USC Digital Folklore Archives / Earth cycle
Earth cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Full Moon Celebration

JT is a 40 year old Vietnamese woman who lives in Arcadia, California. She grew up in her home country and immigrated to the US as a teenager. Here is a Vietnamese tradition she remembers from her childhood:

“The Vietnamese have certain holidays that are, in some ways, like the Jewish tradition of Passover, were we don’t eat certain foods and eat others that are special to that holiday. One of the most important celebrations is the Full Moon. I was very young, but I remember that during the full moon, we would go to the Buddhist temple, where there would be tables and tables of vegetarian food- we didn’t eat meat during this time.

Who was usually cooking that food?

They didn’t always cook it there. You could have vegetarian foods from restaurants- during that time, every restaraunt will have the vegetarian dishes. It’s becoming more common now for restaurants in Vietnam to have vegetarian dishes all the time, too.

Do you know why you celebrated the full moon?

I remember that it wasn’t every full moon- some full moons were more special than the others. We used a lunar calendar, not like the American Calendar- it’s the Chinese version. The full moon of the “month of 7″, for example, was very significant. But the biggest one was the full moon of January- this is called Tet Nguyen Tieu- was the most important because it was the first full moon of the New Year. Everyone would go to temple then and pray for good luck in the New Year.

Is this something you still celebrate?

I usually do, but it’s inconvenient- we do it in our own way, buying more fruits and vegetables instead of eating meats around the full moon. We do it at home. Most Buddhist families we know do this too.

 

My thoughts: This piece is interesting because it shows how a Chinese tradition like the lunar calendar has spread to other parts of Asia as well were the festival changes to reflect that particular culture. This piece also shows that many different cultures have similar beliefs when it comes to the concept of the New Year, such as wishing for good luck in the year to come. This may imply that Vietnam is a future-oriented culture- the informant also told me that Vietnam has been ranked the most optimistic country in the world!

The informant noted that each Buddhist family havstheir “own way” of celebrating the full moon. If it’s inconvenient to go to an official celebration at a temple or to go to a Vietnamese restaurant, the family will alter their eating patterns at home. This shows how each family incorporates their own family folk customs with official religion as well.

 

Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs

Cherokee Creation Story

Cherokee Creation Story

 

Informant:

Richard Spicer. Richard “Larry” Spicer is my adopted Grandfather. He married my maternal grandmother after my Mother’s biological father died in an Air Force airplane accident. Larry graduated from Stanford with an engineering degree while also running track. He was in the Air Force and spent time in real estate development before retiring. He then became the mayor of Indian Wells for two terms, and now remains very active by sitting on several boards, such as the Living Desert: Indian Wells’ zoo. Larry is part Cherokee. His wife and my Grandmother is a Reverend that remains very active as well.

 

Folklore:

“Because I am only partially Cherokee and do not maintain strong ties with its community, I only have bits and pieces of what you would call Cherokee folklore. I was brought up Catholic, so I don’t identify with many Cherokee beliefs, but I do find this one particularly interesting. It’s the Cherokee creation story.”

 

The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.

When all was water, the animals were above in Gälûñ’lätï, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dâyuni’sï, “Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.

At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came back again to Gälûñ’lätï. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.

When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way, and Tsiska’gïlï’, the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The

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conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and another, until it was seven handbreadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ’gine Di’gälûñ’lätiyûñ’, “the seventh height,” because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth. Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the starting place.

There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything–animals, plants, and people–save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter, it, but to do this one must fast and, go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air.

When the animals and plants were first made–we do not know by whom–they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake. To these were given the power to see and to go about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was said: “Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your, hair every winter.”

Men came after the animals and plants. At first there were only a brother and sister until he struck her with a fish and told her to multiply, and so it was. In seven days a child was born to her, and thereafter every seven days another, and they increased very fast until there was danger that the world could not keep them. Then it was made that a woman should have only one child in a year, and it has been so ever since.

 

This is the most popular version. Posted online at http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/cher/motc/motc001.htm.

 

Analysis:

While my Grandfather certainly does not practice close ties with Cherokee customs, I admire the fact that he appreciates and respects them. He is familiar with many of them even though he was not fully immersed in the group’s culture, which I believe makes him a more interesting human being. The Cherokee creation story is vastly different from any traditional or popular religion creation story, or at least any one that I’m familiar with, however, it is very telling that he keeps in touch with his roots.

Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Foodways
Holidays
Life cycle
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eating dduk mandu gook (rice cake dumpling soup) on New Years Day

Informant is a descendant of Irish immigrants who married a Korean man so is familiar with certain Korean traditions.

Tradition as told by informant: Every new years Luis (husband) has the family eat the dumpling soup so I had to go online and look up how to make it.

Every new years Koreans eat this soup because they believe that Koreans age one year every new year. You don’t gain a year until you eat this soup so it is important to them that they have it. It also symbolizes good health and fortune for the new year.

The white, clear broth of the soup represents a clean fresh start to the new year and the disc shaped rice cakes symbolize coins for wealth and good fortune.

for more on this tradition see: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/ddukguk

Adulthood
Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Dance
Game
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Midsummer (Sweden)

And then we have our Midsummer…which is the biggest drinking holiday in the world I would say. It’s the Friday of, that’s the closest to the summer solstice. And the origin is, that way back when we were pagan, we would pray to the gods for a good harvest. So…we would raise a maypole…which is a big penis…directed into the ground, to fertilize the ground to have a good harvest. And we would dance around this penis, you know, it’s a big thing you have to do. And that night, if you’re a woman, you have to pick seven different types of flower, out in the wild, not in the store. You have to go out in the wild and pick them from a field, seven different ones, put em under your pillow, when you sleep that night you’re gonna dream about the person you’re gonna marry. It’s all about fertility! It really is.

 

So you danced around the maypole?

 

Oh yeah! We do it every year.

 

What was that like?

 

It’s, I mean now it’s more of a fun, family, keeping the tradition…it’s not so much a pagan ritual anymore. But the actual like, you carry the maypole in, all the men in the village or society help raise it. And the women have spent the whole day decorating it with small flowers. And then traditional music is still playing…

 

And everyone’s drinking during this?

 

Everyone is drinking all day. So this is the progression. Usually you have lunch, where you eat herring, herring and potatoes, that’s when you start drinking, you have some schnapps. And beer obviously with your lunch. Then you go to the area where the maypole is. And usually it’s organized, your society or village, if you’re a bigger community there are several spots so you can walk there close from your house. And there’s musicians, that play music so that you can dance to… There’s usually games of different sorts… and you know, if you’re too drunk at this point you just enjoy coffee, and you know. So it’s basically sort of desserts, but like thicker desserts, so you have coffee, you have cinnamon rolls, that kinda stuff. And you sit on the ground, on blankets, everyone brings there own blankets around this pole. So everyone dances, and then they’ll take a break, there’s some raffle stuff… And then after that you go home, and if you’re a bigger society you go home and then you have games, like seven or ten different games that you compete in against each other. And usually it’s by teams, and if you’re fewer people it’s individual. So you do that closer to where your home is, and then there’s a barbecue, and you keep drinking. And I mean you keep drinking throughout the whole day, like you start drinking at 11am in the morning, and then you keep drinking. And because it’s in the middle of summer the sun never sets, so you’re up all night. So you have your barbeque, you keep drinking, and then 2am, the sun is still up, you go skinny dipping…and then…you know……and then you pass out. And then you have sex in a bush. Everyone has sex, nine months after Midsummer there’s a lot of babies being born. Because everyone has sex, outside, you just pick a bush and have at it. You would love it. And that’s how you end your night. You easily drink…..probably a liter of schnapps per person. And probably uh….depending on how much of a beer drinker you are but let’s say you’re going with beer…probably drink about 3 gallons of beer? You know. So it’s a fun holiday.

 

So when specifically does it happen?

 

End of June. Cause harvest is in the fall for us.

 

What is the age group of people that are dancing around the pole?

 

Anything from one year olds that can hardly walk, to 85-year-olds. It’s a whole family thing. Usually what happens is, eventually after the barbeque, if you’re still a young teenager, you celebrate with your family, and then you head out to a party somewhere. But once you get old enough, like if you’re past 18, like you can still do it with your family during the day, you’ll have lunch and the celebration around the maypole with your family, and then you’ll hit the barbeque party, you’ll have dinner with your friends. And then party all night long. And if you’re doing it extra special, if you’re out in archipelago, you might leave…because everyone is off Friday, except like, firemen, policemen, hospital people. Everyone else is getting fucked up. So Friday’s always off, you’ll start Thursday, you’ll fill your car up with alcohol and food, take your boat out to your summer place which is out in the archipelago on an island, and you stay there the whole weekend. And midsummer’s on the Friday, on Saturday you wake up and…start drinking again! And then Sunday, you have a couple of beers just to…mellow out. And then you go home. It’s a lotta fun. And I mean, it’s a pagan ritual. That’s what it’s from. So that’s one of the ones that’s not gonna go away…ever. That one will definitely stay around.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a common spring festival throughout Europe, traditionally occurring in Germany, England, and Sweden, according to The Festival Book by Jennette Lincoln. This is a spring fertility festival, both about fertilizing the ground for a good harvest, and also about the young generation reproducing and starting a new generation. There are many rituals with symbolic (phallic) imagery, and games and celebrations in which families come together and also young people from different families. Flowers are a big symbol, as the pole is decorated with flowers, the girls have to collect flowers and put them under their pillows, etc. Girls both ‘come into bloom’ in this liminal pre-adulthood stage in which they become able to bear children, and are also ‘deflowered’, two symbolic meanings in relation to flowers. Alcohol is clearly a big part of the festival, both in celebration of plenty and abundance, and probably also as a way for the young people to loosen up, party, and “interact” – which seems to be expected and even condoned by the adults and families. People copulating outside in nature also has a connotation of fertilizing the earth for a good harvest.

Childhood
Customs
Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Myths
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Santa Claus, Christmas Bok, and Naked Man

So the German tradition of krampus, ah, was brought to Sweden some times during the Dark Ages…and back then, this was before like, Santa Claus came around. And he was only like Saint Nick, or a similar…like before he was actually Santa Claus he was like this Saint guy, right, that was giving gifts away. And the Christmas bok, Julbocken, would accompany him and if you hadn’t been a good child, he would put you in his sack, that he brought with him, and beat you. Uh, and if you’d been really bad he would put you in his sack and take you away. From your family. And how this was celebrated was basically, young University students, would go around to houses, carol singing. Wearing all these, the outfit of the bok – it’s a Swedish word. It’s basically like a goat head with horns. And they were mischievous. So it’s like a mixture of trick-or-treating and carol-singing, into one. And this would be used to threaten children to behave. And that lived for like, forever. Long time.

Is it still going on?

No. Because it’s sort of…that tradition of going around, sort of died off when Santa Claus came around. Basically Santa Claus was different, in Sweden, until Coca-Cola came to Sweden. And then all of a sudden Santa Claus was red. Before that he wasn’t. And Santa Claus…I’ll get back to that thought. The Christmas bok is now, under the Christmas tree you have one out of…what is the uh, horses eat?

Hay?

Hay. Yeah, out of hay, it’s like a figurine made out of hay, that you put under your Christmas tree, as a like a, oh he’s already been here. Because they would leave that, after the visit.

Oh, he would leave a little figurine?

Yeah.

The University students?

Yeah. And usually they got served alcohol, you know, that’s why they were going around. And if you didn’t, then you know, they would do something mischievous.

And the first Santa Clauses weren’t actually Santa Clauses as the way we think of it, basically they were gnomes that cared for the farmhouse. They cared for the whole plot of land where they lived. So they lived under the houses, and they would take care of that. And that was sort of like their gift to, to the people inside. And every year you would have to put out a bowl of oatmeal, outside. Almost like cookies and milk, but a poor version, and outside. So they would continue taking care of the farm. Most of the Swedish stuff has to do with nature. So the gnomes, they were friendly, taking care, making sure that plants grew, all that stuff. And they would come together, for a time period before Santa Claus became Coca-Cola-ized, the Christmas bok and Santa Claus would come together, and Santa Claus would give the good children gifts, and the bok would give them beatings. So they both have sacks – one is empty and one is full of gifts! Cause if you’ve been bad…you end up in the sack and get beaten.

So there was one Santa Claus? Or every house had their own?

No every house had their own, yeah. Houses weren’t close to each other, cause we didn’t have cities obviously, so it was more like a big farm. And each farm had their own, so each little village had several. Yeah. So each plot of land that you owned had their own little gnome taking care of it.

There’s a lot of mythology used to keep children at bay. For instance, in the wintertime, if you go outside the wolf’s gonna eat you.

Did your mom ever tell you that?

Uh, not me. But her generation. Because when I grew up, we were modernized in cities. So I’m too young to have that sort of thing. But if you go back, like at the turn of the century, that was definitely going around. Like that was the way to keep children in. So you had: don’t go into the forest at wintertime, cause the wolf will catch you and eat you; don’t go out in the summertime cause the trolls will take you…and they would trade you for a troll kid. So basically if your kid was misbehaving, it was thought that your actual kid had been taken by trolls, and they had left a troll kid. If you went down to the lake or the spring, the Naked Man would take you.

Naked Man? What’s that?

Naked Man…he plays his violin. Beautifully. So beautifully that you cant withstand it, so you have to walk closer and closer and closer, and once you’re close enough he’ll grab you and pull you into the stream and you’ll drown and die. He’s a naked man, yeah. And his name is, like…Naked Man. Näcken. That’s his name. So that’s sort of like the Elements protection.

 

ANALYSIS:

The above traditions and folk beliefs function not only as lower mythology, for example every household having it’s own spirit or small deity looking after the house and harvest, but also as a way to make children behave and stay out of harm’s way. The rituals and practices of the University students going around to the houses, as well as the figurine, reinforces the threat of the Christmas bok. In addition, the participation of the University students allows them to be involved after their belief in such stories and characters has passed, and they in turn get to have their fun and mischief and alcohol, a part of the transition between being a child who believes these stories but before they have children of their own. As the informant pointed out, these traditions are fading out, mainly because of the urbanization of Sweden – families no longer have their own large plot of land, and instead people live in cities.

Customs
Earth cycle
Foodways
Game
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Duck Shooting in New Zealand

There’s a national tradition that the first of May is the opening of duck shooting season. And, all over the country people go duck shooting. If you live in town, everyone knows someone in the country (if they’re into duck shooting, not everyone’s into duck shooting, but there’s a lotta people that are), what they’ll do is they’ll call up a local farmer and arrange to go duck shooting on their pond. A lotta farms have got more than one pond, and leading up to duck shooting season the farmers will start putting grain out at the ponds, to fatten the ducks, these are wild ducks, and as far as I know there’s not many domesticated ducks in New Zealand, a lotta them are wild. And so what happens is the farmers are trying to attract the ducks to their pond, so they don’t go to the neighbor’s pond, it’s actually a bit of a competition to be honest! So we lived on this 4,000 acre farm growing up, and we had a lot of duck ponds, and really these ponds are made to water the stock, so some of them are natural and others are made by my dad with the bulldozer. But then you always end up with ducks, in theses ponds. So the first of May is the beginning of duck shooting season, and it usually goes for two or three weeks, and it’s a national event. So every morning, on the first of May there’s this tradition where they guys (mainly guys, some girls) they go out with their shotguns. And some farmers build what’s called Mai-mai’s on the damns, I guess it’s a Maury word, Mai-mai, and what it is it’s like this hut that is camoflauged that they can go inside on the edge of the duck pond. So the guys get out literally at 5 in the morning so that they can be out and situated as the sun rises. And then the tradition too, my dad’s really not a big drinker, but there’s a major tradition where the farmers will take a bottle of whiskey, or they’ll have already stocked the mai-mai with whiskey and beer, and some farmers have traditional drinks. Like it could be scotch, it could be scotch and water, like in the south island it’s scotch and water, like a lotta them will have stashes of scotch and water in their mai-mais. So dad would often go out on his own, and come back from his first morning of duck shooting with maybe, I dunno 20 ducks? And as we got older we’d get to go out with him. And he brings all the ducks back but then my brother and I would have to pluck them (cause no one wants to do that, so give it to the kids). So there’s this huge festivities around plucking the ducks, and sometimes you get geese as well. So my brother and I would be in charge of plucking the ducks, and my dad would gut them and clean them out, and then they’d go up to my mom, who was in charge of cooking them. And that’s where farmers’ wives would exchange different recipes for cooking wild duck. They’d cook in their own houses but they would share recipes. And each year it’d be like, okay this is what I’m gonna cook my duck in, and what about you, and they’d share ideas, and there’s always usually like, a little bit of Cointreau or gromaneyei or something like that goes into the gravy, just to add flavor. And the really nice thing about new Zealand wild duck is that its got no fat on it, its very gamey. They’ve got a very dark colored meat, and they’re so tastey and so tender. So the roasting pan would have up to three ducks in it, all lined up. You roast them in the oven, and some of the recipes I showed you’ve got varying things, like you’ve got duck with orange, duck with plum, and pineapple duck, and so you’d put like pineapple in the stuffing, so you’d have the whole theme going there. And usually the duck would be served with roast potatoes so once the duck’s cooked to a certain point you gotta put the potatoes around the duck as well. And the roast potatoes are sort of cut up, and then rolled in flour, and salt and pepper, and then dropped into the roasting pan, so they’re cooking and the juices of the duck get soaked up, it’s like a slow roast in the oven. And then it comes out and you make the gravy by hand, and so you’ve got like the roasting pan, you tip the fat out (there’s not a lot of fat though) and then you just sprinkle flour in there, and then some like, water from the vegetables that might be cooking, and then you use a fork and just stir it all up and add a little thickening. And it’s this really gorgeous gravy that you can have with the roast duck and then you usually have like peas or broccoli or something like that with it on the plate, it’s just so good.

 

So that all happens in one day, the first day of shooting?

 

Yeah, exactly, so we have roast duck that night. Oh, and the thing you’ve got to watch too, because they’re wild ducks, is because they’ve been shot with a shotgun they have little pellets in them. So my mom, especially when we were little kids, the moms are in charge of making sure that the kids don’t get the duck with the pellets, you’re told to chew carefully cause you occasionally crunch down on a pellet. You can usually tell where the pellets have gone in, and the ducks that my mom likes to cook first are the ones where they’ve been shot in the head, sounds a bit gory I know. The less pellets the better for kids, cause you don’t wanna be swallowing lead pellets.

So and usually what happens is when we serve the duck, my dad would carve the duck on the kitchen counter. Before dinner. That was our tradition.

And then my dad would then periodically go out during duck shooting and get more, and would usually freeze the extra ones so that you could have them for a couple months.

 

So is this tradition really specific to New Zealand?

 

Very, I think. Yeah, every country’s got their own rules, and what a lot of it’s about too is they’re wild ducks so they’re not protected, and if it was year round the population of ducks would go down, so the idea of only doing it for the month of May is that (I don’t actually know how long duck shooting season goes, I oughta google it, but it’s something like 3 or 4 weeks), and it’s just cause you don’t wanna overshoot the duck population. It gives them a chance to repopulate. And actually, the seasons are the opposite in new Zealand, so May is like, right into fall. So maybe there’s an assumption too, that springs been 6 months old, so any spring ducks would now be 6 months and be good eating, because they’re tender and young.

 

So it’s definitely a tradition, and when you go duck shooting you’ve gotta wear like greens and browns so that youre blending in with the countryside as much as possible. And my dad was always super careful with guns, like, and it’s interesting in New Zealand you only have guns for shooting animals, people don’t carry them recreationally as much, and they certainly don’t carry them for protection. And farmers have to license their guns and lock them away.

 

And the other tradition we had, we had geese at the back of the farm, and my brother and I used to go and, we never carried guns, what we would do is if you let the geese see you coming they’ll start walking up the hill to the trees, and geese need to run to fly. So if you walk them up under the trees, you can charge them, and we’d have a competition to see how many we could catch, and we had these flexible belts that were elastic that my mom hand made, and we’d take them off and we’d get like three geese, and we’d tie their heads together with these belts, so that we could go and get three more. And then we would take them home and chop their heads off and eat them. So we did our own geese catching! And we used it as proof that we could do it without a gun.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a ritualized custom that is performed annually both because it follows the earth cycle calendar, and because of the practical reason of letting the duck population repopulate. It is clearly both a family custom, and a societal practice, as each segment of the society has a different role – the men go out and do the shooting, the children have to do the messy but easy labor, and the women do the cooking. There is also an ongoing generational aspect, as recipes are exchanged from family to family and passed down through generations. The fact that the children came up with their own hunting method, and created their own tradition, speaks of the involvement and desire for involvement in the grown up roles in this custom, and a sort of proving their capabilities, as they came up with their own way of duck hunting.

Duck Recipes IMG_0062 IMG_0063

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Persian New Year

Okay, so Persian New Year, it lasts seven days…So, basically the Tuesday before or during, everyone goes to a special place or they do it at each other’s houses and they make fires, like small fire pits.

 

Inside or outside?

 

Outside, it’s always outdoors. Like in an alleyway, or if you have a big backyard, or they do it at the beach. And then people jump over it and they say a saying that’s kind of like, I don’t know how it’s translated but it symbolizes throwing your bad energy or anything bad from the past year into the fire, or like from other people, into the fire. That’s basically it.

 

Do you know the phrase in Farsi?

 

Yeah, but you’re not gonna get it. It’s like, “sorheitaz…?” I don’t even know how to say it, you’re kind of just saying whatever is bad is going into the fire. And you kind of say it with a friend, like whatever’s bad from each other, your relationship goes in too.

 

When is Persian New Year?

 

Our calendar is different, the Persian calendar is a little different. It’s first day of Spring, so it starts on March 21st, and then it lasts seven days. And we always set a table, it’s called the Hafseen, and Haf means seven, so like everything starts with an “S” you can look this up, I don’t know what each thing symbolizes.

 

So there’s a lot of symbolism involved?

 

Yeah, there’s seven things, there’s like a fish, and then there’s a specific thing you grow, it’s like a grass, and then there’s flowers… It’s really specific but it’s all with Spring and has to do with new beginnings and stuff like that. So it lasts a week, and then after that you get rid of the table and everything, and they throw out the grass thing, they’ll go to the river and get rid of it, there’s like special ways. And they celebrate after too.

 

ANALYSIS:

The informant is clearly engaged in her family’s and culture’s traditions and customs surrounding New Year, although it is clear there is a generational gap – she speaks Farsi, but doesn’t know exactly what she’s saying or what it means when they jump over the fire. She also participates in the traditions and knows the general gist of how things are set up, but doesn’t know specifics about the symbolic elements of the festival. However, she is aware of how the ritual is done, participates in it, and has a general idea of why these things are done and what they mean. The new year festival is about being away with or burning away all the old, stale, bad things from the past year, and bringing in the new year. There are very specific things that must be present and actions that must be done to ensure good luck, success, happiness, good relationships, etc. in the new year. This also corresponds with the earth cycle, and not with the biblical calendar.

Customs
Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Persian bean sprouts – Nowruz tradition

The informant is a 19 year old student studying Vocal Arts at the University of Southern California.  Her heritage is Jewish and Persian and she speaks Hebrew and Farsi.  Her family maintains many of their Persian traditions from various regional cultures in Iran.  The informant is Kashi (from Iran’s Kashan region) from her Dad’s side, while her mother’s side is from Tehran (maternal grandfather) and Komijan (maternal grandmother).  The informant herself mainly identifies with the Kashi culture.

“Something that my family does is when we’re like driving on Nowruz which is like New Year, we put a plate of like [bean] sprouts on our car.  And then they just fall off whenever.  We just drive the car to wherever we’re going and when they fall of they fall off.”

“I’m not sure what it symbolizes, its just a thing we do. I think it has to do with horse carriages at some point; they would do it and then the sprouts would fall and that would symbolize joy and New Year and rebirth or something.”

 

Analysis:

 

Earth cycle
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Easter Tradition in Hungary

Background about Informant:

Anna is a 22-year-old exchange student from Hungary, studying business at USC. She was born and raised in Budapest and has knowledge of many facts and traditions of Hungary.

 General Description from Informant:

“We have a strange Easter tradition when boys have to pour water/perfume on girls – they do it with a bucket of water on the countryside but in cities people usually spray perfume. I personally always hated this tradition. Especially because by the end of the day, girls usually smell like a perfume store – never wash your hair the day before! And when I was around 6 my best friend’s friend who came to water her poured a whole bottle of perfume into my face by accident and it all went into my eyes. It was as pleasant as you can imagine.

The guys have to say or learn or write a rhyme “I went to this forest and found this flower, can I water this flower?” and the girl is the flower. And then they spray perfume or water on you.

Either the rhymes are sexual for teenage guys or kind of cute/dumb for non-teenagers. And it’s really cute when little boys remember the rhymes.”

Follow-up Questions:

  • Where/who did you learn it from?
    • “My parents when I was a kid, we always do this.”
  • What does it mean to you?
    • “I don’t like it because of the perfume. But it’s normal because it’s part of the Easter tradition. I’m fine when it
  • Why do males throw water on females and not vice versa?
    • “In the countryside, guys did everything. Also part of guys meeting girls and meeting your wife, and of course the girl is the flower and not the guy. How else would they meet the girls otherwise?”
  • What do you think this festival symbolizes?
    • “Something about fertility but I don’t know. But maybe it’s just a nice thing too.”
  • Who are the participants?
    • “Guys of all ages – even the grandfathers. And women of all ages too.”

 Analysis from Collector:

I think this Easter Tradition found in Hungary is in line with many other Spring/Easter festivals found around the world. Spring festivals usually revolve around new life, reproduction, and fertility. In the Hungarian Easter tradition the woman represents the flower and the guys represent the fertilizing or stimulant. The flower represents virginity and fertility, while the watering represents the fertilizing of a flower and stimulating growth. Simply, it represents sexual intercourse between men and women for reproductive purposes.

The fact that the grandfathers and older women take part in the tradition seems a little strange, as fertility is usually centered on a younger generation. This part of the tradition may have changed with the times for everyone to participate and have fun. However, I believe the tradition started in the countryside as a way for men and women to meet each other and ultimately lead to reproduction.

Customs
Earth cycle
Foodways
Holidays

Christmas Cookies for Santa

Informant: “In our family, we always used to set out cookies and milk for Santa, and the idea was that Santa would come down the chimney and set up presents, and then he would take a bite out of the cookies and leave. Of course, it was always just the parents taking a bite out of the cookies to make it look like Santa was there, but my kids always thought it was just the coolest thing. I remember that my family did this when I was a kid, and [my husband's] family did the same thing as well, so we decided to to it for our kids as well to sort of keep the tradition going.”

Collector: Was the type of cookie important?

Informant: “Not really. Mostly we would put out sugar cookies, but they didn’t have to be a specific type. Although we would put out soy milk instead, but we told the kids that Santa didn’t mind”

Informant is a middle aged mother of three who lives in the suburbs in the Midwestern United States. She identifies as of “American” heritage, which she bases on her admission that she never particularly looked into her family’s European heritage.

Collector Analysis: This is an interesting variation on an already well known folklore piece involving putting out food for Santa Claus on Christmas. This informant’s immediate family are all vegans, and as of such don’t consume any animal products including milk. It is interesting to see how this particular tradition adapts to fit the family that performs it, in this case, the replacement of normal milk with soy milk. This shows the adaptability of this particular folk tradition.

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