I asked a fellow classmate if she had any specific traditions that she has been a part of or has passed on to any of her friends or family. When I asked she responded about a particular tradition that she had in high school involving her dance team.
Greer said that “In high school I was a member of the dance team which was only 11 or so members each year. We had an annual show that was our main production and what we spent most of our time working towards. As a team, we had a tradition that I learned as a freshmen and apparently had been happening on the team for years before me. Before a show opened we would stand in a line on the stage & hold hands and and walk up to the curtain and kiss it for good luck and for a good show.”
Background Info: Greer was on her high school dance team for all four years of high school, and learned this tradition from the previous elders on the same high school dance team. This tradition was a very important part of the culture of this dance team and was a beneficial part of their bond.
Context: I learned about this tradition while at coffee with Greer, we both shared stories about certain traditions that we were familiar with or were a part of throughout our lives.
Analysis: I thought this was very interesting how this tradition was learned when she was a freshman and carried throughout her four years of high school. Greer shared that she then taught the younger generation of dancers on this same team the same tradition, keeping the legacy of this strong. This reminded me of a tradition that I had with my lacrosse team that we started my freshman year of high school: before exiting the locker room we would all jump up and tap the top of the exit door while we were running out to the field. High school sports are definitely a major theme where many traditions and rituals are found and practiced.
When talking to one of my brother’s good friends, who is from Manchester England, I asked if he had any songs that he knew of that he has learned from any of his friends or relatives.
He told me of a song that him and his friends always sing when they go out, “We like to drink with (insert name) because (name) is our mate! And when we drink with (name) he takes it down in 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!”
Background Info: This song is some that Edward grew up hearing amongst people in England. When you call someone out and sing the song, they have to finish whatever drink is in their hand by the time the singers get to the end of the 8 second countdown. “It is something that is fun and gets you to finish more beer” –Edward.
Context: Edward told me about this song while I was at lunch with him and my brother.
Analysis: Once Edward told me about the song, he sang it but for me—it was a fun experience to say the least. Edward said that this is a very popular song in England, and is normally sang at universities at their get-togethers, next time I visit England I will be sure to ask people about this chant!
For similar write-ups, and some videos of other people singing this same song, see:
I asked my grandpa if he had any jokes that he loved. His response was that he only had Jewish jokes, because that is what his Jewish father would always tell him growing up in Brooklyn.
He began to tell me the joke after I asked him this question, “It was the winter Olympics, there were 3 finalists in the ski competition, one from Israel, one from Sweden, and one from Italy. The top favorite was the man from Israel, who normally finished the competition in 2 minutes 10 seconds. The man from Sweden went first and timed a 2 minutes and 46 seconds, next the man from Italy went and timed a 2 minutes and 22 seconds, finally it was the man from Israel’s turn, they waited as he went down the mountain, but the time kept ticking, it went past his normal time of 2 minutes 10 seconds, finally he crossed the finish line at 4 minutes and 20 seconds. The reporters asked him what happened and he said, “WHOEVER PUT THE MEZUZAHS ON THE GATES IS TOAST”.
Background Info: My grandpa is from Brooklyn and was raised in a Jewish family, he loves these types of jokes because they help explain parts of the culture. The joke is that whenever a Jewish person sees a Mezuzah, he/she has to stop and say the prayer that is inside of the Mezuzah, and remember why they are Jewish, this stalled the man from Israel’s competition as he had to stop at each Mezuzah.
Context: My grandpa told me this joke during Passover dinner
Analysis: My grandpa has been telling me jokes since I can remember, but I had not heard this one before. A lot of his jokes are about the Jewish culture, but have meaning to them in remembering the importance of certain aspects of the culture, for example this joke is meant to remind you to recognize the prayer whenever you see a Mezuzah.
I asked my grandmother if she had any slogans or proverbs that been passed down to her. A proverb that she told me about was one that was passed down to her from her mother. The proverb started during WWII, which was the first time she heard it, and she still says it today as the values still mean a lot to her.
She said that her mother would always say that “People are basically good, even the Nazis”.
Background Info: My grandmother and her mother escaped from the Nazi’s in Romania during WWII, and fled to America. My grandmother’s mother thought that all people had good hearts, even the evil Nazi’s, she just knew that they made poor life decisions, but still had the good hearted humanistic values of every person on the globe, my grandmother now says this when people seem to be mean to one another, recognizing that although people make poor and evil life decisions, they are still people.
Context: My grandmother told me about this proverb at our family Passover dinner.
Analysis: My grandmothers story of how she fled from Romania is something she has told me many times. I was too young to understand many of the things that my great grandmother told me when I was little, so this proverb, that was passed from my great grandmother was very interesting and held good values about the good in people, even if they make bad decisions.
I asked my grandmother if she had any remedies that she does when she is sick or wanting to prevent a sickness. She told me that “When I get sick I home-make matzah ball soup as a something to make me feel better. It’s something that my mother always did for me and it helps your throat and body feel much better. I still use the recipe that my mother gave me. I also drink a water with lemon squeezes inside”
Background Info: My grandmother is Jewish, and matzah ball soup is a traditional Jewish deli dish. The recipe that she speaks of was created by her mother in Romania, and she would have this while she was little as well.
Context: My grandmother told me about this remedy at our family Passover dinner
Analysis: This is my favorite soup that my grandmother makes for me, and whenever I get sick or feel under the weather, I too will have some of this soup if I have access to it. She said that before even using medicine she will try this remedy first and it usually works for her, and I have had a similar experience.
When talking to my mother, I asked if she had any superstitions that she can think of. What she came to was something that I actually have noticed in her actions.
She said that, “Whenever I hear an ambulance, either outside or while I am driving, I catch myself scratching my head. I think this is me targeting my nerves and anxiety in hopes that whoever is in the ambulance, or who the ambulance is rushed too, is not someone that I know or am related to.”
Background Info: My mother mentioned that her mom was always cautious about ambulances and firetrucks, she did not scratch her head, but always would check the news to ensure that whatever emergency there was got resolved, or did not involve someone that she knew or was related to. This was clearly a superstition triggered by an emergency vehicle or situation.
Context: My mother told me about this superstition while at lunch over Passover weekend.
Analysis: This is something I have actually noticed my mom do, I remember asking her about it a while ago and she discussed with me how it is usually unintentional, but that it happens every time. This reminds me of my superstition of knocking on wood in a situation where I want to prevent an event.
Marc’s mother, as I said, is of Arab descent, so I had a feeling that his mom would have some traditional recipes that she has had passed down. Marc told me about a dish that his grandmother home-makes, and taught his mom, and something that Marc has at all family gatherings.
Marc told me about his family recipe for his favorite dish. “Its something that we usually eat whenever our family gets together. It’s called Hameth Kibbee ‘d Girsa. They are kind of similar to meat dumplings. The stuffing inside the dish is what my grandmother taught my mom, it has chopped meat, spices, and homemade vegetable sauce. You then can make the outer shell out of different types of wheat and then you stuff it with the center stuffing, making it almost like a dumpling or ball. My mom has added her own twist to the recipe trying different spices and stuffing, it is one of my favorite family meals”
Background Info: Marc explained how his mother makes this Iraqi dish almost at all family events, but she learned it from her mother who also helps make it at many events. It’s a rare dish, but one of his family’s favorite.
Context: Marc told me about this tradition while we were in his apartment hanging out during small talk.
Analysis: When Marc explained this dish, it did really sound like the Asian dish of dumplings, or shumai. He explained how it has a very middle eastern type of flavor, as opposed to a very fishy flavor like traditional dumplings. This sounded very good and diverse, and Marc’s mom promised to make them for me one day.
Marc is one of my close friends, and I knew that his dad is from South Africa, and his mom is of Arab descent. With this in mind, I asked if he had any particular traditions at celebrations from either of these cultures. What he told me about what a dance that he has done at multiple Arab style weddings.
Marc said that, “At weddings we do something called a Dakbe line, this is pretty much when the whole wedding gets in a big line and does a traditional line dance from various Arab areas, this is usually done at weddings but also at other celebratory events. It’s one of my favorite things to do at these types of events. I learned this from my mom’s side of the family who is of Arab descent.”
Background Info: Marc’s father is from South Africa and his Mom’s parents are from an area near Iraq. Marc now lives in Florida, and attends many events every year that involve traditions and flavors of these two different backgrounds.
Context: Marc told me about this tradition while we were in his apartment hanging out during small talk.
Analysis: I personally have yet to attend a wedding, so I don’t know of any wedding traditions that I have seen in person. At bar mitzvahs, there is a similar type of line dance that Marc speaks of. What I found interesting was how this dance is done at other celebratory events as well because in my religion, this type of dance is only at specific events rather than multiple.
When talking to my friend Nigel whose whole family is Persian, he brought up a traditional ritual that is done during Persian new year, and touched on how his family does some things different and some things very traditional, namely, he talked about the Haft Seen Table.
I had Nigel talk about what this was because I never had heard of it, he explained that his family, “puts out a haft seen table, which is symbolic of the first day of spring. We put out different types of spices and objects such as garlic, wheat barley, lentil sprouts (that are growing in a dish to symbolize that spring is here), sweet pudding, dried Persian olives, as well as a gold fish in a glass bowl, these are all symbols of different things in the Persian culture. My grandparents usually use more of the traditional spices as the predominant parts of the haft seen table, and those are the things that I know of as very important just because that’s what my family has always followed. Every family usually does their own symbolic items on their table, as well as the traditional ones.”
Background Info: Nigel puts out a haft seen table every year during Persian New Year, and was explaining the symbolism of many objects on the table and how they are meant to celebrate the joy of spring. He learned this tradition from his parents and continues to practice this every spring.
Context: While walking to our class I talked to Nigel about the tradition of the haft seen table.
Analysis: I personally have very little knowledge about Persian New Year, so this was one part of the tradition that I was lucky enough to hear about. I continued to ask Nigel more about the basics of Persian New Year and I found out a lot about it. I am only personally familiar with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).
For another perspective on this tradition, as well as some explanations of the symbols, see
My roommate Erik has ties to Sweden through his mother, who grew up there and still spends a lot of time out of the year there. While on the topic of holiday traditions, one that he found worthy of elaborating on was the meal that his mom makes every year at their family’s Christmas.
He told me that “Every year on Christmas my Mom, who’s from Stockholm Sweden, makes us her traditional meal which consists of smoked salmon, meatballs, potatoes, and we drink Julmust which is a traditional soft drink from Sweden— its normally only sold and bought around Christmas in Sweden. Something that my mom does specifically is make her homemade saffron buns that she learned from her mother, they are probably my favorite part of the meal.”
Background Info: This is something that Erik has learned and grown to love from his mother. Erik also sometimes spends Christmas in Sweden and gets a more traditional atmosphere for this meal. Other than that he gets to enjoy this family recipe in San Francisco where he resides.
Context: Me and Erik were talking at lunch when I asked him about any holiday traditions.
Analysis: I do not celebrate Christmas so it was interesting for me to hear more about traditions during meals that this holiday brings in Sweden. The closest comparison I can make again is my traditional meal experience that I have during Hanukkah.