USC Digital Folklore Archives / Gestures
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.

Festival
Folk Dance
Foodways
Gestures
Holidays
Kinesthetic
Material
Musical
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias Monucipilanas

Every city, every town, has a yearly party, feria monucipilanas, and each have their own saint in which they cherish and praise during the festival. The people of the city make a big tower that you light at the bottom of the tower so then the fireworks make really colorful designs upon explosion. 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. These fairs seem like the walks that Catholics due in Los Angeles during Easter to acknowledge a saint.

Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Protection

Padre Nuestro- Blessings

Every single time when you pass by a church, or any holy site, you give yourself a blessing. Doing so, it shows respect to the Saint of the church as well as providing you protection from the sacred site as you continue in your journey.

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Ruby is a young Mexican-American woman who truly connects to her Catholic roots and leads her way of life through that method. She is also a single mom who works at a Non-Profit feeding the homeless of Los Angeles.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Homeopathic
Material
Protection

Naciemento de JesusChristo

During Christmas time, the whole family gets together right before eating dinner. In this family ceremony, everybody gets a Jesus looking treat, usually something the mom of the family makes, and everybody then kisses Jesus on the forehead and then eats the head. It’s to symbolize Jesus and the Holy Spirit being in you. This always happens between the hours of 2am-3am after Christmas Eve. The time is important, because that is the time in which it connects to the “witch hour” where Evil is supposedly the strongest.

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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.

Gestures
Kinesthetic

The Flying Asshole

So I think I learned this in Cozumel, but I’ve seen it in Fiji and Palau and the Bahamas and here, too, when you’re underwater, or when you’re not underwater, but I learned this from other scuba divers, and it’s how I’ve seen it used, I’ve only seen it used underwater when someone’s, you know, landed hard on a reef and fucked it up, or kicked someone accidentally, or whatever.

But the flying asshole, it starts out as the ok sign, that circle with your forefinger and thumb, but then you wave the rest of your fingers and sort of bounce your hand across.

It’s the universal sign for, “I’m fine, but how about that flying asshole?”

Informant was an underwater photographer and for many years, and divers do have their own formal sign language, but an informal sign language has developed around the standardized one, particularly among professional divers–people who do it for money, rather than enjoy it as an expensive hobby. It seems to separate the sheep from the goats, the dabblers from the polished pros, while establishing the same sort of class division any other difference in dialect might.

Gestures
Protection

Getting My Ears Pulled When Speaking of The Dead

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (telephonically)

 

Alan is a 62- year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. You mentioned that you experienced your mother’s family superstition first hand when you were a youngster. Can you explain it?

 

Informant: Sure. My mother would always pull my ears and those of my sister, when we were very young, when she heard that either a relative or person she knew had just died.

 

Interviewer:  Was there a reason why she did this?

 

Informant: She never spoke directly about this, but my mother was a superstitious individual when it came to the evil eye. I have to assume that this had something to do with that. For instance, she would always dress my sister and me in red if we were visiting someone who she felt possessed an evil eye. I remember one time when she just stood in front of this particular person and walking backward pushed my sister and me out of the room. I was young and didn’t really think anything about it.

 

As I got older I began to realize that the pulling of our ears when she spoke about the dead was a part of her superstitious beliefs. I never observed this behavior with her sisters and brothers (my aunts and uncles). Her mother and father (my grandparents) were both dead before I was born so I never saw if it was somehow connected this action to them. However, knowing my mother, she might have come up with this crazy superstition all on her own.

 

Interviewer: Does She Still Do This?

 

Informant: No. The last time I remember her tugging at my ears was when my Great Uncle Joe had passed away when I was 13. We were driving to a supermarket and my father asked my Mother when was Joe’s funeral. As he did she reached around from the front car seat and managed to grab my left ear, but I twisted and prevented her from getting my right one. From that day forward, she never tugged my ears again!”

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Superstitious gestures like this one become ingrained even if connection to meaning is lost. http://www.imamother.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=172695

For other Jewish superstitious customs see: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/popular-superstitions/

 

 

 

Customs
Gestures
Signs

A Catholic Tradition Honoring My Mother

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish

Age: 20

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Mike is a 20 year old man, born and raised in New York, who is a mobile phone salesman in New York City. He is a high school graduate whose family is of Puerto Rican Heritage.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. You mentioned that you follow a tradition your Mom taught you. Could you explain please?

 

Informant: “Ya it is like I am Catholic you know you know and we really go by this Catholic thing like every time I do the cross. Every time I pass a Church, I do the cross. And I feel if I didn’t do the cross that I would feel different.”

 

Interviewer: You mentioned you would feel different, why?

 

Informant: “Like this was a thing, you know the do the cross, that I use to ah see my Mom do every time, you know, we were passing a Church. Like it ah didn’t matter if youse was on a bus or a car or like just walking down a street, um she would always cross herself.  Then… then I was, you know older then a little kid, ah every time she crossed herself you know and if I was wit her, she would stare at me if I didn’t cross myself.  So I guess, like um I would um feel different like I wuz disrespecting my Mother, you know.  So like , I am a Momma’s boy, she is very close. And um I don’t want to, you know give her anything that wouldn’t be very respectful. Does that make sense to you?”

 

Interviewer:  Yes it does. It is a very nice thing to do. Do you do the sign of the cross even when she is not with you?

 

Informant: “Of course, it’s like so deep in my bones and mind that it is like ya I am like a robot! When I see the church, like I have to stop and do my cross, you know.  It is so beautiful cause I see my Mom smiling a lot every time ah um I do that.”

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Devoted Catholics worldwide have been making the “sign of the cross” since the 400s: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-origin-of-the-sign-of-the-cross/

Here is a demonstration of how to do this movement prayer properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpRzqXG1dhc

 

 

 

 

Gestures
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jumping the Broom at Weddings

Informant: The informant is Briana, a nineteen-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Vacaville, California, in the Bay Area, and has lived there for her entire life, until she moved to Los Angeles for college. She is of African descent.

Context of the performance: This performance was done while we were sitting on the grass outside of our dorm building on USC’s campus- Arts and Humanities at Parkside.

Original Script:

Informant: So, at weddings, African Americans have a tradition of the newlywed spouses jumping over a broom after they say their vows. Basically, someone brings a broom up to the altar so that when the spouses are leaving, they have to jump over it to exit the ceremony area, whether it’s a church or not. It’s supposed to represent sweeping your past behind you, whether that was any issues you had dating or just your past as single people.Your lives as single people are behind you, and you enter into your relationship as a married couple and your new, shared life together.

Interviewer: Who taught you about this ritual?

Informant: My grandmother told me this when I was in middle school.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s cool because it’s a tradition that’s been done for a long time. Also, my mom and dad did it, and so I want to do it. I would keep the broom, personally, and I would show my kids. It would be really sentimental for them to see it.


Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed hearing about this ritual because I, personally, have never been to a wedding. However, I do know that my family does not follow this tradition, so it was quite interesting to learn about. At first, I was confused as to why the couple would step over a broom, but, with Briana’s explanation, the ritual totally makes sense. It is also interesting that she knew the reasoning behind this piece of folklore because many people who observe or participate in folklore do not know about its true message.

Game
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Fistbumping

This entry can loosely be described as videogame folklore. The interviewer (D) and the informant, C, were playing a game called Super Smash Bros for the Wii, a widely popular fighting game with well documented analysis for every character, stage, and since two players tend to face each other from a list of characters, every potential matchup as well. There are many unwritten rules that players follow to observe proper “etiquette” when playing the game. The game is played with 4 lives “stocks” and set to an 8-minute timer. The first to force their opponent to lose their stocks is declared winner. It is proper tournament etiquette to fistbump before games start.

 

This interaction occurred after both players had chosen their characters for the next game. The process of “striking stages” happens in order to preferentially pick stages for the next game to happen on.

 

D: let’s strike stages. I’ll go first, strike Dreamland

C: strike FD

D: strike PS2

C: Alright, so Yoshi’s

*both fistbump*


The interviewer notes the gesture of fistbumping as an unsaid mutual agreement that both players can proceed to the next match. There are no explicit rules stating players must fistbump to play the game, of course, but even in friendly play this simple gesture indicates you have a working level of respect for your opponent. It conveys a “no hard feelings” attitude that works for both parties, winner or loser.

Gestures
Humor

Secret Handshake

SP is a current student at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo where she studies Geography and Anthropology. She is originally from Seattle, WA and grew up in a small town nearby. She grew up in a typical American middle-class family. She attended a public high school in Washington where she grew up with a sister and her mother and father. She has a background of being half-Mexican and half Irish/Italian that has in some ways heavily influenced her beliefs as well as her religious beliefs rooted in Catholicism.

Is there anything you learned from your family that you still actively do today? Like a greeting or gesture that is something you feel is unique to you?

SP: Well me and my dad’s side of the family have this secret handshake that my dad made up. At first I think it was just a thing between him, me and my sister but now it has turned in to something all of cousins know how to do. It is really simple it is just some fist bumps and hand grabs and isn’t very hard to remember. It sort has become a family tradition with anyone he is close within the family who is younger. It keeps all of u having something in common that we all know as being the younger generation, we are a bit more separated from the older family in a way.

Do you still remember the handshake and use it regularly?

SP: Yeah, I still remember it, I have known it for almost 15 years now so it is like engrained in my brain forever at this point. I think it is only really used at family gatherings and we don’t have as many of those because of the fact that all of us have mostly gone to college and all the older aunts and uncles are actually getting to an older age where they come to less events because they have moved away or are spending time with other family. It is rare we get together but when we do my dad always asks us and our cousins in we remember it and we always do. It is nice that he still reminds us all in a way that he hasn’t forgotten us or that fact that we all share this secret technique together. Whenever I see people with handshakes it reminds me of my dad and our family.

Analysis:

Handshakes are a dying form of gesture or greeting. It is more common among children in younger ages as a way of bonding or sharing secrets between friends in a school yard setting. IT is now more uncommon since the digital age. People create common emoji messages or snapchats they can send back and forth rather than the significance of handshakes and jumping rope just do not exist after the age of eight or so. Handshakes just do not exist for the most part but used to be a huge form of bonding and communication. I remember when I was younger me and my friends created many handshakes we could share just between one person that made you feel like you had a special connection or unique thing no one else could share. It is sad to see them mostly die out but for those that remain it creates an everlasting bond between you and the other person.

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