Author Archive
Childhood
Game

Pickle

  1. The main piece: Pickle

“This is a game that happened in my neighborhood every summer growing up. We called it ‘Pickle.’ All the kids get together, you need a tennis ball and a group of people. Two people are selected…it’s kinda like monkey in the middle but more violent. So the two chosen people are playing catch with tennis ball in air. Everyone else starts running and the throwers try to hit them. A tennis ball doesn’t hurt that much, so it’s fine. No need to be worried.

“Actually, you know what, it’s the opposite of monkey in the middle. Hmm, interesting. Yeah cuz you’re not trying to be in the middle, you wanna be running. We would play for hours and there’s no score, no winners, losers, anything like that, just a fun thing to do. We only played it during the summer, I don’t know why. Kinda had all the kids in our neighborhood, all the different age groups, genders. You’d see a 4 year old playing with a 15 year old.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“No origin, just something I played growing up. I guess the kids in the neighborhood were already playing it when I was born. It was just happening, no person whose idea it was. It already existed. Happened in Tiburon, CA. It’s a city near San Fran.”

  1. The context of the performance

“Well, I guess it’s kind of like controlled violent outbursts. It’s a way to blow off steam for kids bored during the summer.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This game sounds like a friendly neighborhood tradition that ends up arising in many closer communities. It provides a way for children of the neighborhood to build relationships independent of age, background, or gender because everyone learns it from the vernacular tradition. Just like siblings often have physical games and altercations when they are young, a violent game like pickle naturally draws the players together and gives everyone a sense of belonging when they are all running from the ball.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a 22 year old American male and grew up in Tiburon, where he spent lots of time with his father and grandfather, as well as the other kids in his tight-knit neighborhood. His primary language is English, and he currently resides in Los Angeles.

Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs

You Don’t Know Shit from Shinola

  1. The main piece: Shinola (Proverbial Insult)

“You don’t know shit from Shinola.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“My grandpa used to say it to my dad, and my dad said it to me. He said one day my dad said something, and he said, ‘You know what, you don’t know shit from Shinola.’

“Shinola is brown shoe polish. So it’s the same color as shit. So no one knows shit from Shinola.”

  1. The context of the performance

It’s a proverbial insult that members of his family used to say when the informant was growing up. He said that “it doesn’t impart wisdom, it’s saying that you have none.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

Insults and teasing are often a way of developing close relationships and building rapport. This joking insult passed from grandfather to father to son shows the teasing nature of their relationships and the lighthearted attitudes in their families. This proverbial insult also provides a way for elder members of the family to reprimand children when they become overconfident or misspeak: while it clearly puts them in their place, they know that it is a “tough-love,” teasing phrase and are not too wounded by the insult. It also may show that the insulter does not view the insultee as mature or old enough yet.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a 22 year old American male and grew up in Tiburon, where he spent lots of time with his father and grandfather, as well as the other kids in his tight-knit neighborhood. His primary language is English, and he currently resides in Los Angeles.

Folk Beliefs
Game
Gestures
Magic
Protection
Signs

Baseball Superstition

  1. The main piece: Baseball Superstition

“It’s kinda a superstition. When we used to play baseball there would be…. Uh… so the rule, um, was that when you walked on to the field at the inning, you don’t step on the chalk line. You step on it, bad luck, you’re gonna lose the game, we’re all gonna die in a miserable hellfire. So a lot of people overemphasized that they weren’t gonna step on the line… like, they jumped as high as they could over the line, made a big show of it, otherwise it’s bad luck.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? The context of the performance?

The informant learned it from the kids in his neighborhood, and the kids in his community and public school. He said that it became increasingly prevalent as he went from middle to high school, and sports became more playful but more intense. There were big consequences for those who stepped on the chalk line.

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This baseball superstition seems similar to the folkloric theories of conversion magic, in which counteracting something that is considered evil or bad luck reverses that bad luck. Since the consequences of stepping on the chalk line were so greatly overexaggerated, making a show of how far from the chalk line players were made them feel as they were going to play even better since they were so far from the chalk line.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a 22 year old American male and grew up in Tiburon, where he spent lots of time with his father and grandfather, as well as the other kids in his tight-knit neighborhood. His primary language is English, and he currently resides in Los Angeles.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk speech
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Chinese New Year

  1. The main piece: Chinese New Year

“Um… so, Chinese New Year is also called Lunar New Year and it’s… I don’t really know why they celebrate it, I guess because they used to use the lunar calendar. But basically, there are 12 cycles of the lunar year or something like that, and each of them has an animal, and the animals cycle through in rounds of 12, and so each year is the year of the something. It’s not super relevant anymore, so I don’t really know what it’s supposed to mean, but every person is born in the year of the something, and I was born in the year of the rabbit. And that’s supposed to indicate certain traits about you, but obviously that’s fake [informant laughs].

“Other things about Chinese New Year, the festivities last two weeks in China and you’re supposed to wish for good fortune and good luck. That’s why people say “Gong hay fat choi.” That’s Cantonese for good luck. Or, not good luck but congratulations on your money. That’s basically what it means.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? The context of the performance?

While the informant doesn’t necessarily agree with the folk beliefs surrounding Chinese New Year, she still faithfully celebrates it every year with her mother, sister, and grandparents. She learned it from her grandparents while her parents were still in school, and it means more to her because she was closer to her grandparents than her parents during this time. After they moved in with her family in later years, it became even more important to the informant to strictly adhere to the rules of Chinese New Year.

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

I think that this festival is interesting, because it is an annual festival or celebration, yet the assignment of a year and resultant traits to each person makes it a uniquely individualized annual celebration. Since it follows the lunar calendar and is also known for celebrating the coming of spring, this festival probably originally began as a celebration of a renewed growing season for crops. It could have became more personalized as societies grew less agricultural and needed a way to highlight their differences while still celebrating their unity.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is an 18-year old Chinese-American female. While she grew up in the southern California area, she spent more time with her grandparents than her parents growing up, and felt that learning their Chinese traditions and language was the main way she bonded with them, while her younger sister never had that experience because her parents were out of school by then.

For another version of this folk festival, see:

“Chinese New Year 2018 – Year of the Dog.” Chinese New Year 2018, 2018,

chinesenewyear2018.com/.

Foodways
Material

Panchamrutham Recipe

  1. The main piece: Panchamrutham Recipe

“I make panchamrutham for puja [Hindu prayer]. It’s a sacred offering for God. So panch means 5, amrutham means nectar [in Sanskrit]. Five different things put together to make this nectar. So you put cow’s milk, yogurt, sugar, honey, clarified butter or ghee, and this is supposed to be the sacred offering to God.

“It is made in a silver bowl. And, uh, this is supposed to be…how do they say? Theertham. God’s deity…you pour this panchamrutham over God’s deity, then pour it back into the silver bowl. Like you take a plate, put a small deity of God, then pour this panchamrutham. Then you pour it back in the bowl, and it becomes the…the sacred nectar for us. And you do it for special occasions. Special pujas. You don’t just do it every day. So for us, coconut water is sacred, and this is even more sacred.

“You have to take shower in the morning, and then make it. And usually, you don’t eat any meals before the puja. After the prayer, you have this panchamrutham first, before you break the fast.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?

“I learned it from my mother? Everyone does it for prayer.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This recipe requires very much attention to specific details, and the informant was keen on mentioning that it is not an everyday recipe—it is only for very special pujas, or Hindu prayer sessions. The high specificity of preparations for making Panchamrutham show how important it is in the Hindu religion—it literally symbolizes the nectar of God. All of the preparations, therefore, are symbolic attempts to purify oneself as much as possible before creating something that will come into contact with God. The name itself shows that Panchamrutham is not a fancy recipe found in a cookbook—it has been passed down for thousands of years, and is known for being composed of five simple materials that have been prevalent in Indian cooking for all those years.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American female. She was born in India and grew up with her two sisters in a small town near a holy river in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari River. After moving to the United States and raising her children there, she enjoyed reminiscing on her childhood in India and sharing stories of it with her children, so that they could see the differences in their upbringings and learn about their Indian heritage.

Folk medicine

Turmeric as a Medicine and Cleanser

  1. The main piece: Turmeric as a Medicine

“Okay, so. Whenever we had a sore throat or were sick, so my mom would boil milk with turmeric, sugar, and pepper. And we had to drink it.

“For all festivals, the women put turmeric on the feet, and then you put turmeric at doorways and thresholds to ward off infections. Before the wedding, we put turmeric…uh…all over the body and take shower. As a means of purifying, before the auspicious wedding ceremony. What is it in English? Whatever.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“It happened a lot when I was growing up. It’s the most effective way to treat illnesses and common cold that we know of. And we follow it even today. Recent medical research…actually it’s funny, now the same turmeric comes in tablets in the aisles of medical stores. Looks like there must be some truth in the folklore. There’s ginger tablets, and there’s turmer

  1. The context of the performance

“Turmeric has antibiotic properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Who told me this? I don’t know…hmm… my grandmother, maybe? My mother, my grandmother. Oh, I said antibiotic but actually I meant antiseptic. It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Ancient Indians probably didn’t know about antibiotics.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

The use of turmeric in Indian society is extremely widespread. Indian food is known for its yellow-orange coloration from turmeric, turmeric is used to paint statues of Gods at Hindu temples, and it is used in this folklore piece medicinally and for purification purposes. Turmeric root is a common root in India, and its establishment in many folk practices incorporates a fruit of the land into the hearts of the people. The folk belief in turmeric’s medicinal and cleansing properties has long been established in India, and scientists are now starting to study its healing and protective properties and confirm that the folk belief has scientific truth to it. Scientific journal articles such as Kuttan, et. al.’s 1985 “Potential anticancer activity of turmeric” published in Cancer Letters, and Egan, et. al.’s 2004 “Curcumin, a major constituent of turmeric, corrects cystic fibrosis defects” published in Science, support the folk medicine belief.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American female. She was born in India and grew up with her two sisters in a small town near a holy river in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari River. After moving to the United States and raising her children there, she enjoyed reminiscing on her childhood in India and sharing stories of it with her children, so that they could see the differences in their upbringings and learn about their Indian heritage.

Adulthood
Childhood
Life cycle

Sari Ceremonies

  1. The main piece: Sari Ceremony

“It is the first time they tie a sari for a little girl. It’s just the first time that a little girl gets a sari, and the family makes a big event out of it. Maybe it was, in the olden days, you know, very very olden days, people got married when they were 9 or 10. This was when the girl was 6 years of age, so maybe people were letting them know.

“And by the way, there’s an equivalent boy’s ceremony. A dhoti, or pancha ceremony. Boys’ cloths are called dhoti, or panchalu, and this is from the Andhra people south of India. So it’s the same thing for boys also.

“Usually, we do it in odd years. 5, 7, 11. But you know, all Indian things are like that. We always give odd numbers of money as gift. And then, you just invite near and dear. That’s it.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“You know, I went to some of my friends’ sari ceremonies growing up, but I never had one. So I thought, okay, when I have my own daughter, I’ll have a nice sari ceremony for her. So we visited India and we had one for her, and we had her grandparents and aunts and uncles there, and it felt, what is it in English? Complete.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

The sari ceremonies in Andhra Pradesh, a state in South India, are examples of coming-of-age ceremonies. In the very old days, they would have indicated that a girl’s childhood was complete, and that she was now available to be married. While the marriage connotation has definitely faded, the sari ceremony is still a marker of transition from helpless child to young person capable of decision making and responsibility. Wearing a sari requires a number of complex steps, and the sari ceremony also announces the girl has reached a certain level of maturity. The informant mentioned that her daughter’s sari ceremony brought many members of her family together, showing that sari and dhoti ceremonies have also transitioned into large community events.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American female. She was born in India and grew up with her two sisters in a small town near a holy river in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari River. After moving to the United States and raising her children there, she enjoyed reminiscing on her childhood in India and sharing stories of it with her children, so that they could see the differences in their upbringings and learn about their Indian heritage.

Myths
Narrative

Ganesha

  1. The main piece: The Myth of Ganesha

“Okay, the elephant headed god Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles, and there’s an interesting story behind how he got the elephant head. So, there is a…when Lord Shiva, Shiva is married to goddess Parvati, and they had a…they had a son, but Shiva didn’t know. Yeah, so Parvati made a… she made a, you know, she made a baby out of clay, and gave it life. And so, that was her baby boy. Ganesha. And then her husband Shiva once came to her house while she was showering, and little Ganesha was outside, and she had told him not to let anyone in. Since Shiva doesn’t know this is Parvati’s son, and Ganesha doesn’t know Shiva is his dad…

“Ganesha says, ‘Mom told me not to let anyone in,’ and he stops him. After warning him, and the kid doesn’t listen, Shiva beheads him. And of course when Parvati comes out and sees him, sees her dear son Ganesha has been beheaded, she’s upset. And basically, how do you say it in English. She’s heartbroken at her husband, at what he did. And she says, ‘you will bring my son back to life.’

“Well, I don’t know why the other boy’s head wasn’t around. Maybe the head was destroyed. So basically Shiva goes in search of…he goes and finds a baby elephant, cuts off the head, and puts it on the boy, and that’s the elephant headed god Ganesha.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?

Ganesha is one of the most important gods in Hinduism. The informant remarked that everyone in India, from small children to old men, would be able to recite this story, albeit varying versions. He said this myth is also the reason that the first prayer in a puja, or Hindu prayer session, is to Lord Ganesha. He learned the story from his mother and older brothers.

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This folk narrative doesn’t fit any of the narrative categories perfectly, but would be best classified as a myth. This story is sacred and revered because it describes the birth and creation of Ganesha, and sets up a mythological reason that Ganesha is always the first God to be praised during a puja. It includes some questionably fantastical concepts, such as Parvati creating her son out of clay and Shiva restoring the boy’s life with an elephant head, but as is characteristic of myths, the morals it imbues are more important than the technical truthfulness of the narrative.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged India-American male, who grew up in an urban setting in India with three siblings. While he moved to the United States over 30 years ago from India, many of his family members still live there, and he enjoys maintaining his links with them through his heritage and Hindu religion.

Initiations

Kumbhabhishekam

  1. The main piece: Maha Rajagopuram Kumbhabhishekam

“So this happens once in twelve years. It’s a consecration ceremony that is done by uttering weighted hymns to evoke the entity of the supreme God…to…bless the… the temple. So we were there for that ceremony. It’s a five day long ceremony. It has five days of chanting, some Vedic hymns, uh…that invoke the supreme God, you know, to…energize the holy water. Which is then poured over the temple in a…in a ceremony called Kumbhabhishekam. That’s the ceremony.

“And since it’s a once in a twelve year ceremony at the temple, and the chanting of the hymns is special, you know. It’s not normal. There were 30 priests visiting our local temple from all across the globe. It’s a consecration ceremony for the temple, the deities—the temple. So every twelve years we do that. So it happened, we went there to witness it and be blessed…you know. Yeah. The belief is that, uh, attending such ceremonies gives you the, the positive energy, you know, comes to devotees as blessings. That’s the belief.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?

“Our temple here in the US has never had one before. Back in India, I had never been to one, either. This is very sacred and will bestow fortune on those who attend. It’s a key Hindu religious ceremony that not many people get the opportunity to witness. Our temple sent out fliers to remind and call us.

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This temple ritual is rare and not all Hindus experience it or have the chance to attend a similar ritual. Having sacred and rare rituals like this once in twelve year event increases the amount that community members value such traditions. Thus, when such sacred rituals do occur, a large portion of the community members attend and are united in their religion and as a community.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American male, who grew up in an urban setting in India with three siblings. While he moved to the United States over 30 years ago from India, many of his family members still live there, and he enjoys maintaining his links with them through his heritage and Hindu religion.

Musical

Carnatic music

  1. The main piece: Carnatic music

“So, Carnatic music is like a type of Indian classical music. I guess we have a lot of classical like music and dance things. It’s probably super ancient too. There’s two types of classical Indian music, Carnatic and Hindustani, I think? So for Carnatic, it’s actually pretty similar to whatever Western music is called. Like you know how you guys have like do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do? Or the middle C based chord thing. So in Carnatic music, the scale goes “sa-re-ga-ma-pa-da-ni-sa.” And you have this thing called a Shruthi box, which plays like “sa-pa-sa” over and over. And that helps you find your pitch and then you sing along with that. And like songs, you first learn them by singing the notes, and then you replace the notes like “sa-ga-re-ma” with lyrics or words like “rara venu” which means come come cowherd.

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“I used to sing along with a lot of Bollywood songs in our car, so my parents signed me up for classical Indian singing lessons. I learned it from this older Indian lady who actually lived in my neighborhood, so for a few years, I would walk over with my Shruthi box and my singing books and I would have to audiotape myself. I hated practicing. But in the end, I kinda miss singing.”

  1. The context of the performance

“I learned classical Indian dance around the same time. Like, I started dance when I was 5 and then singing probably when I was like 8. So I guess it taught me about, like… India? Yeah.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

While there are many folk disciplines of dance in the world, there are not many specifically designated folk singing disciplines. The informant was entered into lessons for this folk style of singing after she used to sing more mainstream, authored songs in the car. This shows that the more mainstream songs may have reminded the informant’s parents of their Indian and Pakistani cultural singing tradition, leading them to sign their daughter up for classes to learn the original singing style which the mainstream “folk music” was derived from. This piece also shows the idea that teaching young children the older folk music traditions of the culture allows them to learn and connect more to that culture.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is an 18 year old Indian and Pakistani American female who grew up in the United States, but moved a lot as a child. While she didn’t feel close to her parents, she met her childhood best friends through local Pakistani and Indian cultural lessons such as dance classes and singing lessons, and prizes her memories of those classes.

[geolocation]