USC Digital Folklore Archives / Holidays
Customs
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Paschal Greeting – Greek Orthodox

“Because I’m Greek Orthodox, we have a service the night before Easter. What we do is, the priest turns off all the lights in the church and then we have candles. And we say ‘Christ has risen and truly he has risen’ in like eight different languages. ‘Khristos Anesti. Alithos Anesti. Christ has risen. Truly he has risen.’* and all these different forms of languages for about an hour and a half. It’s just a symbolized of I think inclusivity. We just wear our church clothes. Like my mom always says, ‘Dress as though you’re going to God’s house.’ Everyone is in more ‘happier’ colors since it’s Easter”

My informant is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. She is deeply connected to her church and still practices her religion faithfully. I thought it was interesting to hear how her family celebrates Easter because I personally am Presbyterian, which is a branch of Christianity. We only celebrate Palm Sunday and Good Friday prior to Easter. I have never heard of a celebration being held the night before Easter. This service is referred to as the Paschal Greeting in Greek Orthodox custom. I really liked the idea of chanting “Christ has risen and truly he has risen” in multiple languages as a representation of inclusivity. However, I will admit having to do that for an hour and half seems extremely tedious. My informant on the other hand seemed enthusiastic about the ritual, proving her patience and loyalty to God.

 

general
Holidays

Give Me the Red Bag

The interview will be depicted by initials. The Interviewer is QB and the interview is CH.

This final superstition was given as an offhand remembrance that the student did not expect to tell me.

CH: Ok so on Chinese New Years, traditionally younger people like kids say this one saying to their parents or elders. Its gong xi fa cai/ hong bao na lai. And what that means roughly translated is “I wish you good luck and good fortune, now hand me the red bag” and the red bag has money in it. And it can be upwards of hundreds of dollars depending on how old the kid is.

Analysis: This once again shows the importance of red within the Chinese culture. Not only does it help protect them from evil doings, but it can also bring them fortune and wealth. However, it should be noted that they must pay their respects to their elders before receiving their gift, thus showing the importance of their family on their lives. It is also interesting that the older you get the more money you receive. It could possibly be to show the maturity of the person rewards them with more fortune.

general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Red Envelope

“One of my favorite holidays growing up was Chinese New Year because I got a lot of red envelopes.”

The informant was born in the United States, but her family moved from China and celebrated Chinese holidays.

After thoughts: In China and other East Asian countries, a red envelope (“hong boa”) is a gift given during any special occasions. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is also a symbol to chase off evil spirits. Red envelopes are usually given out by married couples to single people regardless of age. The amount of money in the envelope usually ends with an even digit because according to Chinese beliefs, odd numbered money gifts are usually associated with funerals. The origins of the red envelope started during the Qin Dynasty, where the elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was referred to as “money warding off evil spirits” and was also believed to protect the younger generation from sickness and death.

Foodways
general
Holidays
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Longevity Noodles


“Every birthday celebration, no matter where, and no matter the age, we always ate noodles to signify a long life.”

The informant was born in Taipei, and grew up in Shanghai.

After thoughts: Longevity is one of the most respected ideals in Chinese culture, and reflects Taoism philosophy. Longevity is most commonly associated with birthdays, and noodles became the food metaphor because it;s long and continuous in shape. It’s important to not break off the noodle you are eating, since the longer it is, the longer it suggests your life will be. Also, cutting the noodles is considered unlucky and equivalent to cutting your own life. Longevity noodles symbolizes a long and healthy life.

Customs
Festival
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Las Mañanitas – Birthday Song

Informant: Valentina Williamson. 11 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City. My little sister.

Informant: “When the cake comes out at birthday parties everyone sings ‘Las Mañanitas.’ When the song is over, the person blows out the candle. After, we all chant ‘MORDIDA, MORDIDA! (BITE, BITE!) and push the person’s head into the cake!”

Collector: “Why do you push the persons head into the cake??”

Informant: “Because it’s funny! The face is covered in cake and we can’t stop laughing!

Informant:

“Estas son las mañanitas

Que cantaba el rey David

Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños

Te las cantamos a ti!

Despierta, “Nombre”, despierta

Mira que ya amaneció!

Y los pajaritos cantan

Y la luna ya se metio! WOOOOOOO”

(Informant motions as if she pushes a head into the cake)

 

Translation:

These are the dawns

That king David sang about

Today for being your birthday

We are singing to you!

Wake up, “NAME”, wake up

See that it already dawned

and the little birds are singing

and the moon has already set! WOOOOO”

 

Thoughts: It is really interesting that the birthday song in Mexico is much more romantic than the “Happy Birthday” song in the United States. In my opinion, this romanization is a direct reflection of the Mexican cultural values. I know that there are some slight variations from the version my sister gave me. Instead of “Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños (Today for being your birthday) some sing “Hoy por ser día de tu santo (Because today is your saint’s day).” The gesture of pushing someone’s head into the cake is something I did as a child too but no longer do it. Certainly, this only tends to happen at children’s parties.

For a full version of the song: “http://www.musica.com/letras.asp?letra=1180983″

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Día de Reyes

Informant: Valentina Williamson. 11 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City. My little sister.

Informant: “On January 6 Los Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men) arrive! The night before, I leave my shoe next to the window and when I wake up I find a gift in it. It is like a small gift. Like last year I got candy and an iTunes gift card. I love this because I get gifts after Christmas (Informant smiles).”

Collector: “Why do they bring gifts”

Informant: “Emmm…Los Reyes Magos delivered gifts to Jesus when he was born. Los Reyes Magos bring gifts because of that”

Collector: “Do you do anything else to celebrate this day?!”

Informant: “Estem…. La Rosca!! How could I forget?! We usually have a dinner with my friends and family. After dinner, there is a very special dessert called ‘la Rosca de Reyes.’ Sometimes it has pieces of dried fruit in it but I don’t like that one so I make dad buy the other one. So we pass it around and everyone cuts their own piece. There is like a little baby Jesus hidden somewhere. Whoever gets the baby Jesus in their piece has to host a dinner and bring tamales! That person doesn’t really do it but we all them him or her to!”

Thoughts: The Dia de Reyes is very important. Because Mexico is very religious, there is a strong emphasis on celebrating Christ. When I was a little kid, I didn’t get gifts from the wise men as it wasn’t something my parents did. As an older brother, however, I was actually the one who first put the gifts in my sister’s shoe. I wanted her to have the tradition. Since I’m abroad, my parents have kept it and my sister loves it.

Foodways
general
Holidays
Material

Texas Sheet Cake

Informant: My mother found culinary recipes that have been passed on through generations, and become a part of our family folklore

Original Piece: I can claim this recipe because I’ve made several adjustments to the one passed on to me from Grandmama. This is THE go-to cake—birthday, graduation, family reunion. Growing up we always ate it on a blanket in the front yard with homemade peppermint ice cream while we watched the fireworks. My mother-in-law always requests I bring it to any family function. You will thank me for this cake.

Context of Performance: My mother was sifting through old family recipes to send to me and my sister at college, so we wouldn’t forget our “southern heritage”.

Thoughts about the Piece: I liked this recipe because it is an example of a recipe that has been passed down in my family for several generations, and was originally grabbed from a copy of “Southern Living”. However, over the years, the women in my family have changed and altered it to produce the best form of this, which is a good example of what folklore is.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Flying a Kite on Easter

 

 

Nationality: Jamaican

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

Age: 33

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 15, 2017 (Skype)

 

Garfield is a 33 year old man, born and raised in Ochos Rios, Jamaica who is a loss control manager for a large clothing store in New York City. He immigrated to the United States 6 years ago.

 

 

Interviewer: Good Evening. Do you have a family story about when you lived in Jamaica and celebrated the holiday of Easter?

 

Informant: So I was saying like today is Easter Saturday you most people are out on the play field fields, flying kites, you know. They play crickets and sometimes we have kiteflying competitions you know. Whose kites look the best the designs, or um whose is the biggest, like the biggest kites, there is a competition for that also. And um a lot of bun and cheese. Jamaicans love bun and cheese for Easter you know. A lot of homes bake pudding. Jamaicans also love pudding for Easter you know. They don’t do a lot cooking like from Good Friday. They put away the cooking and they bake from like Thursday or so to celebrate Good Friday.  And then, today is Easter Saturday everybody has a kite, from the oldest to the youngest. When they fly kites, yes um. Some kids play marbles, but most focus on their kites today. Yes very nice. Very nice.

 

Interviewer:  When you came to the Unites States did you carry on any of the traditions here?

 

Informant: No not really. Because.. ah.. I don’t see much place here. I don’t see them following the traditions here. I don’t see kites in the sky. So even if they have kites here they are ready made. Like I see some of the tree things tree tree thing looks like something from China. We make our kites from bamboo, Jamaican bamboo. Then we shave it and buy bags of colored paper and we design the kites you know. Everything is just different and there love for Easter is more you can feel a different energy really in Jamaica. You know here people having Palm Sunday that stuff like that. They go to Church but they don’t have the vibe when we celebrate Easter in Jamaica.

 

Interviewer: What is the significance of Kite Flying on Easter in Jamaica?

 

Informant: Well you know it is all about Jesus on Easter, When we put the kite in the sky you know it is about the rise of Jesus to heaven. Yes that is what it is.

 

Thoughts about the piece:

Family traditions and memories can be very emotional. I sense from the Informant that there is a great void not able to celebrate Easter in Jamaica with family and friends. I was struck by his observations about the “vibe” being so different in the US. Even though there is a significant Jamaican / Caribbean diaspora in New York, that doesn’t duplicate experiences in Jamaica. Other Caribbean Islanders also fly kites for Easter: https://www.thecaribbeancurrent.com/some-easter-traditions-in-the-caribbean/

 

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Polish Easter Basket Blessing

Nationality: Polish

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Polish

Age: 28

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 15, 2017 (Skype)

 

Christopher is a 28 year old man, born and raised in Warsaw, Poland and who emigrated with his family to the United States when he was 8 years old.  He is a College Graduate with a degree in Political Science. He is currently employed as a doorman in an apartment building in Queens, New York.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. Does today being Holy Saturday bring back any memories of how you celebrated Easter in Poland?

 

Informant: So on Holy Saturday we would wake up very early and we would make um an Easter Basket with the family. Usually the youngest in the family will make the basket and in the basket you would put in a boiled egg, a piece of bread so ah a piece of Kielbasa little items like that. And that Saturday Morning, you and the family would head to Church and the Easter Basket would be blessed by a Priest. You would not be allowed to eat meat until that Easter Basket is blessed. Once the basket is blessed the whole family can enjoy meat on that Saturday. And that is the Polish Tradition of Easter on Holly Saturday.

 

Interviewer: Do you have any special remembrances when you celebrated in Poland as a young child then when you immigrated to the United States?

 

Informant: Oh my best memory is just how people would dress up and take the holiday very seriously. It was a very big, big holiday in Poland growing up.

 

Interviewer: Were there any changes when you got to the United States and the way the Polish Community celebrated Easter as opposed to in Poland?

 

Informant: Well in Poland they would held a big mass and this would take two hours to do. Everyone would get together with the Easter Eggs and baskets and getting blessed.  Over here in America I noticed it is a quick five minute process. You enter the church, you see the priest, then you are right out the door.

 

Interviewer: Now, as you live in America and people are less devoted to faith then in Poland, does the holiday take on another significance beyond religious?

 

Informant: For me personally this is ah about family, it keeps the family together. This tradition keeps the family together. It is about tradition.  Without tradition we start to lose family. As I said, we all get together for dinner, we see each so it is just a great way to catch up with family you haven’t seen in a quite a while.

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Polish immigrants that want to continue or revive this tradition of “swieconka” in the US, can find a list of church services and traditional basket ingredients on sites like this: http://www.cleveland.com/cooking/index.ssf/2014/04/easter_basket_blessings_of_foo.html Symbolism of basket ingredients is explained here; http://luzdelmes.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-traditional-polish-easter-basket.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

An Easter Tradition

Nationality: Jamaican

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

Age: 59

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Carlton is a 59-year old man, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica who is a superintendent of a large apartment building in New York City. He immigrated to the United States over 38 years ago.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. Do you have a family story about when you lived in Jamaica.

 

Informant: “Sure. I am from Jamaica and in Jamaica traditionally during Easter we bake buns and cheese and that is what we have for gifts that we eat that during Easter and so my father would always would always go and we would make these buns in ovens so we would light the fire and bake these buns and get them glazed and sell them to all the people, and give them as gifts and so on. So Easter is was a very traditional thing where people go to church and worship on Good Friday and it was very quiet. No one in in the store or shop so you just had people go to church and worshiping. That was a tradition of my family and others in Jamaica”

 

Interviewer:  You mentioned that your father would bake the buns at Easter. Is this common for Jamaica men to bake on Easter?

 

Informant: “No I don’t think so as far as I know, I can only speak about my father. It was a very special indeed special memory for me and me sisters.  He never did anything in the kitchen.  He said that was women’s work. But on Easter this was his special tradition and that he had to carry out and me and my sisters were expected to help him out. He was so so very serious about this. He would even wrap our hands if he caught us tasting the sweet glaze of the buns.  I just remember him being so proud that he did this and I think he was doing this so we would always think of him, he died a few years back, when me and sisters celebrate Easter with our families”.

 

Interviewer: Do you carry on this tradition with your family?

 

Informant: “Sorry to say I do not. I feel this was a um very very special thing that my father did and I cherish this memory of him when I celebrate Easter with my family here in the US.”

 

Interviewer: Thank You and I wish you a Happy Easter.

 

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Food is a powerful memory aid to immigrants like my informant. This British import is a Good Friday treat, which may have roots in ancient Babylon. It has been adapted for Jamaicans by the addition of local molasses. The cross bun song can be found at: http://keepitjiggy.com/2011/03/a-jamaican-easter-bun-and-cheese/ Here is a recipe for making homemade Jamaican hot cross buns: http://eatjamaican.com/recipes/Jamaican-hot-cross-bun.html

 

 

 

 

 

[geolocation]