother and her sisters would take all of the grandchildren to the middle of the island where Hia Hia supposedly lived and we would search for her. My grandmother and her sisters would hide and someone would shout “Hia Hia”, pronounced “Heeyah Heeyah” which would spook all of the younger children as they did not notice that one of the grandmothers had disappeared and though that the witch, Hia Hia, was making the noises. Delving deeper and exploring more of the middle of the island, it was always apparent that “Hia Hia” had left small goody bags of candy for the grandchildren on an abandoned treehouse that was located in the very middle of the island. As the grandchildren, including I, became older, we realized that Hia Hia was in fact our grandmothers, but carry this tradition onto the children of the newer generations of our family, so that they can experience the fun that we had with Hia Hia at Södra Träskö.

 

Personal thoughts:

This is one of my favorite traditions that my grandmother introduced me to, as it truly shaped my experience visiting the summerhouse on the island in Sweden. My grandmother is a creative woman who does everything she can to make people happy and truly knows how to live into childrens’ fantasies, which I am very grateful for.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Foodways
general
Legends
Material
Narrative

How to get kids to finish their meal (Taiwanese)

Background information:

My friend introduced me to a piece of folklore about how one can effectively get children to finish their meals. He is of Taiwanese descent, as he was born in San Francisco, California and both of his parents were born in Taipei, Taiwan. His family moved to California since before he was born and have assimilated into the American lifestyle but still stay very true to their Taiwanese roots.

 

Main piece:

My friend explained to me a saying that is often used in Taiwan to get children to finish their meals and not leave any food on the plate. The saying goes that if one wants a child to finish their meal and eat everything on the plate, they tell the child that if he or she does not finish their meal, they will marry someone with facial blemishes growing up. He said that his interpretation of this as a child was that he always thought of the remaining food pieces on his plate as signifying the multitude of blemishes that would be on the future spouse’s face when he grew up. Therefore, in order not to risk this, he would always quickly finish his food.

 

Personal thoughts:

I think that this piece of folklore is quite comical because there is no way that there could possibly be any correlation between finishing a plate of food and one’s future partner having acne. I enjoyed that this was a very different saying than what I was used to hearing in the culture that I am immersed in today, as it is refreshing to hear something that I have not heard before. I did find it a bit strange, however, that it would be considered a fear factor to have a partner with acne or facial blemishes because I do not think that this is what one should focus on when considering potential future partners.

Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Q-tip to clean off mascara

Background information:

I worked at Sephora for around seven months. During my time at this job, I absorbed a great deal of information, learning tips and tricks to flawlessly applying makeup, recommending products to clients, and expanding on my skincare products and fragrance knowledge. What truly stuck out to me during my experience aside from the fantastic coworkers was the vast amount of knowledge that my coworkers had surrounding specific tips to apply makeup in a better way. One of my coworkers, Erica, told me about countless tricks, as she is a phenomenal makeup artist. Erica has shaped an entire culture of makeup application tips in the Sephora store that I worked at and has taught the entire team numerous tips to applying various products.

 

Main Piece:

Once complaining about constantly getting mascara residue on my eyelids after completing an eye look, Erica, my coworker at Sephora, told me an incredibly useful trick to removing the mascara without messing up the eyeshadow under the mascara stains. She told me that sometime when she would apply eyeshadow on herself or other and think that she had completed the look, she would sometimes move forward to apply mascara, which would more often than not ruin the look because of mascara residue. The thing about mascara, she stated, is that it is very easy to transfer onto the eyelids when you move in zig-zag motion upwards through the eyelashes. Therefore, since the eyelashes are so susceptible to transferring mascara onto the eyelids, she tried everything she could to remove the mascara from the eyelids without messing up the artistic masterpiece that she had created with eyeshadow and eyeliner on the eyelids. She said that through years of trial and error of trying different techniques to remove these burdensome and often inevitable mascara stains, she finally arrived at a solution a few years ago, and this was to gently use a q-tip, or cotton swab, to pick up the excess mascara on the eyelids and remove the mascara stains, which ultimately proved to be the most efficient way to remove mascara stains. When she found out this trick, she immediately notified all of my coworkers, who were also struggling with this problem, and this became a revolutionary new trick that was shared with all of the employees at Sephora. Because Sephora is also known for its vast array of teaching opportunities and makeup applications in store, this new trick quickly spread to our client-base and is a very popular method in removing small makeup mishaps.

 

Personal thoughts:

When my coworker, Erica, introduced me to this trick, I was so relieved to know that there was a solution to a problem that I so regularly faced throughout makeup applications on both myself, as well as others. It is extremely frustrating when you spend more than an hour on a specific eye makeup look, blending eyeshadows together to perfection, and seamlessly weave all of the colors together, only to have it ruined by harsh-looking mascara stains. Although this is definitely a very trivial problem and does not have a large impact on my life, my coworker at Sephora helped me overcome an application mishap that has transformed the way in which I can create makeup looks.

Folk Beliefs
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Foundation Lips: A Lipstick Trick

Background information:

I worked at Sephora for around seven months. During my time at this job, I absorbed a great deal of information, learning tips and tricks to flawlessly applying makeup, recommending products to clients, and expanding on my skincare products and fragrance knowledge. What truly stuck out to me during my experience aside from the fantastic coworkers was the vast amount of knowledge that my coworkers had surrounding specific tips to apply makeup in a better way. One of my coworkers, Erika, told me about countless tricks, as she is a phenomenal makeup artist. The trick of applying foundation before applying lipstick was one that had a huge impact on me and was widespread and heavily used amongst my coworkers at the store.

Main Piece:

There are many different “hacks” that people use to help or simplify different actions in their lives. At Sephora, I learned about an integral step to easily apply lipstick and make the most out of a certain lipstick shade. Erika, my coworker, introduced me to this makeup hack, and learned this hack from the other coworkers at the Sephora location in which I worked at. To properly make a bright color pop, she said, one needs to first moisturize the lips, then let that dry. Once the lips have dried, she said that it was crucial to use a relatively pale foundation shade relative to one’s skin color, and apply a decently thick coat onto the lips. Upon applying this coat of foundation onto the lips and letting this amply dry, she said that any lipstick could be applied and the color would pop and be more vibrant than if the shade of lipstick had been applied to one’s lips without the layer of foundation underneath. She swears by this trick, as do many of my past coworkers, each of them claiming that it has completely revolutionized the way in which they apply lip shades to not only themselves, but also to their clients.

 

Personal thoughts:

When I first heard of this makeup trick upon my first month working at Sephora, I thought that it sounded bizarre. I wondered why foundation would be applied to the lips as I felt that this would simply dry them out and would not have a big effect on the outcome of the lip color. Upon hesitantly trying this trick before applying a bright scarlet red lipstick, however, I realized why this was such a popular trick at my store: it made the color appear much more intense and did not dry out my lips in the slightest. Therefore, whenever I apply bright lipstick shades to myself or others, I now do this foundation trick and teach others about this fantastic trick!

Customs
general
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

Claremont Colleges Birthday Tradition

Background information:

Throwing friends into the fountain on the day of their birthday has been a prank tradition for the span of several decades, and has become a birthday ritual for students at the five Claremont colleges. It is even noted on Claremont McKenna College’s website that the fountain at Flamson Plaza is a site that students visit to either study or to throw their friends into on their birthday.

Main Piece:

On the day of a friend’s birthday, it is a common tradition to throw that friend into a specific fountain at Claremont McKenna College. The fountain is located at Flamson Plaza and is in the middle the Claremont McKenna College campus. It is common for students from all five of the Claremont Consortium schools: Scripps College, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, and Claremont McKenna College, to engage in this tradition. When it is a student’s birthday, friends of that student often barge into the student’s bedroom early in the morning, physically carry them over to the fountain at Flamson Plaza at Claremont McKenna College, and throw the student into the cold water as a sort of wake up to their birthday. When interviewing a friend of mine who was thrown into the fountain last year during her freshman year of college, she said that it was definitely one of the highlights of her time attending Claremont McKenna College. She said that this tradition was very unifying in the fact that this was a birthday ritual that was specific to the Claremont Colleges and made her feel that she was a part of the college community. My friend stated that even though this is a small tradition, it has a large impact on how an individual relates to the community at the Claremont Colleges and reaffirms the fact that a student’s friends care about them and want to celebrate their birthday.

 

Personal thoughts:

Throughout my time at Scripps College during my freshman year of college, I found that this was a specific tradition that peaked my interest. I would constantly see people being thrown into the ice-cold water of the fountains at Flamson Plaza and think that is was very entertaining. I would often think that it looks very entertaining to someone watching, but must be relatively burdensome for the student being abruptly woken up and thrown into the cold water in the morning of their birthday. As such, my friends at Scripps College knew that I did not want to be thrown into the fountain on my birthday and always joked that they would throw me into the fountain but never did, to my relief!

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Foodways
Material

Honey, Lemon, Garlic, and Onion Mix to Cure Colds

Background information:

My roommate is Colombian and is the first one in her family who was born in the United States since her relatives all live in Colombia except for her direct family. She actively engages in the Colombian culture, speaking Spanish with her family and celebrating Colombian events and traditions. Therefore, even though she was born in the United States, she holds onto her Colombian roots and treasures her Colombian culture as she believes that her Colombian roots are a large part of what shapes who she is.

Main Piece:

My roommate, who is of Colombian descent, has fantastic cultural traditions that she shares with me. When she was sick with a cold earlier this semester, she told me about a remedy that she had been exposed to her whole life. She said that she begins by squeezing a whole lemon, pouring this lemon juice into a glass, mincing garlic and onion, and putting this into the glass with the lemon juice. She later tops this concoction off with honey and mixed it all together, then quickly drinks it. She said that it is a horrible taste and needs to be consumed quickly because the taste is so pungent and concentrated. After drinking this, she recommends that one have a class of water to immediately flush down any excess of the concoction as the taste can linger for a while which can be very unpleasant. She claims that although this remedy is most likely one of the most unappealing drinks that she has tasted, it works wonders and immediately can make one feel better. The concoction, she states, has a large dose of Vitamin C which is crucial to bettering the immune system, has honey that is gentle and soothing to the throat, and contains garlic and onion which are key to clearing out any mucus. She said that this has been a key remedy to making her feel better throughout her childhood and adult life, and therefore used this remedy whenever she felt like she had a cold.

 

Personal thoughts:

My roommate shared a fantastic remedy for sore throats with me when she was fighting off a cold and it reminded me of certain cold remedies that I have learned from my family. Although we come from vastly different backgrounds with her being Colombian and me being Swedish, there is a connection between the cold remedies that we have learned from our respective cultures. For example, the cold remedies that we have both learned each involve garlic, which I would not consider to be the most common treatment for colds, therefore showing similarity and slight overlap between widely different cultures.

Folk medicine
Foodways
Material

Caviar, raw garlic, hard toasted bread to get over a cold

Background information:

It is often considered that mothers know best, and this piece of folklore is in complete accordance to this idea. As an immigrant to the United States, my mom was certainly open to new ideas and remedies to help with colds and sore throats but found that this home-remedy that she had concocted was extremely useful in fending off bacteria and decreasing the amount of time that it takes to fight a cold and ultimately feel better. She had created this home-remedy when she was in her young adulthood when she had been stuck with a cold. Since she lived in Sweden at the time, she used ingredients that were common in Sweden, such as caviar and hard bread. When we moved to the United States, however, she was not able to find the same ingredients as were available in Sweden and therefore imported caviar and located grocery stores which sold the specific hard bread she was looking for, and therefore carried over this home-remedy to the United States from Sweden.

 

Main Piece:

Whenever I would get a cold or feel under the weather, my mom instantly knew what to do. Aside from being the perfect mother in always supplying me with cough drops, tissues, checking in on me, and overall tending to my needs, she shared with me a fantastic home-remedy to fight off bacteria and get over a cold quicker. I believe that she found this home-remedy herself and used some ingredients that are common in Sweden but not necessarily common in the United States. Her home-remedy consisted of a single piece of crisp, hard bread, which is very commonly found in Swedish grocery stores. On top of this piece of hard bread, she would smear on caviar to coat the entire surface, and then top this with raw garlic. In Sweden, caviar is very common as well, and is often stored in a toothpaste-like tube that is available everywhere in Sweden. Whenever she would give me this piece of hard bread with caviar and raw garlic on top, I would feel significantly better as the day went on. She claimed that the reason as to why this home-remedy was so successful was due to the raw garlic being so concentrated and therefore was good at fighting off bacteria. Additionally, she claimed that because the piece of bread used was very hard and crisp, it created friction with the sore throat, which helped the scratchy and uncomfortable feeling often associated with colds.

 

Personal thoughts:

I always thought that this home-remedy was very strange because the ingredients did not completely agree with my personal taste. When I tried it for the first time when I was young, however, I found that it was actually extremely helpful and aided me in getting over my cold. Therefore, I will always keep this remedy with me because it is a tried and true way of fighting off a cold.

Folk Beliefs
general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Joke of the Google Self-Driving Car

Background information:

Palo Alto in the Silicon Valley area is located in California and is beautiful in a myriad of different ways. It is close to nature, has beautiful architecture, and is an extremely environmentally conscious, friendly, and accepting location. I grew up in Palo Alto since I moved from Sweden to the United States when I was almost six years old and went to high school just around the time that Google started releasing their self-driving cars to test-drive around in the Palo Alto and Mountain View area, as Google’s headquarters is located right next to Palo Alto in Mountain View. The Google self-driving car projected was later named Waymo, but people always referred to these unique cars as the Google self-driving cars.

 

Main piece:

Because I was enrolled in high school around the time that Google released their self-driving cars out into the public traffic, I would often see them on my way to school and driving around my neighborhood. They truly began to gain popularity throughout my junior and senior year of high school (2015-2016), however, which was just around the time that everyone my age was receiving their driver’s license. Therefore, as more and more high school students started driving themselves to and from school, and Google started releasing more self-driving cars into the public, students my age would often run into them in the traffic to and from school everyday. The Google self-driving cars are amazing in their technologically advanced feats, but the one striking problem is that they drive very slowly. Therefore, because they are extremely slow cars, people would often get stuck behind them on the rush-hour getting to school and leaving school, so getting stuck behind the Google self-driving cars became a local joke in Palo Alto that people would always use if they were running late or to simply be funny.

 

Personal thoughts:

I am very grateful to have lived in the Palo Alto community because there are countless technological advancements around us everyday. Some of these advancements come with their host of disadvantages, however, as was seen with the Google self-driving cars. I remember being very frustrated when I was in a rush and ended up behind one of these cars because there were often very few ways to get around them and they often contributed to the traffic overall, so it is nice that there are no Google self-driving cars near USC.

Customs
general
Holidays
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Halloween at Stanford Campus

Background information:

The Stanford area in Silicon Valley located in California is beautiful in a myriad of different ways. It is close to nature, has beautiful architecture, and is an extremely environmentally conscious and friendly location. I grew up in the Palo Alto area which neighbors Stanford and would frequently visit Stanford Campus as my friends lived there because their parents are professors at the University. As such, a memorable tradition in my childhood, along with many others’ in my neighborhood, is celebrating Halloween walking around Stanford Campus at night.

 

Main piece:

Since I moved to Silicon Valley when I was almost six years old, my friends and I would always celebrate Halloween by dressing up and trick or treating around the houses located on Stanford’s outer residential campus. Where I am from, Stanford’s campus was known to be a fantastic place to trick or treat, as many people went all out with their Halloween decorations and truly created a Halloween wonderland for both children and adults to enjoy. As my friends and I frequented Stanford’s campus every Halloween, we became familiar with the various decorations around the campus, noting around five different haunted houses and several different pumpkin carving exhibits. This might only be a locally known event, but it truly shaped my Halloween experience when I was growing up, with its great Halloween spirit, creative decorations, and extreme vibrancy.

 

 

Personal thoughts:

I cannot imagine spending Halloween in a different location when I was growing up because each Halloween had such a memorable impact to me. Not only was I able to spend time with friends, but I also had the opportunity to engage in classic Halloween traditions such as haunted houses, pumpkin carvings, and extravagantly decorating the houses around Stanford campus. Thus, I am profusely grateful that I was able to have such pleasant Halloween experiences as a child that I will be sure to share with others.

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