USC Digital Folklore Archives / Rituals, festivals, holidays
Game
Humor
Initiations

Paranoia

Main Piece

“So Paranoia [the game] is when you get a bunch of friends and sit in a circle. You whisper in their ear a question, usually about someone in the room, you say your answer out loud [name of person] and then you flip a coin, if it lands heads up, you have to reveal the question.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Los Angeles

Language: English

The informant learned the game from the internet and other people who she played it with. The informant loves playing the game because through it, you can learn about your friends. The game can be, according to the informant, “wholesome or not wholesome,” in terms of the information discussed.

Context

The game can be played while drinking but is usually be played without drinking. It is not a drinking game.

Notes

I find the use of games as a form of group identity building to be incredibly interesting. People can either be honest and potentially risk an awkward moment or give a fake answer, but the two options have vastly different implications in terms of what the group might think of them and how the participant in the game chooses to present themself.

 

Game
Humor
Initiations

Overtly Sexual Theater Tradition at a Catholic School

Main Piece

It’s only done at shows, after we do this whole energy circle and this prayer because its catholic school. Then, whoever’s in charge says “practice room, practice room, etc” to whoever is relevant, which we use as one of the dressing rooms, it’s in the hallway. The two people who are the presidents of the musical or whatever, or whoever is willing to do it goes like, everyone take two fingers, and place them on your nipples! [Over one’s clothes] And rub and hum! And then you go, “louder” and then you go “louder” and then you go “scream!” and then you go “have a good show everyone” and someone turns the lights on [the lights are turned off during this ritual] and then everyone runs out.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Long Island

Language: English

The informant learned the tradition from other students, and it has been going since at least 2013, but likely much longer. The informant laughed a lot while telling me this tradition, so it seems to be lighthearted with the intention of being fun. However, the informant did say that it was quite weird. Most often included in the tradition are those who would be considered “popular.”

Context

The informant attended a coeducational Catholic high school where this practice took place.

Notes

This tradition is an example of high schoolers being overtly sexual and although it is seemingly harmless, it also seems very odd and potentially uncomfortable given the potential age gap between Seniors and Freshmen. That said, traditions like this seem to be very common amongst theater groups. I am curious as to the exact reason behind this phenomena.

 

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Nowruz: Persian New Year Celebrations

Main Piece

“Nowruz happens on the spring equinox, it’s the New Year so it’s celebrating new beginnings and whatnot. So then you set up a table called the halfsin table, and it has…I don’t know how many… and they all start with S in farsi. and it’s stuff like an apple, which represents…something. You spend time with family, jumping over this fire thing…people light a little fire and jump over it, from the old year to the new one.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: Persian–American

Location: Washington D.C.

Language: English

When I asked the informant what the holiday means to them, they responded with the following:

“It’s interesting because I didn’t grow up in a super Iranian household, but this holiday was a way to connect with my Iranian heritage…I don’t speak Farsi or whatever but this is a way for me to connect with the heritage.”

Context

The informant has one Iranian parent and did not grow up in a strongly Iranian community. However, she still thinks very fondly of Nowruz and engages in celebrating it each year with her father, who is her Iranian parent, and her brother.

Notes

The formation of an individual’s identity is an intriguing process, and it is interesting that the informant feels an emotional bond to the holiday despite not having many other cultural ties to Iran. Regardless of identity, holidays such as Nowruz seem to bind families closer together.

 

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

V Day in Russia

Main Piece

“On the 9th of May, we celebrate victory over fascism, because its Russia. [Laughs] There’s a military parade in almost every city with tanks and…how do you say, the soldiers. In Moscow, we have this one major theater, and all the veterans would meet up there. If you want to pay tribute, you bring flowers to that lawn in front of that theater. There are barbeques and pop up shops everywhere. My family tries to go to…I celebrated every year until last year because I had exams, but usually my family goes to this restaurant across the street and has barbeque there. It’s a time to honor history…lots of documentaries are shown. It’s about remembering the people who fought the Second World War.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: Russian

Location: Moscow

Language: English

The informant feels different now than compared to two years ago. For her, two years ago, Victory Day represented strong pride for “my [her] country” and “my [her] people.” She had what she called “personally mandatory crying sessions” due to the stories veterans told. The informant wrote poems about the day and the time [in WW2].

Context

In the last two years, the informant moved first to the UK and then to the United States and has presumably learned about history that lessened her pride in her country. The informant heavily implied but never explicitly stated that she no longer feels as strongly for Russia as she used to. For reference, since moving to the United States she has bought and displayed a large American flag in her room.

Notes

It’s incredibly interesting how national holidays and patriotism can play a role in identity, but it is even more interesting that the informant has had their identity changed so much by living in America.

 

Earth cycle
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Chinese New Year

Context & Analysis

The subject and I were eating lunch together and I asked him to tell me about any traditions he shared with his family. The subject told me he doesn’t have a strong connection with his parents, which I think underscores the great importance of Chinese New Year for him; the fact that he travels to convene with his family while not being intimately close with them shows how much the tradition matters to him. The subject gave me a general overview of the traditions associated with Chines New Year but did not elaborate on specific details.

Main Piece

“For Chinese New Year’s it’s a huge deal for our family so we’ll have a meal together, but, like, it’s supposed to be a time where everyone goes home, so I try and do that as well. And, um, there’s a lot of Chinese cultural traditions associated with that: like the types of meals you’ll cook, how you eat them and like getting money from elders.”

Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Easter Egg Traditions

Context & Analysis

My roommate (the subject) and I were sitting in our dorm room talking about how our families celebrated different holidays. The subject’s family is relatively large and extremely tight-knit. Most of her extended family live within an hour radius, and they highly value family gatherings. The dying of the Easter eggs the night before is a tradition carried out only by her immediate family, suggesting that this tradition might not be shared with her extended relatives. It is also interesting to consider that the family chooses to celebrate Easter despite not being religious themselves. Additionally, the subject and her sisters are all high school age or older, so I think that it is fascinating that their mother maintains the façade of the Easter bunny hiding the eggs. It appears that the tradition of the performing the event in the exact way it has “always” been is a way to preserve an important part of girls’ childhood.

 

Main Piece

“On Easter, we always do an Easter egg hunt and the night before we always dye hard-boiled eggs. And my parents always hide the eggs and it’s funny because they keep the façade of ‘Oh, the Easter bunny hid it over there, wow he’s so sneaky!” but its them, it’s like—but my sisters and I are (all three) old enough that we know that, but, like, it’s funny that they still keep that. My mom won’t shop for Easter bunny stuff in front of us, she’ll like—my sister pointed out some stuff to her at Target like “Oh mom, look those are cute baskets for everyone “ and she’s like “No that’s Easter bunny shopping, the Easter bunny will come back later” [laughs], so she attempts to like keep that going, but it’s funny and it’s always been that way.”


 

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Festival of Lights

Context & Analysis

The subject is from Ashland, Oregon—a relatively small town in Oregon that is an extremely tight-knit community. She expressed to me that Ashland has a rich tradition of festivals— the subject has a lot of pride for her town and it’s traditions and it’s interesting that this is a tradition that involved the entire town. I asked her to elaborate on a few of the festivals and she mentioned that her favorite is the Festival of Lights. The Festival of Lights takes the weekend following Thanksgiving which signifies the entry into the winter, or the ‘holiday season’. Despite not necessarily being a religious celebration, I find it interesting that the festival chooses to feature figures traditionally associated with Christmas (i.e. Santa, Mrs. Clause, etc.). Additionally, the fact that the subject can name the precise restaurants where the appearances take place underscores the small town’s community and the importance of the event to her.

Main Piece

“The Festival of Lights takes place at, like, night at, like, usually 7 or something like that—maybe not quite that late, yeah. Um, but there’s a parade and you go downtown and it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving every year, um, and, like, Santa comes down to the plaza and he goes up into the balcony of one of the restaurants called…I think it’s the Bookroom? Or maybe it’s Granite Tap House. I think it’s the book room [nods]. It’s gotta be the book room. Um, and he comes out on the balcony so does Mrs. Clause and one of the reindeer—‘cuz you know they’ve been, like, coming down the street—and they turn off all the lights in the town. And then they count down from ten…[she pauses for dramatic effect] and every single Christmas light lights up and my town becomes a winter wonderland [she smiles broadly]. Um, and then you can get hot chocolate afterwards and there’s caroling—people who like stand and sing carols and it is—ugh, it’s so much fun and so quintessential small town.”

Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Saint Patrick’s Day Food

Context & Analysis

My roommate (the subject) and I were sitting in our dorm room talking about how our families celebrated different holidays. The subject’s family is relatively large and extremely tight-knit, as reflected in the subjects emphasis on “we always always do [it]”. Most of her extended family live within an hour radius, and they value family gatherings. Though this is the case, the subject only celebrates St. Patrick’s day with her immediate family members. I thought it was interesting that the subject’s family celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, considering no one in their family is of Irish descent. Additionally, I thought it was interesting how the family doesn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s day in a traditional sense (i.e. celebrating by drinking or gathering with extended family); instead, I believe the incorporation of images from the Dr. Seuss story, “Green Eggs and Ham”, reflects the nurturing and supportive environment of the family and the encouragement of uniqueness.

 

Main Piece

“On Saint Patrick’s Day—my family and I—we always make green eggs and ham, um, it’s not really specific to St. Patrick’s day, it’s a Dr. Seuss book, but, um, we have everything green for that breakfast. This year my dad even made the butter green so the bagels look really wonky [laughs], that was a little gross, but, um, we always always always do that, and if it’s not breakfast or we can’t be together for breakfast we’re together for, um, dinner or something, and we’ll like dye our Indian food green [laughs].”


 

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Halloween Festival

Context & Analysis

The subject is from Ashland, Oregon—a relatively small town in Oregon that is an extremely tight-knit community. She expressed to me that Ashland has a rich tradition of festivals—particularly ones that involve floats. I asked her to elaborate on a few of her favorite festivals and she brought up Halloween. The subject has a lot of pride for her town and it’s traditions and it’s interesting that this is a tradition that involved the entire town. The shut-down of the town reflects the ‘suspension of regular life’ that often is related to festivals, even more so because of the size of the town. I find it unique and interesting that stores will hand out candy.

Main Piece

“The biggest festival in Ashland is I’d say probably Halloween, um my town is really really big on parades, so there’s always like a huge parade for fourth of July, the festival of lights, Halloween. And it starts at like, 3—3:30? And, um, everybody meets at the library and they shut down, like, the main strip of town. Um and everyone dresses up in costumes, there’s always costume contests and there’s always like a run the morning of and it’s this giant parade you walk from the library all the way down to the plaza in all of your costumes and you get candy from all of the stores you get to, like trick or treat um and you go around and there’s like food and it’s fun and um everyone just has such a good time and people go all out. Like my town is just….so extra [laughs] it’s unbelievable.”

Festival
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Shakespeare Festival

Context & Analysis

The subject is a theater major at USC and is very proud of her hometown of Ashland for hosting one of the most highly regarded theater festivals in the country. She described to me a lot of the inside details of the festival and elaborated on the different theaters and plays that have been featured. It’s clear from her narrative that she is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the subject and the town itself, and it was interesting to hear the information from someone who is so involved in both aspects of the festival.

Main Piece

“Ok, so the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a regional theater company—one of the most highly regarded theater companies on the west coast and in the US—like really spectacular—and it runs usually from February to November—it has three theaters. They do usually 12 plays between the three [theaters]. The one that has usually the most plays in it per season is usually the Angus Bomer Theater and they do all sorts of plays in there. They’ve done musicals, they do Shakespeare, they do new works in there, it’s just, um, whatever fits the space best…and then there’s the Elizabethan which is, like, the oldest theater there and that is their outdoor theater and they usually do between, like, three to four plays in there. Usually Shakespeare and a musical. I know this season it’s Oklahoma [the play]. But I’ve seen Richard III in there, Hamlet in there, it’s really nice but also it gets really cold. And then there’s the Thomas Theater which is, like, their new kind of ‘black box’ style theater where they can switch up the seating however they want to do it. They’ve done some Shakespeares in there—like last season they did Henry IV part one and part two. It’s just meant for smaller audiences. It brings tourists from like all around the world, sustains the economy of our town and is a really really good place for diversity. They’re really big on, like, being inclusive and diverse. In fact, their production of Oklahoma this year has same-sex couples and it should be really good! They’re very big on not only producing works by authors of color but also making sure people of color are cast and are on all of their teams.”

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