USC Digital Folklore Archives / Festival
Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hoya Hoye Festival

“There is a festival in Ethiopia. It’s called “Hoya Hoye.” It’s in August, which is in neḥāsē. I forgot exactly what it’s about, but the big thing that we always do is like we have a huge bonfire in our front yard, so to speak, and you just kinda like chant with like sticks, which we call “dulas” and they’re like taller than you and your like “duh duh duh” and then, you’re like “Hoya hoye, yeena geatta.” It’s a religious festival because “yeena geatta” menas like kinda like “My Savior,” so you are like praising Jesus.”

The Hoya Hoye festival is widely renowned throughout Ethiopia. It is a festival that is both very participatory within your family, but also within the entire neighborhood. Even though the houses in Ethiopia are separated by gates, people come together in celebration by banging on their neighbors gates saying “Hoya hoye” or “Salem.” It is a simple way of saying hello during the festival in a friendly way that brings the community together to celebrate.

The informant compared it to the typical American celebration for the Fourth of July, where people will have a barbecue with a lot of their family and friends coming together to celebrate. However, instead of patriotism, it is religious. For both though, there is the sense of community and connection to your culture and the people within it.

The informant explained that she would never celebrate Hoya Hoye in Oregon, where she is from, because the community and appreciation is not there. However, she has been able to go the last couple of years to Ethiopia to experience this. She explained that it was a real honor to be present at that time.

The festival usually falls between August 10th and August 20th. For the informant, it has been difficult to make it back to Ethiopia because that is when the fall semester for school begins, but she still has managed to make time for it.

The informant relayed this to me while we were sitting on a bench on the USC campus.

I find it interesting that this festival does not necessarily cross boarders of Ethiopia. With other festivals, like the Indian Holi festival, the people of the culture have been bringing it with them wherever they go, actively continuing it.

For the informant, the Hoya Hoye festival was something that she would never feel comfortable doing outside of Ethiopia. In part, I think it has to do with the lack of people to participate in it in Oregon. I also think that her being a mostly passive bearer also plays a role into why she only feels completely comfortable performing it with others who maybe understand the meaning behind it more.

Festival
Myths
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dussehra and Diwali Festival

“Dussehra and Diwali both are basically celebrated for the triumph of good over evil. So, mytholoigcally speaking, there were two gods, Ram and his wife Sita. Sita was kidnapped by Raavan, Aasur as they called it, a Satan in maybe English. So now, Raavan kidnapped Sita and took her to a place where Ram had to, you know, cut down trees, go inside the forest, look for her, and then kill many people. People as in like, the bad people obviously, and then when he found Sita, he brought her home and killed Raavan. Raavan had ten heads, so he was called Dash Aasur. Dash is ten and Aasur is a devil, so Dash Aasur, as in the ten headed bad guy. He killed Raavan and that’s why we celebrate Dussehra, where we make a statue of Raavan and burn it. We burn it so that we can tell people that they need not be scared, he’s dead, and it’s the triumph of good over bad. And then, there is the festival called Diwali, which is ten days after it. It is a part of Dussehra. So, after Dussehra, you have Diwali, the festival of lights. People lite candles, like lanterns everywhere, candles everywhere, and then they decorate their houses with flowers and colors just to celebrate.”

In India, there are around fifty festivals that are celebrated all around the year. However, half of them are more regional, while the others are more nationally celebrated. Essentially, most of the festivals are known, but not all are celebrated in every state. These two in particular take place at the end of October through the first week of November.

As are a lot of their festivals, color plays a huge role in Dussehra and Diwali. For these festivals, it is more elegant than some, but still has to be colorful. You are not supposed to wear black because Indians view it to be ominous, which would go against the festival’s idea of good defeating evil.

The informant relayed this to me while we were re-shelving books in the stacks of Doheny Library at USC. She is one of my co-workers.

It is very common around the world for celebrations to revolve around their gods, but I was surprised when she described the festival being based on a myth before telling me about it. I feel that it is very uncommon for people to discuss their myths in such a way to other people, already acknowledging that others do not believe what they do. However, I found that she was more open to discussing and sharing it with me because of her approach, even though she does believe in the gods.

Festival
Legends
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Trip to find Sasquatch

Informant:

Rowan is a sophomore double majoring in Math and economics. He is from the Bay area.

Piece:

So i’m really interested in Sasquatch. The plural of a Sasquatch is just Sasquatch. Not sasquatches which everyone says and it always bugs me. So a lot of people believe that there are Sasquatch that live in the pacific northwest. And I have cousins from Idaho and we are spending a week hiking around Washington trying to find him and after that end our trip at the Sasquatch music festival on memorial day.

Collector: Do you believe sasquatch exists?

Informant: 100%. For sure. Sasquatch are out there, they are just really good at hiding. There have actually been a lot of sightings of sasquatch up there and we are pretty confident that we will see one.

 

Collector’s thoughts:

I find it interesting that an informant who studies extremely quantitative, fact based subjects in university, is interested in finding sasquatch. The informant was adamant about his belief in sasquatch in his words, but his tone suggested otherwise. Additionally, upon researching further I found the Sasquatch music festival to be a yearly sasquatch themed music festival that occurs each year in washington.

 

Festival
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Chang’e and Hou Yi

My friend and I got to one of our classes early. While we waited I asked her if she knew any folklore. She happily gave me a  story:

“I can tell you why in China people place food beneath the moon during the Mid-Autumn festival.

Before our time, the sky held ten suns. The sun’s power was far too strong and the plants were all burnt away and people began to die.

Hou Yi, a famous archer, shot down nine of the suns. As a reward for his triumph, Hou Yi was gifted a vial of an elixir. The elixir made anyone who drank it immortal, but the vial allowed for only one drink. Hou Yi wanted to become immortal, but he loved his wife more. Hou Yi decided to give the elixir to his wife, Chang’e, for safe keeping. Hou Yi’s fame began to grow. His superb archer skills attracted many, and Hou Yi eventually garnered several students. One of his students, Pang Meng, had an evil heart. He wanted to steal the elixir from his master.

One day, Hou Yi and his students journeyed into the mountains to hunt but Pang Meng remained. He had fooled the other students into believing that he was ill. After ensuring Hou Yi’s departure, Pang Meng entered Hou Yi’s home and demanded the elixir. Chang’e knew she could not defeat Pang Meng in battle, so she drank the elixir. The elixir made her fly high into the sky. Chang’e ascended for several days, she felt no hunger and she felt no thirst. Finally, she reached the moon.

Hou Yi felt a great sorrow for the loss of Chang’e. He came back home, but felt lonely. Hou Yi placed a table beneath the moon and began to prepare food. Hou Yi hoped that offering would help his wife return.

That is why during the Mi-Autumn Festival, people place food beneath the moon.”

Collectors Analysis:

My friend’s mother grew up in China, so the Mid-Autumn festival was a huge part of her culture. My friend’s mother and grandmother soon moved to the United States. Her grandmother did not want to lose touch with China and so she began to retell stories daily and celebrate the festivals more rigorously. My friend first heard this story from her grandmother, but she does recall her mother telling a slightly different version. She remembers hearing the legend often during her childhood because it was told several times to the children of her family to remind them of tradition. To my friend, this legend is a reminder of her heritage. She enjoys being half Chinese and really embraces the culture.

I had several questions about the legend, many of which my friend was unable to answer. She did say that in one version Chang’e is actually the goddess of the moon. I wondered how Hou Yi shot down the nine suns and I wondered what happened to Chang’e on the moon. Still, I found the legend rather peaceful. It is a common told story with a hero and a tragic ending. I did enjoy learning about Chinese tradition. Many of the other legends I have collected help relay a hidden lesson but this legend actually introduces a tradition.

 

Festival
Myths

Durga Puja

My informant AM is an international student from Singapore, and her family is originally from Bengal, India. She goes back to Bengal every year, and spends most of the time in the capital city Kolkata.

 

Main piece:

“Durga Puja” is a traditional festival of India. People celebrate the festival for 10 days. “Durga” is the goddess Durga, and “Puja” means “prayer”. The festival is in different time every year, but is around October and November.

 

AM: “We’re celebrating several things in this festival. Firs of all is Durga. We call her “the mother”, she is very respected, because she’s really powerful. She has ten hands, each of the hands hold a weapon. She is known as defeating an evil Buffalo demon. Thinking about Indian Gods, there’re so many of them. So Durga have so many forms, that she shared the same identity with some other gods and Durga is one form. In Bengal, we celebrate this incarnation of the goddess, which is Durga. She is married to one of the three main gods, Shiva.

“During a traditional Indian marriage, there’s a whole ceremony in the wife goes to the husband’s home. So during Durga Puja, these 10 days are believed as the time when Durga come back to her mother’s home. And at the last day of the festival, she goes back to Shiva’s home.

“The festival in total is 10 days, but the celebration starts at the 6th day. I don’t really know the reason behind this, but I do think we celebrate Durga Puja differently in Singapore than how people do it in India. So on the 6th day in Singapore, we have food fair for the festival. But there’s one common thing. Just to clarify, during the festival, it is Durga and her four children come to visit us, and we have statue of the five of them – Durga in the middle and her children aside. At the tenth day, in India, people will rewrap the statue of Durga and float it into the Bengali Rive. But we don’t do it in Singapore, cause it’s illegal, so we just rewrap the statue and send it back, which symbolizing she goes back to her husband’s home.”

 

Context of the performance:

This is a section from a conversation with my informant AM about how Indian culture and traditions are practiced in Singapore.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

I later discussed with AM about the how Indian culture regard women, and gender difference in general. I remember a ethnographic film Mardistan (2014) directed by anthropologist Harjant Gill, which talks about how patriarchal order is controlling over both women and men, specifically in the city of Chandigarh. I mentioned this to AM and she told me this is a really tricky thing to say, because there’re really modern cities like Mumbai but there are also many rural areas. But it seems to both of us that, due to the fact that there are so many festivals celebrating goddess, mother gods, Indian is not as what people would stereotypically regard as the typical patriarchal country. The part of Indian identity is really matriarchal, that people respect to the mother figure, but there’s also sexism in society too.

 

See the ethnographic film Mardistan here: https://vimeo.com/120182667

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dia de los Muertos

Background of informant:

My informant (AG)’s parents moved from Mexico to Los Angeles before her birth. She speaks Spanish to her parents in home and is surrounded by Mexican culture.

Main piece:

AG: “I think here in the State when talking about ghost people think of horror films, but for me, I think of deceased family members. In Mexican culture, the dead is not seen as scary as it might be in some other places. Especially, when someone really close to you dies, you kind of want to have a experience to know that their soul is still out there. So ghost for us, of course they are scary, but there’s another connotation to them, because it’s such a big part of our culture. We feel more acceptable to believe in them. Oh, and we even have a whole celebration, the Day of the Dead. ”

SH: What is it?

AG: “We call it ‘Dia de los Muertos’ [AG wrote this down on my note]. It’s every year between October 31st and November 2rd. It’s originally a indigenous festival, cause then the Catholic church said, ‘No, don’t do that’, so they catholicized the festival. The indigenous name is ‘Dia de los Muertos’, which means ‘the Day of the Dead’, but the Catholic church don’t allow them to worship the dead, so they changed it to ‘All Saints Day’. I went to this festival several times here in LA. It’s not a super big festival, since we’re not in Mexico. So you juts build little altar in your home, it’s the day that you remember the deceased. So you just put those orange flowers, called ‘cempasúchi’, that has the smell to attract the dead to their way back home. With a picture of the deceased member on the altar, you put everything that they loved, or anything that reminds you of them on the altar as well. Real food. Or since my grandpa loved soccer, so we put a soccer ball on the altar.

“Here in LA, you can go to some cemetery and it will be parties where you’ll have ‘Mariachi’, which is the ‘Mexican Band’. So you just bring the favorite food of the deceased family member to the party. For example, my grandma loved coffee, so we made her a pot of coffee and put it on his grave. Just anything they loved, we would bring it to their grave.

“This is the day that people believe, that the gap between the living and the dead is the thinnest. So the dead can actually come back to be with the living people. On that day, they are with us. Or they are supposed to be us on that day, in spirit. It’s just a way to make sure that we never forget them. ”

 

Context of the performance:

This is a section of the entire conversation about believing in ghost and respecting the dead in Mexican culture.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

Recalling the proverb, “The cactus on your forehead”, and the story of La Malinche that my informant AG told me, I observe some similarities among these folk pieces. The importance of the past, the ancestor, and the lineage is always emphasized. Just like what AG said, Mexican people don’t see the dead as scary things but deceased family members that come back to reconnect.

 

A related folklore piece is discussed in a short ethnographic film, “Muerte Querida (Dearest Death)”, by Ileana de Cardenas, USC MVA 2016. This film explores a Mexican folk icon, Santa Muerte, and a community of devotees in East Hollywood. The special attitude about death and toward the dead of Mexican culture is further discussed in this short film.

Description of the film: http://cool939.wixsite.com/mva2016/muerte-querida

To watch the film, you might need to contact the department of Anthropology in USC.

Earth cycle
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Qing Ming Festival

Background of informant:

My informant LWQ is a 47 years old Chinese artist. She was born and lived in southern part of China, especially Nanjing for many years before she moved to the north, Beijing at age 36.

The conversation is in Chinese.

 

Main piece:

LWQ: “This is the day that we go to cemetery and pray to the ancestors. In total, there’re four day in a year that people pray to their ancestors, but each day has different name and each of them is different. In winder solstice, that day, it’s the first one. And April 4rth on the lunar Calendar, which is the one that is coming, is called QingMing Festival. Then is July half, also on the lunar Calendar, is the Festival of the Dead. And then is the New Year Eve day. These are the four. There are commons among these four days, that people burn those money made from paper, the money that is only efficient in the ghosts’ world, not our human world.”

SH: What kind of money?

LWQ: “We have a piece of paper in the shape of normal RMB, but the portrait of Mao is changed to the God in the ghost world on the paper. And also, there’re paper money in the shape of ancient Chinese copper coin, which a hole in the center. And also some in the shape of Chinese shoe-shaped gold.”

LWQ: “For the differences of the four days, I think… the most recent one, on April. 4th, we bring some green plants or flowers to the deceased family members tomb. That’s why QingMing festival is also called ‘Tomb-swiping Day’. We need to revitalize the ancestor’s tomb because spring is coming. [laugh] I remember when I was little, I followed my parents to ancestors’ tomb on the day QingMing Festival, and it’s a day to play and enjoy the warm weather for me and my other little friends. Now, I will go to my grandparents tomb on this year’s festival next week, and it is now to me a day to reunion with my family, because my brothers and my parents will be there too.”

 

Context of the performance:

My informant LWQ told me one day that she will travel back to her hometown recently because the QingMing Festival was coming. This conversation was done two weeks before the festival day.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

My informant said that the day of QingMing festival is an official holiday set by the government, so it’s a day off for everyone in China. Respecting to ancestor is always a major focus in Chinese traditional culture, and there’s a huge emphasis on family lineage and bounding between family members. However, this emphasis was neglected once around 1970s in China. Now, for the recent 20 years, the traditional focus on lineage is recollected and reemphasized. Since the festival is highlighted to the public as an official holiday, this is another example of how institution helps revitalize folklore.

Customs
Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Carnival of Binche

Background of informant:

My informant YF is an international student from Brussels, Belgium. He spent the first two years of high school in Los Angeles, and the last year back in Brussels. He lived in Wallonia in Belgium, which is the French-speaking region that accounts more than a half of the country.

 

Main piece:

YF: “We have the Carnival of the year around spring break. Every region in Belgium will have different character for the carnival. Each one has its story, its name. ”

YF: “The most memorable one that I went to is the Carnival of Binche. The most famous character in the carnival is called “Gilles de Binche”, directed translated as “Gilles from Binche”. This is the name of the character of the Carnival. So depend on the different city the Carnival is taking place, there will be different character, also different names. Gilles de Binche are only done by guys. They have white outfit, and orange jacket that has patterns of roasters on it, because roaster is the Coat of arms for Wallonia. And on the jacket there are also lines in black, yellow and red since those are the colors on Belgium flag. And also straw on the edge of their jacket. On their head, they have a huge hat with feathers, and traditionally, they also wear mask on their face made of wax. They walk on the street at the days of Carnival, and each of them carries a basket with blood oranges inside. They throw the oranges to the crowd and people will try to catch them. ”

SH: Why do they throw oranges?

YF: “Oh, so blood oranges are seen as gift given by the Gilles and they carry good luck.”

YF: “The Gilles also wear wooden shoes. The special thing about Gilles de Binche is that they are the only group of Gilles that stay in the city, so they can only stay in Binche, while others can go around and participate the parade in other cities.

“At night, we have ‘feu de bengale’, which means ‘fire from Bengol’ for people to dance around. It’s about the size of a human. Two meters high. Basically, when you’re a kid, base on which city in Belgium you’re from, you’re assigned to one character. It’s really old-fashioned, that based on the town you were born, you have the character that you can become when you’re older, and then you choose to take part into the culture and go into the circle of the character.

“So every early, like 6 am in the Carnival day, participants will go to people’s family to party with them. So you’ll have numerous cups of champion in each house you went to at the end of the day. And I did practice this!!”

 

Context of the performance:

This is a part of the interview I had with my informant YF.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

Though Belgium is a small country, the differentiation within the country is huge and obvious. Not only do people from different regions speak different languages (three main languages: French, Dutch and Germany), the Carnival are different and the characters for each Carnival are different.

Customs
Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Spring Festival Gala

Background of informant:

My informant SS is an international student from Beijing, China. She lived with her grandparents when she was little.

The conversation was in Chinese.

Main piece:

SS: “My relatives will come gather in my grandparents house every new year eve. They will arrive in different time, due to the whether they live far away or not. My grandpa is always the one who do the cooking. Oh he loves to be the chief, and he doesn’t let anyone enter the kitchen when he’s preparing for the spring festival meal! [laugh] And then when the food is being prepared, my family will start to eat and drink, oh, and we’ll all sit down to watch the Spring Festival Gala! When the meal is all prepared, the gala has already began for like… 1 hour.”

SH: What is that?

SS: “That’s the activity that people always do, like every year, with no exception, on New Year Eve day. It’s a huge showcase rehearsed by CCTV, consigned by Chinese government [SS changed her tone]. [laugh, keep using the flat tone] It’s usually consisted with dancing and singing performance, short plays, magic shows, and so on. And normally, while the show is entertaining the audience, there are central ideology penetrated in the show to educate people [SS made the hand gesture of quote when saying “educate”]. But since the Gala has been operated every new year eve for dozens of years, watching Spring Festival Gala on CCTV has become the habit for middle-age to elder Chinese. I’m thinking most younger people also have the habit to open the TV to watch it…while comments on Weibo (a popular social media in China) at the same time… It’s like we are all so used to watch it. And I do think Spring Festival Gala brings people together, it attracts the family to sit in front of the TV, comments on the show, eat some sunflower seeds, and … just… be together!

 

Context of the performance:

This is a section in our conversation about Chinese Spring Festival.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

Regarding to the fact that China has huge population dispersed in different parts of the country, people live in different regions really have drastically different customs and habits. For example, when talking about what do people eat on New Year Eve, my informant SS provided me a list of food that I never had in my home (I’m from southern part of China while she’s from the North). However, after hearing so many differences of what people do on this country-wide festival, watching Spring Festival Gala is the only habit that can be found in almost every family in every part of China at that dat. And since Spring Festival Gala, as SS pointed out, is a show consigned by Chinese government, this common custom is an example of how institutional products gradually become and being transformed into folklore.

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bulgarian folk Kookari ritual

This piece folklore was gathered at the San Fransisco trauma recovery center. I met with a group of social workers and over the course of one hour we all got came together in a meeting room and in one big group we decided to go around the table and each discuss folklore from their lives. At the beginning of the discussion I gave a brief description about what folklore could be. After that everyone shared pieces of folklore from their lives.

“One tradition that we have in Bulgaria, and in my village we do it around Easter but in other places that do it for New Years. It’s a very interesting kind of tradition. People dress up in goat skin and they put those huge bells on them and you like have to make the noise with the bells  and they go all over the village and it is considered to chase the evil spirits and cleans the village and get you ready for good things. The people dressed in the goat skin they are called Kookari and it is considered a huge honor to have them come by your house and kind of cleanse your house.”

Background information about the performance from the informant: “I grew up with that tradition. In the village I was raised in it happens for Easter every year. Mostly I remember that as a child I was extremely scared of them because they really look scary. They have like scary masks and I understand now that the idea is to scare bad evil kind of spirits but as a child I was mortified and I refused to leave the house on that day.”

Final thoughts: There are a lot of rituals over the world that have to do with scaring away spirits.  The technique of dressing up and attempting to be as scary as possible is something that people like doing quite a lot even here in America we have Halloween. Another common trope that is present in this tradition is the idea of using noise to help scare the spirits.

[geolocation]