Author Archives: mmmendoz

ANZAC day

Main Piece

I know it from the Australian perspective. So ANZAC day is a day for both Australia and New Zealand, but I know Australians celebrate it this way. You take a pause in the morning–well we celebrated it then–to remember the fallen soldiers. It’s for the first World War. It’s supposed to be everyone, but it’s when they landed in Gallipoli, which I think is in Turky or somewhere in the Middle East, and a bunch of people died. It’s similar to American memorial day. It’s like the whole country stops, and it’s like you have a toast to them. We did it with orange juice. Then, the rest of the day, you celebrate. I think the morning toast is called the Dawn Service to commemorate the attack. They were slaughtered.

Background/Context: This was told to me by my father. He lived in Australia in ’84 for one year when he was 15 years old with his older brothers, who were high school and college-aged. There were no parents, and they were not used to being such a white country as Australia. My dad is Filipino, but he spent most of his childhood in Papua New Guinea.

Thoughts/Analysis:

After visiting Australia myself, I think in part this is such a big tradition because this was the first time Australia sent large numbers to fight in far away shores. They didn’t have to, which made it even more devestating. WWI was awful, and this is one of the lasting memories. Like my dad said, it reminds me of Memorial day, but it seems more emotional.

Call him Kuya

Main Piece

So these are “birth order titles”. Names for the oldest, second oldest, and third oldest, and the titles are different by gender. There are roles attached, so the first born is called Kuya (male) or Ate (female), and they are supposed to lead the family. They are the back-up mom and dad. This was slapped into us– if you didn’t use the titles, you were severely punished. The second borns are the back-ups to the Kuya and Ate, called Diko and Diche (male and female respectively). Third born is Sanko and Sanse, for boy and girl. So most Filipinos have known of and do the Kuya and Ate, but only what they call real Tagalogs (regional group) do the other titles. I was the third born, called Sanko. The other children don’t get titles.

Background/Context: My informant and father told this to me. He is Filipino, born in the Philippines. He comes from a large, close family.

Thoughts/Analysis:
The Philippines is a very family-oriented country. I have seen how major of a role these titles have played in their roles with each other. I think this reinforces a hierarchy among them, but also a sense of loyalty and responsibilty.

Phantom shitter

Main Piece

Well, from what I know, there’s some guy from before school hours or after school hours, when no one was around and no one could see him, and um, he just pooped wherever he felt like it and didn’t clean it up. They call him the “phantom shitter or shitters” because there were multiple people who were involved. I guess it was a prank, maybe it was a senior prank, but it was really gross. People say it’s real, but it was such a long time ago that nobody really knows for sure. I think it was real.

Context and background: My little brother told this to me as we sat together casually. He attends an all-boys high school, and the specific high school is well-known in the area for its epic senior pranks. The school has very masculine energy.

Thoughts/analysis:

This legend is absurd. I heard it long before he told me today, and I agree that it is a local legend. This to me makes sense only in an all-boys environment where the boys are silly and mischevious and unafraid to do things like this (this would never happen if girls were also there). I believe it’s real, and I remember some of my friends who are much older than my informant would claim their brothers knew who it was.

Hell week

Transcribed straight from my informant:

Main piece:

So hell week is a time in the summer, like one of the last weeks before school starts. It’s when the fall sports teams basically have an intense week of working out and preparation for the upcoming season. In my experience, it was water polo, but people usually think of football.

Usually, its multiple hours–up to 5 or 6– of working out, in the pool for me or weight training. It’s just really intense, and they’re just testing out our skills, meaning there was nothing to lose if we were sore because there was no season yet. They have always been doing that, and it’s terrible and scary. It’s an entire week of five hours every day, I hate it.

Background/context:

My little brother told this to me as we sat together casually after I asked him about his folklore. He has been playing club water polo competitively for at least 4 years now, and he takes the sport very seriously. He is a jock. He is in an all-boy’s high school that is known nationwide for its excellence in sports.

Thoughts/analysis:

My school also had hell week, and I think it’s a pretty common concept for athletes, at least in American culture. I think the better you are at a sport, the more intense this becomes as it is also intended to pressure the athletes psychologically, bad as it sounds.

Dap him up

Main Piece:

In an all-boys environment, usually if you don’t personally know someone, or if you’re like acquaintances, you greet them with a dap. A dap is like if you were to shake hands, but there’s a little more to it. You like grab the guy’s hand, and you hold it lightly and casually, and it’s more up and down and slidey. There’s multiple kinds, but this is the typical form, especially when you’re meeting someone new. It’s called dapping. An example is your friend introduces you to one of their friends, and so you dap them up as a greeting, and say what’s up. I don’t know where I learned that, but I’ve probably been doing it since summer going into freshman year, or that’s when it became super normal.

Context:

This is my little brother talking to me as we sit casually together.

Background:

My informant/brother goes to an all-boys school, and is a masculine boy with a lot of male friends. He would be considered “bro-ey” or a jock. He is a freshman in high school.

Thoughts/analysis:

Almost every American boy I have ever known does this. It’s an informal greeting, and a very masculine one. They don’t hug, but they always do this. Girls joke about it.

Reindeer food at Christmas

Main Piece:

We sprinkle reindeer food on Christmas Eve. Like out in the yard on the grass. It was a big big deal when I was little, and we still do it for my brother. It’s oats with glitter in it, and I used to think I was feeding them. It’s cute, and I was always so excited.

Background: My informant is from Kansas City, Kansas. She has a loving relationship with her family, and she was raised Catholic. Her family is traditional.

Context: She is a good friend of mine I made at USC. We FaceTimed (quarantine prevents live conversations), and I asked her if she had any sort of folklore after explaining the concept, and she told me this.

Thoughts/annotation:

I think this is a super common idea of leaving out food for Christmas. My own family used to stick carrots and chocolate chip cookies out for Santa, and my mom would take a bite out of each so that it looked half-eaten in the morning. https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/magical-reindeer-food/ is a recipe for this reindeer food, and this variation includes a note. I have heard of leaving a note, but I never did and neither did my friend.

Greek Life Homecoming

Main Piece:

“Okay, so, in USC Greek life there’s this thing called homecoming. Which is a tradition that goes back as long as anyone can remember. it coincides with the homecoming football game that is always at USC. A frat will ask a sorority to go with them to homecoming, and if the sorority says yes, then they do a week of activities together. They have something together every night– so it could be movie Monday, tequila and tacos on Tuesday, wine Wednesday, and it goes on until tailgating on Saturday.

It’s a big deal because it says a lot about what fraternities and sororities like each other at the time, and it’s probably the most high school thing in greek life. Sororities say no sometimes, and fraternities have elaborate ways to ask them in order to woo them. It causes tension and heirarchies. Last year, a frat asked a sorority with letters written in the sky by a plane, and the sorority said no.”

Context and Background: My informant is my brother, who was heavily involved with USC Greek life. He was in a fraternity and participated a lot in it socially, but he also played a major role in its governance first in his own frat then in the InterFraternity Council. He enjoyed it, but was always quick to point out the flaws in the Greek life system and its superficial tendencies. He told this to me as we sat together on the couch.

Thoughts:

Like its name, this tradition is very similar to high school promposals. I have seen it first hand, and I agree that it is quite elaborate.

High stomach means you’ll have a boy

Conversation between me and the informant explaining this belief which she called an old wives’ tale:

Informant: When you’re pregnant, and your stomach is high, you’re gonna have a boy. If it’s low, you’re gonna have a girl. That’s bs, not true at all.

Me: Where did you learn it?

Informant: I dont know…old ladies. People believe it, I guess.

Context and Background: The informant is my mom. She is a white baby boomer from the East Coast, who comes from a very traditional, conservative family. She is very independent and feminist. She brought this up when I asked her about any interesting folklore she knew.

Thoughts:

I think people have a lot to say about babies and pregnancy reveals, but really there is a 50/50 percent chance that you get it right. I think it’s kind of like astrology, where you attribute any coincidences to having truth value, and anytime it doesn’t work out, you essentially consider it to be an exception to a rule. This seems like BS to me, and I don’t know why people would believe it, unless if they didn’t have ultrasounds.

Socks are DIY hair curlers.

Grandma used to curl my hair with socks. They have to be nylon knee socks so that they can be crushed and tied, and you sleep in it. When your hair is just a tiny bit wet out of the shower, you stick all those socks in, and you wake up very curly. I think I did it to you, remember? I kept doing it, because it stayed so much better than regular curlers, it would stay for days. I would do it all the way until I got married. I don’t know anyone else who would do that. I learned it from grams.

Background and context: This was told to me by my mother, who is a white baby boomer. She is close with her mom, who is from the Great Generation. My mom grew up in Pittsburgh.

Thoughts: This is likely from before hair curlers’ existence. I have seen the style, and it looks more old-fashioned. I think this is people figuring out a way to curl before they had the technology, and it could be swapped out easily for another method.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian)

The following was told to me by my informant.

Main piece:

“It’s called the feast of the seven fishes, it is an Italian tradition. A lot of my friends do it too, but there’s a lot of variations depending on what region you are from. Every Christmas Eve, we did this and it was led by my grandparents at their house in Pittsburgh. Basically, it’s a big fish feast, and you had to have 7 kinds of fishes. Usually there were mainstays, like calamari, bakala…it could switch around a bit, but there were always seven fish. We always made a special fried bread with mashed potatoes in it that we called rispelli. Then, the tradition came to our house, and I was more involved then, going to the fish market and helping cook starting in the morning. The entire family helped out, and we would have fun, and drink wine, then enjoy the dinner feast. Nobody’s sure what it symbolizes– Seven sacraments maybe? It’s an important number in the Bible. My dad’s family did it when he was little too. It felt special because we only ate that food at Christmas Eve, and when we were kids, we didn’t really like it. But by the time you grow up, you really like it and enjoy the food.”

Context: This was told to me when my informant came over to my house.

Background: My informant is Italian-American from the East Coast. She is from a big, close extended family who enjoys their Italian heritage. Her grandparents were immigrants from Calabria.

Thoughts:
I participate in this every year, too. I love this tradition, and I find it very true that the food really does not taste good but because you associate it with happy memories you learn to love it.