My informant is a student who was originally from China but came to study in US since high school.
“You know, red pocket money is one of the biggest tradition during Spring Festival in China. But in my family, not only we get red pocket money from people much older than us, we also put them under our pillow at night. It’s like really coordinating with the word “压”(push down) in “压(push down)岁(age)钱(money)” (red pocket money). And my grandparents would also put ivy leaves inside there, just for good luck.”
“I know they are many superstitions from Chinese family, especially my family haha. But we still do that, I don’t think the truth matters that much in this case, I like these traditions.”
I think it’s really interesting that in both asian and western culture we have this kind of gift thing for kids during important festivals. Hoping for good luck with ivy leaves inside red pocket money that placed under their pillow to Chinese children, waiting for christmas gift to be put inside the christmas sock for western children, they both serve as a good method to give them hope and believes; as well as for better sleeping quality since they all happen during bed time.
Informant FV is my grandfather who was born and raised in Split, Croatia. As a young boy, he grew up in a traditional Croatian family who upheld their culture through dancing Kolo. Kolo is a series of folk dances that vary by region. The word kolo is translated into “circle dance.”
For those you are not familiar with the Croatian culture, explain what kolo is and what it means.
FV: “Kolo means circle dance and it is a series of Croatian folk dances performed across the different regions in Croatia. Kolo is a type of dance performed in a circle formation where the dancers, both male and female, follow specific steps holding hands in one big group circle. There is always music accompanied with this type of dancing.”
What are the different regions within Croatia?
FV: “There are four different regions in Croatia. The first one is called Croatia proper. This region is the central part of the Republic of Croatia and it is where the capital, Zagreb, is located. Zagreb is also the largest city in Croatia. The second region is the region of Slavonia. Slavonia is mostly the eastern inland area of the country. Next is Istria. Istria is a northern peninsula that is the westernmost region of Croatia. It is famous for the city called ‘Pula.’ Lastly is Dalmatia, which is the region I am from. Dalmatia is the majority of the coastline of Croatia and it includes the southern cities of Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik.”
Which of these regions perform kolo?
FV: “All of these regions have their own form of kolo. For example, for my region of Dalmatia, we perform a type of kolo called Linđo. Linđo represents kolo for the southern parts of Croatia like Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. Other regions like Slavonia and Istria, they perform what’s called Šokačko and Balun. Šokačko means ‘the shaker.’ Slavonia has more of a Turkish influence on the dance because it’s inland and because of past history and Istria has more of a Venetian influence because of how close Croatia and Italy are in distance. The city of Split also has been heavily influenced by the Venetian culture because of its location alongside the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Split and the region of Istria sustained the practices and dances from Italy. Turkey never occupied Split or Zadar, so these cities maintained their Italian influenced dances.”
What styles were the kolo costumes influenced by?
FV: “The Croatian national costumes are called ‘Narodna nošnja,’ which means, ‘native or national costume.’ These costumes vary in design, style, material and color based on the location of each region. For example, since Dalmatia and Istria are located on the coast, their costumes consist of Adriatic or Venetian influence. The men’s costumes are usually white or black and have dark trousers that are tighter fitting with a white shirt and a vest. They also wear a red silk belt with a black cap. Women typically wear several layers, which include a white blouse, a skirt with a very colorful apron on top that has red, white and gold stitching and fringe. The women wear colorful scarves with red, white, blue and green, along with beads and coral necklaces, which represents the Adriatic coast.”
In what context would kolo be performed?
FV: “Kolo is danced at every major holiday, festival, party, religious gatherings, weddings, etc.”
When or how did you learn kolo?
FV: “I learned kolo when I was a young boy growing up in my family and by attending special gatherings were it was performed. It is a lot of fun once you learn the steps and the rhythm of the music.”
Does kolo have any significant meaning to you?
FV: “Yes absolutely. Kolo is part of my heritage and culture. It is a large part of our Croatian celebrations and festivities to dance kolo, as it is a form of group dance and performed in a group setting. It is something that we use to express ourselves and the music that goes along with it is very upbeat and fun. Every Croatian knows how to dance kolo. It is something that you learn at a very young age.”
No Croatian festivity or celebration would be complete without kolo. Kolo, or circle dance, is the general term for Croatian folk dance that is performed in the four different regions of Croatia. Each region has their own version of kolo with their own styles of costumes or “nošnja.” Kolo is part of every Croatian social gathering like weddings, parties, and festivals. I personally have a special connection to kolo, as I grew up dancing since I was little with my sister and my friends. I have taught my non-Croatian friends the steps and they find it to be a lot of fun. Our parents and grandparents taught us all at a very young age the steps and songs that corresponded to each dance. Now that I am an adult, I have a greater appreciation that I can carry on my Croatian traditions and rituals to my children. Kolo was an activity that allowed my friends and I to grow closer as it united us together through our cultural ties.
For another version and further information regarding Croatian kolo dance, check out BBC’s article written by Rudolf Abraham:
Abraham, Rudolf. “Fifty Years of Folk Dancing.” BBC. N.p., 14 June 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
Photo credit: Nenad N. Bach 2009
Informant MV is my mother who is both Croatian and Italian. She was born in the United States and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents immigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1958. MV speaks Croatian fluently and has two daughters who she raised within the Croatian and Italian traditions and culture. Bakalar is a traditional Croatian dish from the coastal region of Dalmatia that is served on Christmas Eve.
- 2 pounds salted cod
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 slices lemon, rind removed
- 1 pound potatoes
- 4 finely chopped cloves garlic
- 1 large finely chopped onion (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
What kind of dish is Bakalar?
MV: “Bakalar is a salted cod stew with potatoes that is always cooked and eaten on Christmas Eve. Bakalar, meaning ‘cod’ is the main ingredient. The cod must ferment for at least 2 days for all the favors to come out. Once the fish is cooked, other ingredients like onions, garlic, and olive oil are added to a large cooking pot where you have the potatoes. Then you add the cod to the cooking pot with the potatoes. You can adjust how much garlic or olive oil, depending on your preferences in taste. It’s important that you remove the bones from the fish before you add it to cook in the pot. Then you let everything simmer until you have a consistency that suits you. You also add salt, pepper, parsley, and more olive oil. You can never have too much olive oil.”
How did this dish become so popular on the Dalmatian Coast?
MV: “Well, your Dida (grandfather) told me that cod is not known in the Adriatic Sea so it has to be imported from areas that have cold waters. It has been said that the reason why we have Bakalar in Croatia is because the fisherman from Dalmatia were working on ships that were in the North Atlantic, who learned about this dish while they were away. When they came back to Croatia, they shared their experience with this dish and it became a staple in our cultural cuisine.”
Why do you like making and sharing this recipe?
MV: “It’s a delicious recipe that is pretty easy to make but it takes time to make. If you have the patience and the urge to try something new then it’s a great option. I have shared this recipe with my American friends and they found it to be very tasty.”
Who did you learn this recipe from?
MV: “I learned how to cook from both my parents growing up. I found cooking to be fascinating and relaxing, so as a young adult I picked up a lot of the recipes that my parents made, Bakalar being one of them. My mother taught me this specific recipe while I was probably 15 years old. She showed me step by step how to successfully make this into a stew.”
In what context is Bakalar usually cooked and eaten?
MV: “Bakalar is mostly eaten on Christmas Eve, but we also eat it on Easter and during Lent. Since we are Catholic and don’t eat meat on certain days of the year, Bakalar is the typical go-to dish on those holidays.”
What does this dish mean to you?
MV: “Bakalar is a classic dish that is from our region and it brings back a lot of great memories while growing up. It is a dish that I love to cook and eat. I have enjoyed making and eating it over the years so much that now my kids have learned to make it. You really can’t go wrong with a great dish like this.”
Bakalar, a Croatian cod stew, is a staple of our Croatian culture. It is a main dish that we eat during Christmas Eve and other religious holidays as part of our fasting traditions. You will find Bakalar at almost, if not all Croatian social events or gatherings. This is a dish that brings our families and friends together because it is a dish that is universally loved and cherished by many.
Photo Credit: Croatia Week Magazine
Informant CT is in her third year as a neuroscience major at the University of Southern California. CT is Hawaiian and is from the island of Oahu. Here, she describes a traditional Hawaiian celebration that is a large part of her Hawaiian culture.
CT: “Hawaiian Luaus are so much fun. Basically, they are big parties with a ton of different food and of course music. It’s like the ultimate celebration for any important event in life like birthdays, graduations, and weddings. When I graduated from high school, my family threw a luau at our home. It was great. All of my friends and family members came over to celebrate. It was just one giant party.”
In what context or location are luaus held?
CT: “Well luau parties vary in range, depending on how dedicated you and your family are to the Hawaiian culture. Like for my family, we often have these parties because it’s a fun way to celebrate major events that happen in all of our lives, but our traditions have become somewhat Americanized. For example, it is traditional to serve poi, but we don’t really do that anymore. Instead we replace it with like chips and dip. But we tend to have luaus in our backyard of our home.”
What kind of dish is poi?
CT: “Poi is made from the taro plant and it is made by mashing and whipping until it forms in to a liquid like consistency. Honestly, I am not a fan of poi. I think it has a strange, unique taste and the texture is kind of weird, but my grandparents love it. It’s a kind of dish that you either love or hate, there’s no in between and it’s traditionally eaten with your hands only. Like all of the food that is at a luau, you are supposed to eat with your hands.”
What kind of other dishes are commonly found at a luau?
CT: “We serve different types of meat like pulled pork, that is usually roasted over a fire pit, which is called the ‘Imu”, chicken, salmon, poki, which is a mixture of seafood like tuna and a ton of different fruits. The list goes on.”
Do luaus have any significant meaning to you?
CT: “Ya definitely! Being Hawaiian, family is a huge part of our culture and having luaus or going to a luau is a great way to celebrate with your family and friends for a special event or holiday. It brings everyone together to have fun with some great food and music. It’s just a great big celebration and feast that I love to be a part of and it is a fun way to continue to uphold my Hawaiian culture.”
Throughout the world, feasting is a universal way to celebrate happy and important life events such as birthdays, holidays, weddings, commencements from high school or college, etc. However, the Hawaiian culture has sure changed the way people celebrate with their friends and family. After the Polynesians settled on the central pacific islands, their culture and traditions started to form and spread among the island locals. Polynesians had much influence on Hawaii’s luau traditions, which has now integrated into the foods and festivities of Hawaii. It was interesting to learn how the informant’s luau traditions have partially become Americanized in that they use utensils with their meals and replace certain dishes like poi with chips and dip. Luaus are still a large part of the Hawaiian culture as a way to mark a milestone in a person’s life and it is a festivity that is meant to be celebrated with family and friends.
JH is a high school senior living in Pasadena, CA.
JH told me about a major perk of living above a large concert venue:
“Generally living above the Rose Bowl can be a huge pain in the ass – New Years is a huge production, and there’s traffic every weekend during the college football season when UCLA has its home games here. They put barricades on all the side streets to keep people from parking, but they direct traffic down the main street in the neighborhood…but for the last few years they’ve gotten really big music people to play in the Rose Bowl, like Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna…but tickets are usually way over $100 if you want to see anything…luckily for kids my age, who really like the performers and the music, because the sound from the Rose Bowl carries all the way into the neighborhood. There’s this one street a couple blocks away with houses on one side and cliff-kind of thing on the other, that drops off straight into the Arroyo and where the Rose Bowl is…so if you go sit out there, you can hear the music almost perfectly. It’s usually warm enough in the summer that we can go out with chairs or blankets and stuff and just listen to a free concert. It’s not so great for the older people in the neighborhood that hate the music…they’re always complaining about like, being kept awake at night…I do feel kinda bad for them.”
The concerts here are probably a contentious issue in the neighborhood, with most residents probably being against the extra noise and traffic. But for younger kids who would actually want to attend the real event, the ritual is more about making the best of a bad situation. It shows the dichotomy between a generation who probably moved to the neighborhood never imagining these circumstances, and the generation that grew up in it appreciating these extra perks.
JH is a senior at an all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.
JH talked to me about some of the traditions and rituals that surround New Year’s and New Year’s Eve in his hometown:
“New Years is probably the biggest event in Pasadena…first of all there’s the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game…for the Rose Parade you always know it’s coming because in like, late November they start putting up the grandstands down Orange Grove [a major boulevard], and I live right above the Rose Bowl so they start setting up for events around then too in the neighborhood. They put up these giant white tents down there where they start building some of the floats, and you can go down and help decorate them with flowers – I’ve never gone, but I know some people or their families go every year. The floats are really cool.
There’s also the Rose Court and they’re a big part of the Rose Parade. My sister tried out a few years ago. I think in like September, or really early in the school year, all the girls who are seniors can try out, and they go to this really big mansion called the Tournament House and have a bunch of rounds of interviews. Obviously like, not all the girls are really interested in being on the Court, but it’s just a tradition they all do together. Everyone who participates I know also gets two tickets to this ‘Royal Ball,’ which is basically just a huge dance they have. That’s why a lot of girls do it I guess, just to get the tickets. But I don’t know, maybe it’s also just fun for them to participate. And then they eventually pick like six or seven girls, and one of them is the Queen, and they spend the rest of the year doing charity work and being like, the representatives of Pasadena, and then on New Years they have their own float and they kind of “preside” over the Rose Bowl game later that day.
A lot of my friends don’t really go to the actual parade though…it’s the kind of thing you go to a few times when you’re little and your parents want to take you and it’s exciting – they have free donuts under the grandstands, and hot chocolate – but once you’re like, 10 everyone’s pretty over it. And then when you’re older, the best part about New Years is New Years Eve. The night before, everyone usually gets dressed up, not fancy or anything but girls wear dresses and heels sometimes, and even though it’s freezing outside, like less than 50 degrees at night, everyone goes to parties near the Parade Route. They bring some of the floats onto the street the night before and block it off to cars, to everyone’s just walking up and down Orange Grove looking at floats and hanging out with their friends, there’s some people camped out for the parade on the side, and kids are going back and forth between other people’s parties. It’s really funny because everyone is drinking too. Besides the kids, you see a lot of cops and a lot of people’s parents just really really drunk on the street, and everyone’s just having a good time…if you lived off of Orange Grove you would feel kind of obligated to have a party or open your house up. And then everyone would obviously like count down to midnight together and all that, and then you’d usually crash at someone’s house and wake up the next morning and watch the parade on TV, if you wanted to, or just walk up to the parade route and see it from there. But after awhile no one really got tickets to see the parade. But if you were really lucky, you got tickets to the Rose Bowl game, which was always a big deal. My friends and I really like football, and usually someone’s dad knows someone who can get us tickets, so we try to go whenever we can.”
I asked JH if he thought his experience with this festival was unique, as someone who lived in the community and had people coming from all over to vacation in his hometown:
“Yeah, it was definitely different. Growing up with this happening every year, a lot of it just got kind of annoying, especially living right next to the Rose Bowl and having streets blocked off and so much traffic that entire week before New Years. There’d be a lot of football fans from the Midwest of whatever Big-10 school that was playing, or Stanford people coming down from the Bay for the week, and there’d be just a bunch of people and a bunch of cars all over Pasadena during the end of winter break, a lot of people who didn’t know where they were going. I guess Pasadena isn’t usually a tourist destination until New Years, so it’s weird all of a sudden having a bunch of strangers in your hometown…like Pasadena isn’t small, it doesn’t feel like a small town where everyone knows each other, but you can clearly tell if someone is visiting or someone lives here. And yeah, the Rose Parade gets old after awhile, but I think everyone who lives here would still say it’s one of their favorite holidays.”
Its very different to visit a festival annually and to live in a community where an annual festival takes place – after awhile, the nostalgia and excitement is buffered by some of the logistical nightmares and fatigue that JH describes above. Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve definitely has similar traditions as other places, like counting down to midnight and getting together with friends and family. The Rose Parade also has elements of other festivals, like floats and a “court” of young women. JH gets to see community involvement a tourist doesn’t, like the selection of Rose Princesses or the decoration of floats that requires residents’ participation and support. This ritual is a great example of welcoming the new year by bringing a community together, while continuing customs that now have come to define Pasadena.
For more information about this festival, see:
“About the Rose Parade.” Tournament of Roses. Tournament of Roses, 18 Feb. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.tournamentofroses.com/rose-parade.
DK is a junior at the University of Southern California, originally from Denver, CO.
Dora works on campus at Leavey Library, and shared one story she’s heard with me:
“I’ve heard this urban legend about a Leavey rave? Sometimes on Facebook or Yik Yak I’ll see something about ‘Club Leavey,’ and I guess they have people get together in a basement study room at like, 2:00 in the morning and have a dance party. If it exists, it’s definitely not organized, probably so it wouldn’t get shut down, but I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who’s ever gone…you can bring it up with other students and they’ll all have heard of ‘Club Leavey,’ but no one has ever actually seen it in action…I think. Unless it’s like Fight Club, and they can’t talk about it.”
I asked her if the Leavey staff has ever been made aware or observed this taking place:
“None of the supervisors I’ve brought it up with were aware. Either it really is just a urban legend among students, or the Club Leavey kids are very sneaky.”
Communities like universities all have their own traditions and folklore, and this one is classic USC: a secret dance party in the basement of the least-popular library on campus. In fact, lately I’ve heard of “Club Leavey” more as simply an ironic nickname for the library, trying to downplay the miserable time they’re anticipating there. This is a classic urban legend in that the story is passed around with conviction – everyone is aware and everyone believes in the event – but no one can say they’ve participated or seen it themselves. Colleges around the world have similar stories only their community can relate to, uniting current students and alumni, and often the same stories are transformed and passed down for generations. Maybe the “Club Leavey” legend isn’t as new as we’d think.
TO is a junior at the University of Southern California, and spent most of her childhood in San Antonio, TX.
TO described a popular festival that took place in her hometown:
“Fiesta is just a giant celebration held right around now in San Antonio, and it’s supposed to celebrate the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. The whole thing is really colorful: people wear colorful clothes and decorate everything with bright flowers, and they have these things called cascarones, which are hollow eggs filled with confetti that you’d crack on e=people’s heads. They also have this ‘Battle of Flowers’ parade, where they literally have a calvary, and they pick a bunch of local girls to be ‘princesses.’ The princesses wear these huge colorful gowns covered in flowers with really long trains, and they each ride on a float.”
I asked TO if having the parade in her hometown made it less special over the years:
“A bit, yeah. The whole thing was really fun but I didn’t really participate much. The public schools would always get school off on the day of the Battle of the Flowers, like it was a holiday, but I never did. I was always a little weirded out by the princesses, and I knew a couple girls who participated in that, but I was never really interested. You had to be a part of a very old San Antonio family to be in it, and honestly be pretty wealthy. It kind of had a debutante ball vibe, like you were presenting yourself to Texas society.”
Fiesta San Antonio sounds a lot like other festivals around the world, with parades, cavalry and a princess “court.” This had it’s own Texas coloring though, and as someone from southern California I’d never heard of most of these traditions, or things like the cascarones. It was interesting to learn about the vivid relationship the city has with the Texas Revolution, and it almost makes San Antonio seem like a different kid of American city – the old Mexican influence is still very prevalent there, unlike a more modern influence in Los Angeles. The local history clearly still impacts citizens today, but the novelty can wear off after awhile for people like TO.
Background: A.J. is a 65-year-old woman who was born and raised in Poprad, Slovakia. She relocated to the United States from Slovakia 20 years ago, while her son was attending University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A.J. holds a degree in child development and since coming to the United States has worked as a nanny. She is married to her lifelong sweetheart and has one son and three grandchildren. She often talks about her home and family in Slovakia – about the beautiful mountains and the culture. Although she is now a US citizen, she incorporates many Slovak traditions into everyday life, and enjoys telling stories about her family and her family traditions.
A.J.: On first May, boys went to the wood, cut, made tree nicely decorate and they built in front of house their girlfriend and then they were singing very nice song like we built May or very nice song. They were walking during the whole village – they were walking through the whole village with the tree – every boy what her girlfriend built this tree in the front of house they his girlfriend – yeah. And they have like cart like with horses that was pulling this cart. This tree was on the cart and they pulling this cart across the village and they build in the front of girlfriend house and they were singing.
Q: How did they decorate the tree?
A.J.: Decorate with nice colorful ribbon.
Q: Did you only do it for girls you were dating or was it somebody you like and you want to date?
A.J.: Yeah – exactly – was when somebody like this girl it was building this tree for her. If she like him they would start dating. If not, they would just forget about this tree.
Q: And this was in the villages – not in big towns?
A.J.: No in big town NO – only in village. In big town we have big houses like apartments you cannot build that. That was not tradition for towns more for villages.
Performance Context: The ritual of creating a May Tree would occur on May 1st in the small villages of Slovakia.
My Thoughts: The idea of “May Day” or the celebration of the spring season is common in many cultures. In the United States and Great Britain, for example, many people partake in making a maypole, in which ribbons are braided around a tall, wooden pole to create a pattern. Creating the maypole is usually done by children, which may symbolize the freshness and youth of spring.
Informant was a 45 year old female who was born in Brazil and currently lives in Brazil. I talked to her over Skype.
Informant: Carnaval is a big festival in brazil, usually happens in the first two or three months of the year, it is basically a whole week. Everybody uses costumes, and when we are a kid ,we just go to little parties and plays and watch samba, which is a kind of music that we have here, there are other typical musics of carnaval. Everybody dances. We have this big party which has a parade, in the main cities of Brazil and in the northeast it’s also big. We usually stay the whole month partying for carnival, a lot of people drink, a lot of people have fun, but I actually don’t like very much. Because I don’t like samba, and I don’t like to samba. But I like the holiday, I like having days off. A lot of people also drink, and I don’t like, there’s a lot of drunk people.
Collector: Do you know where this festival came from?
Informant: It’s a Christian celebration, the date is never the same, its not a specific date, it’s a Christian festive season that occurs before the Christian season of lent, it’s calculated a specific amount of days before. The term carnival is usually used in areas with large catholic presence. I think it’s funny because a lot of things happen that are not very Christian. Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval is considered the world’s largest party with 2 million people per day.
Collector: Are there big parties outside of Rio as well?
Informant: Yes, there are a lot of street carnaval parties. I never participated in this street carnaval. It’s called bloco de carnaval, people go in the streets and also dress up in costumes and mask and play this type of music of carnaval and dance and drink and a lot of people have a lot of fun. So in these blocos there are like trucks or busses or something that come and play music, and people gather around it and party. But in Rio there is a special place called Sambodromo where they have special schools of Samba like Santa Isabel and Portella, and each school goes through the whole street and they need to be dancing all the time and at the end, they receive a grade for the parade that they did. So the judges they look at the richness of the costumes, if everyone was dancing and singing, and they give a grade for each one of these schools, and at the end of the three days parade they have a winner. I saw it in person, but I hated it because I don’t like samba and it was three days the whole night. But lots of people go they love it and love to participate, I just don’t like to drink and I don’t like samba, so for me it’s not the right party.
Collecter: Did you ever like Carnaval?
I used to like the small parties when we were kids because we used to dress up. I dressed up as an indian and the other time I dressed as police and it was fun. We used to throw confetti, and make a lot of noise. I used to like it, it was much lighter. When you’re a kid, you don’t see the naked women and the lots of drinks. It’s just small little parties that my family used to take me, and we used to dance and I used to like to dance in costumes
When I lived in Brazil, I would often see the huge celebrations during Carnaval. However, I never really experienced any of it. Carnaval, for me, was always just a break off of school, when I would go and spend a week at the beach. It’s really cool to hear about Carnaval from my mother who has had a lot more experience with the actual festival and the festivities. I didn’t know that Carnaval was a Christian holiday, and like my mother, I would never have imagined it because there’s nothing about Carnaval that really emulates the Christian spirit.