USC Digital Folklore Archives / Festival
Festival
Musical

Midsummer

Informant was a 20 year old female who was born in Sweden and currently lives in the United States. She came to visit me.

Informant: There is a ritual, kinda like a Swedish holiday, but not really. It’s called a Swedish name that means something like midsummer. And it’s generally in June, and it’s basically welcoming summer, so you get a big big cross and you decorate it with flowers and on each arm you put circles, you hang them on the cross, it looks like the things you put on your door for Christmas. Midsummer this year is on the 24th of June. Also what you do is pluck flowers and make flower crowns that you wear for this thing. All that you really do on this day is you just like get together with people. There are different parties or you can do this cross thing with your family or you can go to a big party with everyone in your town depending on your preference and then you usually picnic over there. You have food outside, and you dance around the cross and sing different songs.

Collector: What kind of songs?

Informant: These are typical songs for midsummer, this one song is called the small frogs, literally translated. It goes like this:

Smoagruden na

Smoagruden na

Ad lustiga asia

Ad lustiga asia

A aron A aron

Svan sa hava dia

A aron A aron

Svan sa hava dia

Cua ca ca Cua ca ca

That last part is supposed to be a like a frog sound. So when they say the first part you run around the cross until the second part, and then you put your hands on your ears and make them look like cow ears, and when it says svan sa you put your hands on your butt making it look like a tail. And during cua ca ca you jump with your two feet at the same time around the cross like a frog.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: I think it’s a cute tradition that you do with your family. It’s the small kids that really enjoy it, I liked it a lot when I was a kid. It’s a good time to spend with your family and friends, and have fun with them. It’s one of the biggest rituals in Sweden. And even people who go abroad like me carry it with them, and when I lived in France we used to make our own cross in our garden. It’s just like a really nice time to get together with my family and it’s just like really fun. More than celebrating summer, it’s a family thing

I think it’s interesting that two of the pieces of folklore that my Swedish friend told me involved songs with small creatures and gibberish at the end. It makes me wonder if that is a common pattern in Swedish folk songs. I think this is a cute little tradition, and although I’m not Swedish and have never done anything like Midsummer, I remember how much I used to enjoy doing similar things as a kid. I also think it’s cool that my friend carried it abroad with her, and that she still celebrated and underwent this ritual with the cross even though she was no longer in the country that celebrated it.

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Guy Fawkes’ Day

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: So in 1605, this dude called Guy Fawkes was arrested trying to blow up the house of parliament in London, and it was likeI’m pretty sure the king and all of the important people were there, and he was trying to kill them, but he got caught and that was on the 5th of November. So every year, on the 5th of November, like schools and families and like clubs and stuff in England make a huge bonfire, and then they make like a doll, like a human sized figure of Guy Fawkes, and then they burn him on the bonfire, and there’s like fireworks and like a barbecue and stuff, every year.

Collector: So you celebrate him or him not blowing up the parliament?

Informant: Well, we burn him every year, so we definitely don’t celebrate him. It’s like a celebration of I guess his failure. It’s a very chill day though, we eat burgers and hot dogs and hang around by the bonfire. Like we don’t have a meal with our family. It’s more like the whole community gets together and there’s like fireworks and stuff. There’s a song too.

Collector: A song? What is it?

Informant: It goes like this

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder Treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Would ever be forgot

It’s not that big of a deal though, like we don’t sing it around the campfire or anything. It’s just something that people know.

I thought this was particularly interesting because it’s a holiday that revolves around an attempter murder. Albeit the burning of the figure of this murder, but a murder none the less. I think it’s cool how even until today, people remember it, and I think that this might be because the monarchy in England is still in power. I believe that this is not only a fun way for people to celebrate with their family and friends, but also a way to honor their monarchy. It makes me wonder if the holiday began as a way for the monarchy to keep its citizens in line, so that nobody would try to recreate Guy Fawkes’ murder attempts.

Festival
Folk Dance
Holidays

May Day

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: There’s this festival that we have in England called May Day, and it’s the first of May. I don’t really know where it came from. We always have a holiday on the day so I always get a day off school. We do it to welcome spring, in a way. I’ve also heard that it’s to celebrate workers. But it’s not a workers’ day, per say. And I have seen people doing the Maypole dancing.

Collector: Pole dancing?

Informant: It’s not pole dancing as in pole dancing, like kids do it. I learned it at school, it’s taught at schools. At least it was when I was in primary school. Basically, it’s like a big wooden stick and it has like ribbons attached to it and people like dance around it.

Collector: Have you ever experienced that?

Informant: Yeah at like fairs I guess, on May day. There’s always a pole. I don’t really know the purpose of circling a pole to celebrate spring, but people do it. It’s very common. And there’s good food at the fairs too. Oh, and we crown a May Queen. That’s like a girl who does a bunch of things for May Day. Like she’s part of the parades and stuff. I’m not really involved in it, but I’ve heard about it. I also heard this story that in the past they used to kill the May Queen at the end, but like, I don’t know if that’s true or not.

The first thing I thought about this particular piece of folklore was how funny it was that a big tradition in England was called May Pole Dancing, but then my friend explained that it wasn’t really pole dancing, and that it is meant to celebrate spring. I think that’s really interesting, because it reminds me of my Swedish friend’s Midsummer ritual. I think it’s really cool how in both of the festivals there are wooden sticks (a cross in the Swedish culture and a pole in English culture) that little kids dance around to celebrate the arrival of a new season. It make some wonder what the origin of these traditions are, and if they all come from the same place.

Customs
Festival
general
Holidays
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Las Fiestas de Noviembre

The informant, S, is 18 years old and from Miami, Florida, but he grew up in Cartagena, Colombia (Northern, Columbia). His mom is from Barranquilla, Columbia (Northern Columbia), while his dad is from Cartagena, Columbia. He considers himself a Latino Columbian and is majoring in Civil Engineering Building Science.

 

S-“So where I’m from in Cartagena, Columbia we have the whole month of November called Las fiestas de Noviembre (the November parties) where it consists of having different parades for different days of the week where all the main streets are closed and they are usually used for parades. There is traditional music. Kumbia, and ballenato is played. People go on the streets and they you know celebrate for las fiestas. Another big aspect of it is having this called bolcitas de agua (little water bags). What happens is everyone in the city usually has ammunition of little bags filled with water so wherever you are in the street you just have to be ready to like get hit with bags of water “

Like giant water balloon fight?

S-“Yea it’s this giant thing so like during the fiestas different neighborhoods get together and like fight each other with like the water bags or balloons if you want to call them. I remember like when I was little with my cousins we would get up on my balcony, and we would have tubs filled with little balloons and just like throw them at cars and people walking by. It’s cool because everyone knows and has the general consensus that it’s ok to do so. “

Do you know the history behind it or how it originated it?

S-“I do not”

So there is different parades at different periods?

S-“It’s just during the whole month. So like there is this big parade called el Bando and that day they just close the big streets and they throw maizena (corn starch) and water everywhere. Live music, a lot of fireworks. Do you know what a busca piez is?

Yea I think so

S-“It’s like the thing that you light up and throw it on the floor and it goes all over. Which is a bad thing because a lot of injuries happen. Like during this month there are people missing fingers and missing hands, but it’s a cool month.”

Analysis- The constant and long celebration would appear to many as waste of time and water, but to the people of the area it means much more. The events only happen in Cartagena, Columbia and the regions around it, for the festivals are meant to celebrate the independence of the area. The water throwing was not originally part of the idea of the festival but quickly merged with what people believe was the original plan. Today, however, as more outsiders move in, these things may be changing as they do not agree with everything that happens during the festival. Water throwing, for example, is banned from November 1-17 as well as fireworks from November 1-15.

For more information see: EL UNIVERSAL (2014, Oct. 30). Cartageneros Hablan de las Costumbres Novembrinas mas Irritantes. Retrieved from http://www.eluniversal.com.co/cartagena/cartageneros-hablan-de-las-costumbres-novenbrinas-mas-irritantes-175431

Festival
general
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Stump Murderer

Folklore Piece

“So this is just an old ghost story from camp, in northern Wisconsin. But this guy who was an old janitor at the camp went out to the woods to start chopping trees to make room for this new court they wanted to build. So he started chopping down trees with an axe and he cut off his leg. So he only had one leg after that, and um, so he uh, filled that with a stump that he had found and used that as his leg. This scared the campers so much that the camp fired him and sent him away. But what ended up happening that next summer, a boy was taking a shower on his own at the shower house at night. And then he would hear footsteps and a log kind of dragging. The story is that each year he comes back once and takes one kid and buries them in the back.”

Background

“Yeah I like the story, It’s pretty morbid actually. I mean, like, here we have these pretty young campers, talking about someone chopping his leg off and stealing children, and yet, like, it’s totally OK, because it’s summer camp. How crazy is that, when you think about it, really? Like, ok, if I went up to some kid at a school, and I told the same story about a janitor working in the woodshop, like, I’d probably be arrested! It’s just funny to me. But, uh, yeah, I love telling this story”

Context:

“We’d usually do the whole campfire thing. You know, uh like we would get all the campers around at night and go around telling stories. We would tell this story one of, like, the first nights. It’s actually a pretty clever way to get them to, like, stick together”

 

Analysis: Upon first listen, I didn’t think much of this story. It seemed like a hodgepodge of a number of different classic folk-tales: the peg-legged pirate, the axe murderer, the former camper turned raging homicidal maniac, etc. However, I think there is something deeper to be found here. At the centerpiece of the story is this rivalry between the janitor and the camp. The camp’s work is what made him lose his leg, and yet the camp are the ones who banished him. Then, when he comes back, he takes retribution upon the camp in the form of taking kids that are alone. This serves two functions. First, it teaches the kids to respect the camp and its dangers, but more importantly, and implicitly, to never wander off alone. The informant mentioned later, once I prompted him with this question, that it is why they tell this story, for fun but also so that they don’t go wandering out at night alone.

As someone who did not grow up going to sleepaway camp, it was also intriguing to me that these nights of sharing scary stories around a campfire during summer camp actually happen. It sounds like a modern ritual to me if I’d ever heard one. The ambiance of the night time, the fire, and the stillness of the forest all provide the perfectly eerie ambiance for a scary ghost story, and now because of its association, one cannot come without the other.

 

Customs
Festival
Initiations

UC Merced, The Gina

Superstition, Tradition, Ritual

 

Primary Language- English

Secondary Language- Spanish

Occupation- UC Merced Student

Residence- Los Angeles, CA

Date of Performance- 4/23/16

At our school in UC Merced, California, we have a tradition where we have a cave that is called The Gina. In The Gina, freshman are supposed to walk through it to receive good luck. The tradition does not end there. Once we walk through The Gina, we have to attend the ascend where we all go to a field, have a balloon parade where they are let go to the sky and have time to meet new freshman on campus. Once we complete the entire ritual, the good luck will set in and increase our chances to receive higher grades.

Lucy is from Los ANgeles, California but currently resides in UC Merced which is still in California but different from Los Angeles because of the community. She learned this tradition because her school practically enforced it upon the students. Every freshman student had to attend this ritual where they walk through the The Gina and then attend the ascend. The tradition is special to her because it gave her the chance to make great friends at the school. She herself thought the tradition was silly but it is what makes her a unique bobcat, which is a mascot of UC Merced.

During the ritual of The Gina, you are supposed to walk through a cave, attend an ascend, make good friends, and bam, you instantly receive good luck. You of course have to attend the school. Lucy has lived through and told quite a few people of the ritual that she performed.

I think that school traditions are great. It shows us that it isn’t just USC that has rituals and traditions like kicking the pole before a football game. Other schools like UC Merced have traditions they almost force upon the students. It may sound a little cynical but it a fantastic way to integrate the new students into the community in order for them to fit in well. This tradition can improve morale, performance, and feelings for the school. Traditions at school can display their values. While some schools have delved into traditions with athletics, other schools like UC Merced have become embedded in a tradition that represents their desire for thier students to become a close community and believe in themselves. I also have other friends who attend the same school and had the same experience. The Gina is a unique location for all UC Merced students to embody and cherish.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Beliefs
Folk Dance

Dia del Indio

Traditional Dance

 

Primary Language- English

Secondary Language- Spanish

Occupation- Student at LA Cal State

Residence- Los Angeles

Date of Performance- 4/19/16

My dad is from Salvador and has a dance tradition his people do every year. It is called Dia del Indio where a bunch of people get together and dance. It basically the same thing as a festival because they have a lot of food, games, and dances. Everybody dresses up as an indian, the girls wear big colorful dresses that reach their feet, men wear shirts with shapes as a design, their shoes are made out of thick rubber, and they have straw hats. The point of the festival is to coronate the new queen of the region in Salvador. She represents the state and has to show her people that she is more than just a pretty face. The tradition is repeated every year and ends with the queen dancing with the king.

Anderson’s father told him about this dance when his father was looking at videos of the dance. He was intrigued and wanted to know what it was about. His father told him about the tradition and that he used to go to many festivals while he was in Salvador. Anderson has never been to Salvador but he has learned quite a bit from his parents. He likes hearing about the traditional dance because it is strange and interesting to hear since his father and mother have lived through it while has lived through something completely different.

When performing the dance or attending the festival, you have to be wearing the correct attire which consist of big dresses for girls and straw hats and rubber shoes for men. If you do not wear the correct clothes, people will think you are weird or disrespecting the day.

I always find these types of traditions immensely interesting because it’s fascinating to see how a dance or ritual can cement something sacred. Although the salvadorians dress up as Indians, according to some of my high school peers, they also have a similar dance but it is used to increase their chances of having rain for their agriculture. While one dance is used to ask a god for rain for their plants, another is used to coronate the next queen of a region. Anderson has no idea how to actually perform the dance and has never seen it in person but still knows the meaning behind it and can recognize it if he ever saw it. Chances are he will not pass it on to his children because he might never see the need or want to, his parents might end up educating them about it since almost anyone who is from Salvador knows about Dia del Indio.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Beliefs
Folk Dance
Holidays
Legends

Lono

Myth

 

Primary Language- English

Occupation- USC Student

Residence- Kansas City, Missouri

Date of Performance- 4/25/16

When I visited Hawaii, I learned of a god they worshipped named Lono. He was the god of agriculture, fertility, rainfall, music, and peace to the Hawaiians. I saw a lot of statues, dolls, and pictures of him when I visited a hotel there. Lono and a lot of other gods have huge statues in Hawaii. It is said that Lono came to earth on  a rainbow but that he was around before earth even existed. Lono came to marry a god named Laka. He was known as a god of peace and had a festival in his honor that we wanted to attend. I do not know much about it but I do know that it is a New Year’s celebration covering four lunar periods. The people dress up with traditional clothes and dance. It seemed pretty cool online but we weren’t there during the time they celebrated it.

Quinn and his father like to visit Hawaii during the semesters spring break or summer. It gives him a time to unwind and relax. He also takes the time to learn some folklore in his travels. Some of the folklore consist of traditions he may partake in like in Hawaii or Mexico, at least in terms of the foods they eat and celebrations they may witness. He likes to remember the folklore he learns because it serves as a memory of the amazing time he has had during his trips around the world.

Lono has been commemorated in Hawaii for a very long time and has given the Hawaiian people something to look forward to on New Year’s as well. A few hundred years ago, the people who were natives to Hawaii believed that Lono was the reason for the bountiful agriculture and times of peace. Thier culture and celebrations are sometimes seen as exotic and beautiful by tourist which has created a source of income by many who reside in Hawaii.

This tradition Hawaii has held and celebrated is very interesting and makes me want to go and visit. It is folklore like this that spreads to many people and causes interest because they want to go see it themselves and experience a new culture. Quinn not only visited a new location with a different environment, but also a place that has almost a completely different culture than his own and loved it. The shows, lights, and festivities put on by Hawaiians causes a surge in tourism and no longer makes them a small country but a huge center for new experiences.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Foodways
general
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Mother’s Holiday

Mother’s Birthday Celebration

“My mother passed away of old age four years ago. In her life she accomplished many things, and touched many people. She had a huge family, ten grandchildren, and, being the matriarch of the family, left a big hole when she passed away. To commemorate her life, I decided to hold her birthday celebration as usual the year after she died. We had always celebrated hers in style, with up to a hundred guests, all on the veranda of our dacha (summerhouse) on the outskirts of Moscow. There was always a lot of food- Russian traditional dishes- people recited poetry in her honor, and we put on charades. She helped many invalids as a philanthropist in her life, and at least five came every single year from wherever they lived, some traveling over two hundred kilometers. Her peers from life dwindled every year, but the number of those attending always managed to stay the same. The year after she died, I decided to keep on the tradition. I invited all the guests, only this time we were celebrating her memory without her. The first time, there were more people than had ever been. Yet the celebration stayed the same- we ate the same food, sang the same songs, people recited poetry in her honor, shared memories of her, and in the end we played charades. It felt like she was still with us. Since then, for the past four years, we have had the same birthday celebration in her honor without her present, and the numbers have so far not dwindled at all. All her close family, friends, and those she helped in her eighty four years of life try their best to come and remember her by celebrating.”

 

Background: This is performed by a 54 year old Russian Woman, in Moscow, Russia, and her family and the friends of her mother.

Analysis: This is a version of a holiday in the name of a person: the only difference, here this person was not famous or a political leader, but was simply very influential in her community. This is not uncommon in Russia, as communities are often very close together, and people value their ties very much. Birthday celebrations in general, at least for older people, are rather formal occasions: many guests might be invited, there will be presents and singing and games. Ekatherina’s mother was from the intelligentsia class, as well, which often has ties to the upper class at least in the ways in which it acts and celebrates. This holiday is also an excuse for a big group of people to get together and reminisce about a common group they used to belong to, and perhaps still do. It is also an excuse for the older generation, in their seventies and eighties, to get together and impart stories and recollections of the past.

Adulthood
Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Norwegian Graduation Celebration

The tradition started in 1905 when Norway got its independence, and it’s sort of a combination of celebrating the end of high school and independence day (17th of May). Basically in their sophomore year or something, very early on in high school, kids get together in groups of like 20-30 girls and 20-30 guys and start saving money to buy a bus (party bus) in their senior year. Basically each group picks a project to work on over the two years that will help them raise enough money to do it (typically about 200,000 dollars per group.)
Not everyone does it, but a lot of kids do. And basically with these busses, you create your own theme so one bus could be called just weird names like sin city or vice city, or one bus could be called champions league and  umm and you renovate the bus create it and decorate it in your own theme by re decorating the whole inside, changing the seating, sometimes adding sofas in the bus, adding speakers, lights, bars, and some people put karaoke machines inside their bus, thats a new thing.
And basically then there are different competitions between busses: who has the best sound systems, exterior, interior, etc and the competitions are regional or countrywide.
I’m from east of Norway and its more of a cultural thing where I’m from, and most parts of the country if they can’t afford it do it with busses so they just do it with like minivans.
So then there’s different festivals around the country- these are called literally translated its called country meet ups and then the name of the place” and at these FESTIVALS (which last for like 2-4 days) have performances and concerts by artists, and the busses are all set up in the same huge space and the best busses usually have a large set up around their bus with light shows and a stage and you can imagine, and they are judged not only on the bus but also the set up. I would say they put a lot of money into the busses. Basically throughout high school each person ends up spending like about 7-12 thousand dollars on the whole thing.
And the festivals happen right before you graduate and they happen from like April 20th through sometime in May but not all at the same time, sort of spread out through that time period and all over the country. And then when the busses aren’t at their specific festivals they just get driven through the cities all month and the kids party on the bus.
Every bus also has a name that goes along with it’s theme and all the people on it have headbands with the name of the bus on it and wear them to the festivals to represent their busses. And each person also orders different colored pants, these are special pants, and you can have pants that could be a one pieces or suspenders like overalls that are called “russebukse” or anything like that and they’re usually either red, blue, green, or black, most popular are red and blue. It used to be based on your major or whatever you were planning to study after high school,  so IT and Media would have blue pants and general subjects would have red, and green would be if you were like doing agricultural stuff and black would be for those who were doing labor subjects (plumber).
I would say that graduating high school is a really special part of a teenagers life even more so than in other places because we have this crazy tradition that is also mixed with our independence day. People that celebrate this holiday
ANONTATION:
For more information on this celebration see video below or article Norwegian Russ- Silly Season is Here, Life in Norway by David Nikel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lSeznt_3Ng
ANALYSIS:
The informant, a fellow peer, told me this story on a long bus ride we were on together recently. While the folklore itself is engaging and definitely meaningful to anyone who has had a high school graduation celebration, the most entertaining part of the story was just how excited the informant was as he was telling me about it. He really did seem prideful about this piece of folklore that is so specific to his country and its culture and traditions.
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