USC Digital Folklore Archives / general
Customs
Foodways
general
Gestures
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition of Gift Giving- Christmas (Cali, Colombia)

During Christmas, it is, really common for people to make a lot of breads and pastries in Columbia to just give to surrounding neighbors. The more popular treats would be empanadas which are a pastry in which the inside is filled with different type of sweet pastes. The sweet pastries are a form of telling your neighbors to enjoy the festivities and have a great time, basically a good omen for the holidays. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This seems like a great way to start the holidays with gifts, as how usual Christmas goes in the United States.

Customs
Festival
Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias De Cali

Cities are important to the location, each city has its own party, they call it ferias, the feria de Cali just happens to be during Christmas time , the carnivals are in Barranquilla Carnival. These carnivals are huge festivals in which the Colombian people showcase different sets of parades and a lot of other different stands just to show off their different type of foods or even toys for the kids to have fun with.These carnivals last for many weeks sometimes in order to celebrate through the time change of the seasons.Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people

general
Material

Latino Floor

The Latino Floor at USC in Fluor Tower has a Mural from the 1990’s showing an Aztec Pyramid and the Eagle that is on the Mexican Flag. It was a gift from older Latino Floor Alumni to show what the floor represents as a community and residence to First-Generation Latino-Students. The potrait also has the signatures of a lot of LF alumni to make their name and add it to the legacy left behind by the first of the floor.

-

Eloisa is a Michoacan born lady who has lived in Arkansas since she has been a little girl. She used to be really religious, but after being opened up to human rights, and mostly women rights, she has taken a step back and tried to analyze everything to decide on what she can really identify as part of her.

general

Omens of bad luck for Nigerian Americans

Interview with the source, speaking on signs of bad luck her Nigerian American family in New York taught her:

Nigerians have things that are bad luck. Nigerians don’t go near cats because they have the devil in them. And Nigerians aren’t left handed, it’s considered evil.

What happens if a Nigerian kid is born left handed?

They’ll have to switch. Their parents would never let them stay left handed. That’s why I don’t know any left-handed Nigerians. And it’s considered bad luck to use your left hand to do things, like if you hand someone a cup, you have to use your right hand. 

Who in your family taught you this?

Everyone.

Your brothers and sister too?

Yes, everyone. Everyone.

So, do you still believe it?

No, no I don’t believe that it’s bad luck or the devil. But I still hand people things with my left hand because I don’t think it’s as polite. It’s not as respectful I think to use your left hand. 

Would your parents visit someone’s house if they had a cat? 

Sure, they wouldn’t care. But they would not get a cat as a pet themselves. Well also because I’m allergic and they wouldn’t do that to me.

general

How to avoid curses and witchcraft – Nigerian Americans

The subject speaks on the way members of her Nigerian church in NYC protected against curses and witchcraft.

I went to Nigerian church every week and Nigerian church is its own thing let me tell you [laughs]. For Nigerians, and West Africans in general, you don’t want to tell someone you’re pregnant or that you got a promotion or good news because if you tell them, they could do voo-doo on you or something, you know?

So is it impolite in Nigeria to ask if someone is having a baby or to ask about someone’s health?

It’s not impolite. But Nigerians don’t ask because they know nobody will answer. For example if someone asks me if my dad is on a trip to Nigeria I can’t say, “yes.” I have to say, “well, he’s not here.”

And is the reason for this fear other people or fear something else like a demonic spirit?

No, it’s other people. It’s because you want to make sure people don’t have enough information to do witchcraft on you. But really you only have to be afraid of other Africans [laughs].

I would always here these stories in my church of these things happening. A lot of stories from our pastor’s wife. There was this one story that at a wedding a woman came up to the bride and waved her hand over [the bride’s] stomach. And then for three years the couple couldn’t have children. And they had to track down this woman and ask her “did you make us infertile.”

And the woman said, “yeah it was me.” And because they found the source they could have kids again. I heard stories like that in church every week.

general

The Golden Screw

The source and several other friends told ghost stories on a camping trip to Joshua Tree. This was told as if it was going to be a ghost story.

This is a true story. In the late seventies, in Seattle, a baby was born with a very unusual condition. Where his belly-button should have been, there was a golden screw—just the head sticking out. The doctors couldn’t make heads or tails of it. They ran x-rays and tests; they tried gently pulling the screw out; but they had to conclude that there was no way to remove the screw safely. The child would live with the screw and his mother was just thankful that he seemed to be healthy otherwise.

Well this boy—his name was Dave—grew up and he began to realize he was different from the other children. He was embarrassed to take his shirt off in the school locker-room and at the pool. And when they found out the other kids teased him and called him ‘screw belly.’

Dave decided that as soon as he was 18, he’d venture out to find out why he was so different from everyone else.

I’ll abridge this part of the story. Dave sets off to find an answer, ending up deep in the Amazon Jungle at a mysterious clearing and climbing down a giant stone funnel to reach an underground golden room.

In the middle of the golden room was a golden pedestal and on top of that was a golden screwdriver. Dave knew what he had to do. He took the golden screwdriver and lifted his shirt. It fit perfectly into the screw in his belly. Slowly, he turned the handle and to his amazement the screw began to come out. Turn after turn, the screw unwound. One inch… two inches. It was longer than he ever imagined. Finally, with a final turn, the screw fell out of Dave’s belly.

And then his butt fell off.

This is a classic example of a shaggy dog joke, a story that takes a lot of time to get to a silly punchline.

On the web, I’ve found many different versions of the joke – with the same punchline but different details in the middle:
https://kellybarnhill.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/the-tale-of-the-young-man-with-a-golden-screw-in-his-belly-button-spoiler-alert-his-butt-falls-off/

general

Christmas Cookies

The subject describes a simple tradition his mom started. This year was the Christmas year after his mom died.

Oh! We did have one Christmas tradition in our family. Every year my mom would have her friends over and they would make Christmas cookies together. 

And this year my sister and I had our friends over and we made cookies together, so it’s like we’re carrying on that tradition.

What kind of cookies do you make?

Well normally my mom made sugar cookies but my sister and I need to find a better recipe. The one we used this year wasn’t very good.

What’s the significance of this tradition to you?

It’s significant because it was something our mom did every year. It would feel strange to do Christmas without doing it.

Even a simple tradition takes on greater meaning once a family member dies. This tradition transformed from being an annual gathering with friends, to an annual gathering of friends that celebrates the life of a passed-away loved one.

general

Yiddish Proverbs

The following proverbs were recited by my grandfather:

“Whomever looks for easy work goes to bed very tired.”

“One fool makes a lot of fools.”

“Better the child to cry than the father.”

“Sorrow makes the bones grow thinner.”

“A meowing cat can’t catch mice.”

“We know when we start out; when we’ll return, we know not.”

‘Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.”

“Let God worry about tomorrow.”

“Don’t depend upon others — do it yourself.”

“The boaster gets stuck in the mud.”

Analysis: The proverbs my grandfather remembered were told to him by his mother at a young age and throughout his life she referenced them.  Growing up with a Jewish family, these proverbs are still very relevant in today’s society.  My mother and aunt normally provide me with a proverb while giving me advice much like my great-grandmother did with my grandfather.  These pieces of folklore are particularly interesting because they have remained mostly constant throughout history.  Previously, they were translated from Yiddish to English but some proverbs still contain Yiddish words that Jewish people still commonly use today.  This collection of proverbs all has themes of working hard, living in the present, and focusing on oneself rather than others.  These themes sound very familiar to me because my mother and grandmother try to give me similar advice today.  This is one of my favorite pieces of folklore because I knew about these proverbs before this class and it has personal relevance in my life.

 

 

general

Mauritius Sega

The following history is told by my friend I met on vacation this year from Mauritius Island:

“One of the biggest pieces of folklore in Mauririus is the art of dance!  Everyone dances in Mauritius, it’s our way of life!  Traditionally the people of Mauritius dance to Sega music which is music sung in our native language of Creole and play traditional instruments such as the ravanne, triangle, calebasse, and the maravanne. The ravanne is a percussion instrument that is made from a wooden hoop and a piece of goat skin stretched over the top.  The triangle is the same as the triangles we use in the United States and makes the same sound.  It’s a triangle shaped piece of metal.  The calebasse is a string instrument much like a guitar and the maravanne is a wooden box containing sand and seeds.  We use these instruments and the songs of our people in our language to create beautiful music the whole island dances to.  Originally the Sega was sung by slaves, but since then we have preserved our culture and turned it into a musical celebration used to tell stories.  We use Sega dance to express our desire for joy and happiness while at the same time expressing the heartaches our people have experienced overtime.  I especially love Sega dancing because of the traditional costumes we wear.  The women wear long colorful skirts and the men wear open-neck shirts.  It’s truly a wonderful sight!”

 

Analysis:  Dance is an extremely important part of Mauritius Island culture and no traditional Mauritian celebration would be complete without Sega music.  The songs tell the deep history of the people and they dance to express themselves in present day life.  The dancing is African style with lots of movement in the hips.  This is an interesting piece of folklore because I love dance and believe music and dance is one of the purest ways a person can express themselves.  More information about Sega music and dancing can be found on the Republic of Mauritius’ government website proving how vital this piece of folklore is to the entire culture of the island.

http://www.govmu.org/English/ExploreMauritius/Culture/Pages/Culture/Folklore-and-Music.aspx

general

Armenian Poem

The following poem was read to me by my friend’s Armenian grandmother first in Armenian, and then in English:

Armeninan:

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 1.26.10 PM

 

English:

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 1.26.17 PM

 

Analysis: This poem written in the 1920s by Yeghishe Charents speaks to the beauty not only of the culture and land, but also of the language.  This is Mary’s (my friend’s grandmother) favorite poem that she heard from her mother growing up in Beirut, Lebanon.  The poem is beautiful in English but even more beautiful in its original language: Armenian.  This poem is a fantastic piece of folklore because it explains some of rich history of the Armenians and their land. It exemplifies Armenian national pride which is very big in the culture.  The poem touches on mournful traditional Armenian music which Armenians take pride in because it tells their long story of how they have persevered throughout history.

[geolocation]