USC Digital Folklore Archives / Childhood
Childhood
Game

Lemonade Handgame

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KA) and I (ZM).

ZM: Did you ever play any “Apples on a stick” kinda thing?

KA: Lemonade!

ZM: I haven’t heard of that one. What’s that?

KA: You haven’t heard of it? Okay it’s like… shoot. It’s like…

Lemonade (3 claps)

Crunchy eyes (3 claps)

Beat uh once (3 claps)

Beat uh twice (2 claps)

Lemonade, crunchy eyes… beat huh once, beat huh twice

Touch the ground, turn around, freeze!

And then you would like freeze… until like the first person who moved got out.

ZM: Is this like a two-player game? Or more?

KA: Its… You can play it with two. But like you can play it with a bunch of people. Oh…yeah. Well, like two. Because you can go in a circle and like do it like that, but it’s usually just two people. Doing it like this (like a hand game). But, yeah… The point of the game is not to move at the end.

 

Context: I was talking to KA about their childhood when this conversation was recorded.

 

Background: KA was born in El Salvador but raised in South Central Los Angeles. She is a junior at the University of Southern California. She attended Los Angeles United School District schools from elementary to high school.

 

Analysis:The version recited by KA doesn’t make much sense lyrically. She acknowledged that there were multiple versions and some people said her version was wrong. She learned Lemonade in elementary school. I had never heard of this particular game. I found other versions online that make more sense.

 

For another version see: https://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=1775

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

La Llorona

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (KM) and I (ZM).

ZM: Any legends? Is there like a New Mexican legend that you…?

KM: Oh! Yes. Indeed. So, there’s this legend. I can’t pronounce it for the life of me.

ZM: Could you spell it?

KM: Yes. So, it’s “la,” like la and then space, “ll.” Actually…it’s on my phone. (laughs) lemme… Okay, so it’s “la,” space, “llorona,” like La Lallorona or something like that. They roll their r’s or something that I can’t do. So, basically there’s this um, legend that this woman, um, took her kids (chuckles) This is scary. So, uh she took her kids like from her house and like drowned them in the river. Yeah. So, and that like… her kids and were like screaming the whole night and like… OH NO NO no. I think it’s… Her kids were screaming so much that she like took them to the river and drowned them. So, the legend is when you… like um… The winds in New Mexico, in the spring, are like really bad, like they’re like fifty miles an hour. Like crazy. And so the legend is, when you hear the like really fast wind. Like the scream from the wind, it’s the scream of her kids. And um, stay away from rivers. So, like the whole thing is like if you’re near an arroyo, which is what we call a ditch…

ZM: (obviously lost)

KM: You know those ditches that like…

ZM: On the side of roads?

KM: Not really. They’re kind of like… um… They’re like where rain water goes, but they’re like pretty deep.

ZM: But they’re not on the side of roads?

KM: Sometimes they are, but not necessarily.

ZM: Are you talking about like natural ones?

KM: Yeah. Like natural ones.

ZM: I’m sorry. Florida doesn’t have much… variation in… (laughs)

KM: So, I have one behind my house and it’s basically like… it’s lower in elevation so all the water goes there and then it goes under the road. So, I guess it’s kind of near the road. And it like drains to like a river.

ZM: whaaaa. hunh

KM: So, it’s kind of like a stream, but it’s only when rain…

ZM: I feel like this is a language barrier. It’s like a land barrier. Like, I’m not exposed to these land forms.

KM: But anyway, so when you go to like an arroyo and you hear the wind scream. It’s like La Lallorona is coming for you and you have to like go in your house or she’s gonna kill you.

ZM: Is that just kids or is that everyone?

KM: It’s mostly just kids. Like, parents tell their kids these stories so they won’t be near the arroyo at night.

 

Context: This is from a conversation with KM about her New Mexican culture.

 

Background: KM is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California. KM was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Analysis: I thought it was interesting that this version still contained the classic “Stay away from rivers” message, but also more specifically to stay away from arroyos at night. This is a geographic marker because arroyos are only found in arid and semi-arid climates.

 

Adulthood
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends
Life cycle
Narrative
Old age

A Spirited Dream

Collection: Legend (ghost) and Folk Belief

I asked the informant to describe an unusual happenings regardings spirits or the soul. She answered with the following story.

“A few weeks after my dad died, he came to me in a dream. This was the most realistic dream I have ever had even to this day. Of course I was so overjoyed to see him and talk to him because he had just passed away. He told me that he was so proud of me and his grandchildren and that I’ve done a wonderful job raising them. After we talked for awhile, he said, ‘I’m sorry honey but I have to go now.’ I cried and screamed, ‘Please Daddy don’t go! Don’t go!!!’ He said, ‘I love you, I’m okay, don’t be sad and don’t be scared. I’m okay.’ He started to rise up, up ,up in the air, and then he was gone. The next thing I know my husband is saying, ‘What’s wrong?’ I was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking up at the corner where the wall meets the ceiling, and  yelling for my dad to stay.

Context/Interpretation: This collection depicts folk belief in a soul and implies the existence of an afterlife or spirit. Further, this narrative reflects the life cycle as the informant’s father spoke to her after death, and he mentioned new life, her children.

 

Childhood
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Dandelion nose

Main piece:

We had this thing we’d do as kids… Like, young kids though like maybe 10 years old! So, you’d find a dandelion and pick it, then pressure one of your friends into doing this thing where you look at someone you have a crush on – then you bury your nose in the dandelion.

If it comes away yellow, we’d ooh and ahh and say that it meant you guys’d get married some day or somethin’. And the person’d look over, of course, and see someone looking at them completely embarrassed with yellow all over their nose. Then they know and the… middle school tension grows?!

I don’t know. It seems so weird now but I can remember so many times when we did this!! And dandelions are so gross too, but it was fun. And it didn’t always come away yellow.

Context:

Ritual described by Bree Tschosik, born and raised in Decatur, IL.

Background:

This ritual continues today among schoolchildren in the rural Midwest, of course with some variation. At an age where male/female relationships are still somewhat awkward, it provides an expressive and entertaining ritual for participants.

Analysis:

The chance element of dandelion rubs is what makes it so entertaining! Because it doesn’t always leave a yellow mark. And of course, the social relationships of participants is the main factor in entertainment value of this ritual.

Childhood
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Cremer Family’s Passover Hazelnut Game

Background:  I had approached Hannah about telling me about her family Passover tradition that she had fleetingly mentioned at Shabbat Dinner at Hillel at the University of Southern California. She had talked about a hazelnut game for children during Passover that is unique to her family. Hannah goes to her grandparent’s house for the first night of Passover and celebrates the second night at her great-aunts house. She is from Illinois.

Context: I interviewed Hannah in the dining room of our sorority house, Delta Delta Delta. It was right after dinnertime so the dining room was full of people with coffee or tea chatting in the background of our conversation.

“Basically it’s kind of like marbles but we play with hazelnuts and my great-grandfather came up with it. We play with shelled hazelnuts. Everyone sits in a circle and you have your own little pile of hazelnuts which are like the ammo and in the center they spread them out, like a dozen or whatever, and then the kids all go around and take a turn throwing one of their hazelnuts from their personal pile at the ones in the center. If you hit one in the center then you get a quarter. Then as the game progresses there are stacks of quarters with a hazelnut on top that are in the center which are the jackpot pieces. When you hit the hazelnut off the stack of quarters, then you get the hazelnut plus the whole stack. So it’s pretty fun, I don’t know. You play it until you’re at bar or bat mitzvah age and then my grandpa is always the one that runs it all. His grandfather was the one that came up with the game. So we’ve been playing it for a really long time with the exact same hazelnuts. I don’t know how they’ve lasted this long, they’re 60 years old. It’s so gross. I was the only granddaughter until I was 12 so I always got some extra quarters tossed my way. It was always a fun game. When you’re a little kid, the Passover seder is so long to sit through. We would play the game right before dessert. So after the seder and dinner- it was something to look forward to. We always played on the basement floor of my grandparents house. It’s really bizarre. My great grandparents were born in Odessa, Russia. My grandparents were born here. My grandpa learned it from his father. I think it’s important to my grandpa that we keep playing this game. All the hazelnuts are the original hazelnuts, we don’t replace them with any new ones. My dad’s whole side of the family is Eastern-European and came to the US around the early 1900s. I didn’t know that other people didn’t play this game until I was pretty old. I truly had no idea, I thought everyone played this.”

Reflection: I am Jewish and grew up in Los Angeles going to Jewish day school. I have never heard of a tradition like this one, from my friends or family.

Childhood
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Cremer Family’s Passover Afikomen Tradition

Background: I had approached Hannah about telling me about her family Passover tradition that she had fleetingly mentioned at Shabbat Dinner at Hillel at the University of Southern California. She had talked about a hazelnut game for children during Passover that is unique to her family. Hannah goes to her grandparent’s house for the first night of Passover and celebrates the second night at her great-aunt’s house. She is from Illinois.

Context: I interviewed Hannah in the dining room of our sorority house, Delta Delta Delta. It was right after dinner so the dining room was full of people with coffee or tea chatting in the background of our conversation. After Hannah shared her family tradition of the hazelnut game (published under the title “The Cremer Family’s Passover Hazelnut Game”) I asked her if her family has any other family traditions for Passover. She then shared the tradition of individual afikomen.

“We all have our own afikomen. I don’t know when it… as long as I can remember there is always an afikomen for everyone to find. So like all the grandchildren have their own. Currently there are 9 different afikomen hidden with our names on them. They’re wrapped and we always get a $2 bill. That’s our gift for finding the afikomen. It’s wrapped in a napkin that has your name on it. My grandpa gives us $2 bills as the prize. I’m not sure who started this tradition. I doubt that it comes from my great grandfather. My grandparents hide the afikomen for us to find before we all come to dinner. If you find someone else’s you’re expected to put it back where you found it or pretend like you didn’t see it.”

Childhood
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Three Year Mountain Pass (삼년고개)

Story

 

The three year mountain pass (삼년고개/ sam-nyeon-go-gae) is a traditional Korean folk tale.

“Once upon a time, there was the three-year mountain pass. The mountain pass had its notorious name due to everybody that fell on these mountain passages only having lived three years after falling. One day, a grandfather, who was a lumberjack, was carefully treading the three-year mountain pass when a hare suddenly appeared, scaring the grandfather and causing him to fall. Once realizing that he fell on the three-year mountain pass, he fell ill knowing that he had only three-years left. As the third year became closer, the grandson asked the worrying grandfather what the worry was about and the grandfather explained his fall in the three-year mountain pass. Then the grandson replied: “Then if you fall there again you will three more years and if you fall once more, would you not live six?” After hearing his grandson’s input on the situation, the grandfather went to the three-year mountain pass and proceeded to fall numerous amount of times and lived happily ever after”

 

 

Context

 

I collected this from my high school friend who lives in Shanghai, China. Despite living abroad, I was amazed when I went over to his house because his bookshelf was filled with Korean children’s folktales. He stated in the interview that because he moved abroad to Shanghai at a young age of three, his parents feared that he would lose to ability to speak Korean or not be able to identify renowned traditional stories. So his father made sure to always buy books when he traveled back to Korea for business and carry them back in suitcases. Because he is the youngest child from both the maternal and paternal side of the family, he states that he has no younger cousins to give the books to so he plans to make sure his children read the same books as he did.

This story is significant to only only my friend, but to many people that attended Korean pre-school, kindergarten or elementary school, as the three-year mountain pass is one of the first stories children learn.

 

Analysis

 

The tale of the three-year mountain pass, promotes thinking outside of box. If it was not for the grandson looking at the problem from a different angle, the grandfather would have passed away due to being fixated on the thought of only having three-years left in his life. It can also be interpreted to think simple, as the simple mind process of the child was what was able to save the grandfather.

Additional interesting factors are that this is a tale that is intended for children but it is a story of a child saving the day, despite the lack of knowledge and wisdom. It can have a moral to parents of not completely disregarding the children’s input on a situation, as well as showing kids that its okay to have courage to say what they believe is right to their parents.

On a final note, the story also has themes of worrying about impending doom, as the grandfather lies ill for the three years. The story gives a moral of not wasting times worrying about the impending doom as although the grandfather laid ill for three years, there was no information about the three years, implying that they all went to waste due to there being no relevant information during the three years, other than the fact that he was ill, to show that the grandfather did nothing significant for years due worrying about a factor that he thought he could not influence.

 

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji (망태할아버지)

Mang-tae-gi

Story

 

Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji will come kidnap disobedient children!” (말 안 듣는 아이는 망태기 할아버지가 잡으러 온다!) is a phrase that makes all Korean children shiver in fear. Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji means grandpa (hal-a-buh-ji) of net bag (mang-tae-gi). The net bag was widely used during the pre-modern times and is made from weaving hay together like a net, making a tightly knit bag for carrying goods such as crops.

There are stories of the Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji kidnapping children either to scold them and return them back, never let them return or cannibalizing on them. It is commonly thought that the origin of the Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji is of old men that were leprous carrying the Mang-tae-gi bag. There was a belief of being able to be cured of leprosy through boiling and eating a child.

 

Context

 

I collected this from my mother, who has numerously used the name of Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji in the past in order to get me to become more obedient. This is significant to my mother has herself has also been subjected to this superstition by her own mother. My grandmother, despite being a devout catholic woman, made sure to track all superstitions to keep my then unborn twin cousins safe from harm. One of them involved giving the yet to be born child no pre-birth name (태명/ Tae-myeong) or intentionally giving them a very bad pre-birth name. This was because of the superstition of when one gives a good pre-birth names to children, evil spirits that are around, including Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji, will try to inflict harm on the good child. By downplaying the child through a bad pre-birth name, one is able to avoid the attention from these unwanted evil spirits. My twin cousins were given pre-birth names of Ddol-ddol-I (똘똘이) which means someone that is somewhat bright. Not the worst, but not good enough for evil spirits I guess.

 

 

Analysis

 

Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji can be compared to the Boogeyman, another mythical creature that is used to frighten children into good behavior. By instilling fear of disobeying, the parents can control the child much easier. However, despite using the name of Mang-tae-gi-hal-a-buh-ji to scare children, the parents themselves also take caution against the evil spirit by taken on traditions such as giving no pre-birth names or bad pre-birth names.

 

Childhood
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hello Operator Song

Main Piece:

“Miss Susie had a tugboat, the tugboat had a bell. Miss Susie went to heaven, the tugboat went to hell-o operator, give me number 9! And if you disconnect me, I’ll chop off your behind the refrigerator, there lay a piece of glass. Miss Susie sat upon it, it went straight up her ass-k me no more questions, I’ll tell you no more lies. The boys are in the bathroom, zipping up their flies are in the meadow, the bees are in the hive. Miss Susie and her boyfriend are kissing in the D-A-R-K! Dark! Dark! Dark! Dark! Dark is like a movie, a movie is like a show! A show is like a TV show and that’s not all I know! I know I know my Ma, I know I know my Pa! I know I know my sister with a 40 acre bra! My Ma gave me her nickel, my Pa gave me a dime. My sister gave me her boyfriend, who kissed me all the time. My Ma took back her nickel, my Pa took back his dime. My sister took back her boyfriend, and gave me Frankenstein. He made me wash the dishes, he made me sweep the floor. He made me clean his underwear, so I kicked him out the door! I kicked him over London, I kicked him over France! I kicked him into Hawaii where he learned to hula dance! So hello operator, give me number 10! And if you disconnect me, I’ll sing this song again!”

Background:

Informant is a first year student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Seattle, Washington. She learned this song at elementary school as a child.

Context:

The informant was telling me that she had a song from her childhood stuck in her head all day. I asked her which one she was referring to, and she then sang this.

Commentary:

This song was such a familiar piece of the informant’s childhood, and seemingly everyone who grew up around her also knew it. Additionally, some of the informant’s friends who did not grow up anywhere near Seattle knew this song, with maybe some slight variations, and even those who did not know this specific song had their own version with a similar rhyme scheme or tune.

 

Childhood
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Baby Jesus Bringing Christmas Presents

Main piece:

“We go to bed, and we have to go to bed early so that baby Jesus puts our biggest present under our bed. Yeah, baby Jesus puts the big present under our bed, that’s the big one. Like, if you wanted a GoPro, baby Jesus comes down and puts it under your bed. So you go to bed, and then the next morning is also exciting, so it’s a two day experience. So the 25th, we wake up… I usually wake up at like 5:30-6 to milk my cows, but before that I check under my bed, and like one of my happiest memories was getting a Wii, and I ran into my parents room and I tell them that baby Jesus brought me a Wii. And then that’s pretty much the day.”

Background:

Informant is a first year acting student at the University of Southern California. She was born in Medellin, Colombia, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at age 12 she moved to Paris and later Hong Kong. She spends her winter and summer vacations with her family in Colombia.

Context:

I asked the informant about how she celebrates Christmas, and this was her response.

When asked how she celebrates Christmas, the informant shared that in her family, the belief is that baby Jesus himself brings you one present, typically the biggest one you asked for, and he leaves it underneath your bed. She still said Santa brings other presents, but the biggest one comes from Jesus.

Commentary:

Unlike the typical belief that Santa Claus comes through the chimney and delivers all the presents under the tree, the informant added onto this and said that for her family in Colombia, baby Jesus himself is responsible for bringing the biggest or most important presents. Santa is still responsible for bringing other gifts (see also “Celebrating Christmas on December 24th”), but her family wanted to emphasize the fact that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus by having him bring the present that they most looked forward to. Christmas seems to get more and more commercialized each year, and this addition is a simple reminder of what the holiday is about at its core.

 

[geolocation]