Category Archives: Festival

Indian Wedding Traditions – Stealing Shoes

Background: 
My informant, NS, is an eighteen year old student at Tufts University. She was born and raised in Southern California. Her mother was born and raised in the Philippines, and her father is Indian but grew up in Scotland and Southern California. While her mother is the only member of her family to have moved away from the Philippines, much of her father’s family, including his father, siblings, and nieces and nephews, are also in Southern California, meaning lots of family time between NS and her extended family, especially her cousins. Her father’s side of the family continues many traditional Indian and Hindu practices in day to day life, and NS is also greatly influenced by her heritage.  (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance:
NS: At Indian weddings, the youngest bridesmaid..ok so..have you ever been to an Indian wedding?

SW: Nope.

NS: Oh. Well the bride and groom…they do a thing where they walk around a fire 7 times, and each time represents, like, the first one might be commitment, or the second one represents love. They walk around 7 times, and then the youngest bridesmaid will steal the shoes from the groom-

SW: The groom’s shoes?

NS: Yeah, so she steals the groom’s shoes, and it’s always expected, like, Indian men will take out cash, like over $100, before their wedding day because they know they have to pay for their shoes back. And basically, it’s like a sign of wealth. The groom shows that he has the money to buy his shoes back, even if he doesn’t need to. It’s supposed to be, like, a way of showing that he can support his wife and family, financially. 

Thoughts: 
I’ve never been to a wedding before, and talking to NS, my best friend, always makes me want to go to one, especially an Indian wedding. They seem to be a big affair, with hundreds of people there, including extended family and friends. Walking around the fire reminds me of a more symbolic way of reading out your vows, which I like. NS also mentioned that she’s been to a few weddings where her Indian cousins marry someone who is not Indian, and because they’re not Indian, they don’t quite get all the Indian traditions that make up the wedding. So NS, often being the youngest bridesmaid (as she is the youngest cousin), has dealt with the family of the groom being less than understanding. She’s had people she hardly knows get angry with her and tell her to return the shoes, or the groom will give her $10, clearly not understanding the significance of the custom. It makes me sad that so many people won’t even consider trying to understand a culture different from their own. 

The Prep-work Behind The Elderflower Festival

Interviewer: So how did it get started in your home town?

Informant: My parents started off just making a couple of gallons with a couple of friends, I’m not sure exactly who they picked it up from. And I think they may have done that in the house before the Bury. Or right around that time, anyway. Probably around 60 years ago (2020). There have been more Elderflower Festivals than my parents have been present for.  There was one in 1967? My parents went on sabbatical to America and their friends broke in and made Elderflower anyway. There was another one when they sailed one of their boats down to the south of France and my brother and me hosted it on our own. I’m pretty sure my brother has been at every Elderflower Festival.

Interviewer: Does it only happen one time a year?

Informant: It has to take place when the flowers are in bloom, usually in the first or second week of June. It cannot be delayed, the flowers do not stay out for very long. It is an event driven entirely by natural forces and the need for alcohol.

Interviewer: What typically goes into the festival preparation wise?

Informant: Well the deal is something around 40 guests are invited and they’re asked to pick Elderflowers so when they arrive they can deliver their flowers. We spread the tarpaulin on the backyard and lay the flowers on it to dry and be shredded. And in return for their labor, the guests are fed a huge buffet lunch. There are a number of elements of that lunch that are obligatory. Coronation Chicken, Roast Beef, Deviled Eggs, Roast Turkey, Potato Salad, and Garlic Bread and there’s always a rice of some sort. There’s a late morning snack of sausages done on a barbecue because we have a late lunch, because we don’t have lunch until we reach a quota of flowers. After lunch, the afternoon is devoted to games, ‘gassing’ (talking), and drinking wine. Because my parents were teachers a lot of the guests were faculty or students. It’s just a thing a lot of Cambridge educators do.

Interviewer: Is there a recipe then that one has to follow to make Elderflower wine?

Informant: There is a certain amount of citrus fruit that needs to be peeled and squeezed and that is combined with boiling water poured through the flowers in a muslin shiv. With a large amount of sugar to feed the yeasts. My father used to be the viter but now my brother does it. Fermentations takes place in large Demi-johns and it takes about 3 months to the point where the wine can be decanted and bottled. Elderflower wine has an unusual ‘nose’ which takes some getting used to, but the taste is very pleasant.

Background: This festival takes place either the first of second week of June, it is a time sensitive celebration that must occur during that time or not at all. Luckily it is also during the summer break for most British educators, so it is an excuse to see each other outside of work and get drunk together.

Context: My informant and I were discussing whether or not there would be an Elderflower Festival this year due to the Corona Virus. This would be the first time since it’s conception that the Elderflower Festival would not be held, but my informant believed it would be for the best since a majority of attendees are rather old and would be at risk.

My Thoughts: I’ve attended the Elderflower Festivals before and they are a riot! There’s a lot a family and friends who attend and at the end, people are gifted a bottle of last year’s batch. The festival has grown over the time I have attended from just 30 people to closer to 60 or 70. People keep bringing friends to come celebrate, which means a lot more time is put into prepping the meals and getting a supply of flowers to shred.

While not directly a festival celebrating life cycles, the festival is based entirely on the production of turning blooming flowers into wine, so there may be some form of symbolism there.

British Celebration of Guy Fawkes Night

Interviewer: So why do you celebrate Guy Fawkes Night?

Informant: It was a big part of my childhood. I remember going to Bonfire Night Parties. So the month prior to the 5th of November, the actual date, families and friends would gather old furniture and sweep up leaves, a lot of fallen leaves, and anything else that could be burned. And we would stack it into a huge bonfire. And then on the night of the 5th of November the community would come together and there would be fireworks and we would light the bonfire. But also during the month prior children would build a ‘Guy’ and a ‘Guy’ consisted of old clothes, that were stitched or pinned together and stuffed with newspaper and leaves to resemble a person. The ‘Guy’. Guy Fawkes. This ‘Guy’ would be carried around the community in a wheelbarrow or old pram, going door to door begging for pennies. “Penny for the Guy”. These children would then take these pennies and purchase fireworks.

Interviewer: That’s kind of irresponsible.

Informant: I know! I was wuss and I hated loud fireworks, so I always purchased sparklers. There was always traditional food served at bonfire night parties: mugs of soup, oxtail, or tomato soup, and sticky Parkin Cake (Ginger cake). Adults always lit the fireworks and the bonfire, but you could throw things on the fire, basically we were pyromaniacs for a night and it was socially acceptable. Another thing that was a tradition, the dummy you made, you would always put a mask on it of a political figure. Typically one you disliked. Part of my memory of the thing, is that you stood as close as you could to the fire so your face was almost blistering and your back was wet and freezing, cuz this is England! Guy Fawkes night was THE THING for us, Halloween was ‘eh’ but Bonfire Night was it, cuz it had fire!

Context: An earlier conversation that was discussing a different English Tradition made my informant remember this part of her childhood.

Background: The informant learned the tradition from her community, there was no one person who taught her about it. She enjoys it because it’s fun. “It only gets remembered if it’s fun”. To her it’s a little “encapsulated perfection” part of her childhood and it captured what it was like to grow up in rural England.

Thoughts: It sounds like a very interesting holiday, the informant seemed to go back to the high energy and joy of that holiday. I personally wish to be able to go to her home town to see this tradition myself.

Carnival: South America’s Pre-Lent Festival

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (JZ). 

JZ: Carnival happens for a reason, but it’s not for me, really. Honestly, no one knows, or no one cares… But it is religious related. I did look it up once, though… It always happens before Ash Wednesday, which starts lent.

LT: So it’s kind of like Mardis Gras? 

JZ: Yes. But it’s for everyone, even people like me, who are Jewish. Everybody just takes time off, and enjoys… There’s a saying… “the year doesn’t start until after Carnival ends,” and it’s true! Like it really doesn’t start. It’s not a joke. Everyone is waiting insanely for Carnival. Everyone travels Friday night, and it goes alllll the way until Wednesday. So everyone travels, and goes to these crazy crazy parties, and sometimes, when you get older, you don’t even need to go to the big festivals, you just go to the parties. And the parties have… temas?

LT: Themes.

JZ: Yes, so they’re all these different parties with different themes… They’re like… the neighborhood parties. 

LT: Block parties? 

JZ: But not really, they’re much much bigger. They’re like parades, and you stop and drink in the street. But you dress up in costumes and then go from party to party… But just so you understand, I’ve been to where Carnival actually happens only once in my entire life. No one cares, just gringos go there. We just party in the streets. It’s the greatest party you’ve ever gone to in your life. 

Background: 

My informant is my sister-in-law who is from São Paulo, Brazil. She grew up travelling to Rio de Janeiro every year for Carnival, and cannot remember her first one: “It has always been a tradition.” She is Jewish, so she does not partake in the religious aspect of Carnival, and her favorite part is “having fun with friends and family, and even strangers, just drinking and celebrating life.” 

Context: 

I Facetime by brother and sister-in-law often, and this piece was collected during one of our regular calls. 

Thoughts: 

To me, Carnival speaks to how Brazilians value enjoying life and celebration. In America, it sounds crazy to take almost a full week off of work to go party and drink. However, in Brazil, it’s not crazy, it’s normal. Generally speaking, it seems as though Americans are often much more serious and plan for the future, whereas Brazilians are more laid-back and live in the moment. I love the way my sister-in-law talked about how people of all backgrounds, from all different places, come together to celebrate Carnival, even the ones who don’t know its original religious significance. Although I’ve never been, I think of Carnival as being a welcoming, lighthearted, and colorful way for people to join together and just have fun. 

For further reading on Carnival’s origin and history:

Brown, Sarah. “How Did Brazil’s Carnival Start?” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 4 Jan. 2018. 

We Are A Circle- A Pagan Chant

Background: My informant (M) shared with me her experience with a song we learned growing up. We attended a daycare, which was run by our grandmother, from infancy to 5 years old, and would frequently stay there during summer breaks. She shared with me her perspective on a ritual we performed daily. Neither of us had ever thought too much about this ritual until we got older, but talking about it now we could tell there was probably more to this chant than we realized as kids. Our grandmother always talked about the importance of being kind to the Earth and thanking it whenever we took something from it, like food. As kids, this was just part of growing up, and the chant was part of our daily routine, we agreed that we never thought about the words or meaning until we got older.

M’s Perspective on The Ritual: 

M: “I guess it was a way for all of the daycare kids to come together and bond and be calm. We would sit in a circle with a candle in the middle and we would sing childhood songs and tell nursery rhymes. At the end of the “circle time,” as our grandmother called it, we would have a closing ceremony of sorts where we would stand up and join hands and we would sing this one song. She played it on a CD, but we all knew all the words and we would look at each other and sing. There were a couple of verses to the song that I don’t remember very well, but during the chorus, we would all sing loud and join hands and walk in a circle. Then it would be another verse and we would stop walking. The verses all had to do with the elements, you know fire and wind and stuff. And with each new chorus, we would walk faster and faster until it got a little crazy and we were screaming this song (laughs). I don’t think she does it anymore because it started getting a little aggressive. But anyway the closing line had something to do with coming “FACE TO FACE” and we would all get really close to each other- you know face to face- and we would throw our hands up and someone would blow out the candle and that was it (laughs and pauses).

And we did this for probably ten years or more. It was a little strange now that I’m thinking about it, like what was that even about? We never really anything else that I can look back on as being out of the ordinary.         

Main Text:

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

You hear us sing, you hear us cry

Now hear us all you, spirits of air and sky

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Inside our hearts there grows a spark

Love and desire, a burning fire

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Within our blood, within our tears

There lies the altar of living waiter

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Take our fear, take our pain

Take the darkness into the Earth again

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

The circle closes between two worlds

To mark this sacred space where we come face to face

We are a circle within a circle

With no beginning and never ending

Analysis: I looked up this song to find the lyrics we remember from our grandmother’s. I also wanted to see if I could find an explanation for it. What I found was the song has strong ties to paganism and Wicca, relating to a spiritual bond with the Earth and magic. The song is written by Rick Hamouris in the 80s so I’m not sure when or where our grandmother learned it. It seems like it’s been adopted by Wicca and other pagan religions and some say it is a song for festivals or a full moon chant. The book Casting Circles and Ceremonies by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart explains how circle chants like this one are effective for “casting circles” and “calling quarters.” These terms refer to creating the circle, which is the safe and sacred space and utilizing the Earth’s quarters-the four elements and the four directions. 

You can read more about this here: http://www.egreenway.com/wands8/envoke1.htm

Chunhyang Festival (춘향제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Chunhyang Festival that is held in Namwon city of the Jeollabuk-Do area of Korea. She attended this festival 4 years ago and she is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y :

Chunhyang Festival is an annual festival held by and in the city of Namwon. This festival is based on the traditional Korean folk love story called “Chunhyangjeon (Story of Chunhyang)”, where Chunhyang, a female protagonist from a very poor family falls in love with Mongryong, a male protagonist from a wealthy family. Honestly, it’s a pretty obvious storyline. The class differences between the characters almost rips them apart, but their true love always finds a way and ends with a happily ever after Disney-like ending. This story was set in Namwon city and that’s the reason why the city spends a lot of money in this festival every year.

During the festival, there are several events that take place. To name a few, there is a Pansori (traditional Korean music) performance of the story, a dance performance, a night market, and a beauty pageant. Because in the story, Mongryong first falls in love with Chunhyang for her outstanding looks, a beauty pageant is absolutely one of the main events. Female participants, ranging from children to grandmothers, come out in their own Hanboks (traditional Korean clothing/dress) that they own and walk with the parade while non-participants cheer for them. 

Analysis :

As this festival is one of the most well known local festivals in Korea, even though I haven’t attended it yet, I’ve heard a lot of stories about it. I like how people developed a folk love story into a festival and celebrates it annually by gathering participants. This festival is also significant in the sense that it’s not only a show where people sit down and passively enjoy the show; people dress up with costumes they have prepared themselves and join in the performance and thus becomes an active bearer of the folk story and folk culture. The Chunhyang Festival lets everyone have a chance to enjoy the performances and events regardless of age or gender. 

The movie version of Chunhyangjeon was made too, under the name “The Love Story of Chunhyang”. It was directed by Hong Seong-Gi and was released in 1961. 

Gokwoosari Yeonggwang Gulbi (Dried Yellow Corvina) Festival (곡우사리 영광굴비축제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Gulbi Festival of the Yeonggwang area of South Korea. She attended this festival several years ago and he is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y : This festival is not considered as one of the most famous festivals in Korea. However, the Yeonggwang area has been known for their gulbi (dried yellow corvina) for a very long time as the city developed it as their mascot and special regional product. During the festival, they would hold events such as storytelling behind the development of gulbi business of Yeonggwang, food tasting event that has gulbi in it, gulbi cooking activity, and more. They would also call local traditional music performance companies and hold performances. 

Analysis :

I think this festival is an example of folk marketing. While the city is well known for their dried yellow corvina, the city chose to step up from that and connect it with the local folklores and make a festival out of it. This is a marketing strategy that benefits all people who are involved in the festival; the fisherman can sell more fish, the city council can make more money from the festival and make the local area known to the public, local folklore storytellers can spread the local folktales to the audience (passive bearers) and people who attend the festival can buy local goods in a cheaper price. 

Dano Festival (강릉단오제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Dano Festival that is held in Gangneung-si of the Gangwon area, which is located on the East side of the peninsula. The festival received recognition for its significance and was selected as one of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of South Korea in 2005. She attended this festival several years ago and he is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y : The Dano Festival (pronounced Dan-Oh) is a festival that comes annually on the 5th day of the fifth month in Korean lunar calendar. This doesn’t mean that it’s May 5th every year but depends on the lunar calendar. I think this year is.. (silence) Yeah, it’s June 25th for this year (2020). This festival is just a traditional folk festival of Korea and isn’t really connected to any folk stories like the Chunhyang Festival that I just talked about. It’s all about making traditional food such as Tteok (ricecake), and letting children play with traditional toys such as a kite made out of Hanji (traditional Korean paper) or play Tuho (traditional Korean activity where people try to throw long sticks into a barrel). This event is held right before summer time and also right after the agricultural workers have planted rice. By holding this event, the local people are wishing for a good summer and a good year of rice farming, which is important for everyone’s survival. 

Analysis :

This festival shows how the Korean society still treasures its old traditions from the past and tries to preserve it. Most of the activities and foods that are related to the festival are traditional and they do it the old-fashioned way. Also, this festival shows the agricultural importance in Korean society as their main food is rice. They hold a big event for the entire town and make a big wish for the agriculture God. 

Ulju Oegosan Onggi Festival (울주 외고산 옹기축제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Oegosan Onggi (traditional Korean pottery) Festival that is held in Oegonan Onggi Village of Ulsan, South Korea. She attended this festival in 2009 and he is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y : The Oegosan Onggi Festival is a festival that was established to promote the artistry of Korean pottery. Onggi usually refers to a big pottery where people put food inside to mature or ferment it. It’s like a barrel, except that it’s made out of clay. During the festival, it is mostly about experiencing how to make pottery out of clay and have fun with it. Children run around with clay on their hands and faces and everywhere. This one kid tried to put clay on my camera lens so I had to run around to protect my camera too, haha. But anyways, this festival has become one of the key festivals of Ulju, Ulsan area because they became a city that produces most of the pottery products in Korea now. And because a lot of people who have inherited the folk culture started to stop studying it, the festival is meant to raise awareness of the beauty of traditional Korean products. I don’t know the exact percentage of people who are still in the folk industry or the traditional culture industry, but it’s a sad fact that people are just leaving for cities in search of jobs. 

Analysis :

I think this festival was significant in the fact that they have successfully made traditional Korean pottery as a tourist and a festival product rather than using food. This shows that the local area has great pride in making Onggi and even successfully established a village for craftsmen who produce onggi masterpieces. While onggi is not used in most regular Korean households, restaurants who put great emphasis on traditions still use those potteries of fermentation of food such as kimchi or soy bean paste. This also indicates that there are less and less people who try to preserve the traditional and folk culture of local areas. 

Celebration of Springfest at an All-Female High School

Main Piece:

The informant explained to me that there was a tradition of celebrating Springfest at their all-girls high school. Each year the juniors would all wear white dresses and the seniors would wear dresses of any color. The whole school from grades 5-12 would go sit in the chapel, while the juniors and seniors would be a part of the ceremony. The organist would always play a sort of calming, “water” music on the organ. After the music had been playing for a bit, the ceremony would start. A senior and junior would walk towards one another. Then the senior would hand off an orchid to the junior and they would cross their paths, making them intertwine. The informant explained it was supposed to symbolize handing down the leadership of the school to the juniors. 

In addition to the ceremony, each year there was a Springfest Princess and a Springfest Queen. The Queen was always a junior and the Princess was a fifth grader. The whole school would vote for the Queen and as the informant explained “everyone would vote for the nicest person in the junior class”. The Queen had to wear a floor length, white dress that looked like a wedding dress, provided by the school. She had two flower girls and they would walk in front of her when she walked down the aisle. The Princess went before the Queen and would get a bouquet of flowers. Then the Queen from last year would be wearing a crown and standing at the end of the aisle waiting for her. After the Princess walked, the next Queen would walk and kneel down in front of the old Queen. She would place the crown on the new Queen’s head.

Background:

The informant attended an all-girls, Episcopalian school in the southern United States. This tradition has occurred since before the informant’s Mother went to the same high school. The school mostly consists of girls from white, affluent families.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience. This festival would always occur in April near the end of the school year, in the midst of spring.

My Thoughts:

Springfest aligns closely with other spring celebrations such as the Swedish Midsummer festival, as it celebrates the springtime with an emphasis on young women. Given that this is an all-girls school, the presentation of girls in all white feels closely to Vaz da Silva’s analysis of white in his article discussing “Chromatic Symbolism in Womanhood in Fairy Tales”. He states “white stands for luminosity and untainted sheen, thus for luminous heaven as much as for purity” (245). These girls are dressed in white to appear as the pure maidens, ready for entering a new stage of their lives. This festival mimics a wedding as the girls are walked down the aisle in all white, being presented to the school as the new leaders. Instead of meeting a husband at the end of the aisle, they are meeting new responsibilities. This moves them one step closer to adulthood.

Citation:

Vaz da Silva, Francisco. 2007 “Red as Blood, White as Snow, Black as Crow: Chromatic Symbolism of Womanhood in Fairy Tales”. Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies. 21: 240-252.