Category Archives: Adulthood

Coming-of-age, courtship, marriage, weddings

Kill Ritual: Hunter’s first Deer Kill

Main Piece: 

Informant- So whenever a young adult kills his first deer the group of hunters performs a blood tradition that celebrates the kill. After skinning the animal, the friends smear blood across the young hunter’s face. The young hunter is usually squeamish but accepts the honor of the tradition. Then the hunter must wear the blood with pride and wait for it to dry.”

Background: The informant learned this tradition when he first killed a deer and participated. He felt the tradition was an important moment to celebrate killing his first deer. Wearing the deer’s blood is a prideful notion. The tradition is important because it celebrates the hunting practice and is a rite of passage. The informant explains that the blood rituals express respect for the hunter and the animal.

Context: The tradition is usually performed by hunting partners to the hunter that has killed his first deer. The hunter is usually a young adult embarking on his first experience killing a larger animal. 

Thoughts: This tradition is a right of passage in the hunting community. It is a tradition that celebrates killing your first deer. This tradition circulates around the hunting community in many variations and changes from making the hunter bite into the deer’s heart or pushing his face into the deer’s guts. The ritual brings exclusivity to the group and ties them together with a bond of respect and honor. The ritual offers a way to give respect to the deer. The tradition can be dated back for many years and represents an initiation into the hunting world. This tradition is dated back to the 700s A.D as a tribute to St. Hubert. In this version of the tribute, the hunter received crosses with blood placed on his forehead and cheeks. This tribute gave thanks to the animal and celebrated the hunter.   

The Ritual of Grad Night

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (AT). 

AT: For high school graduation, either right before or right after you do your graduation ceremony, it’s usually sometime during that week… There’s this other, more casual ceremony called Grad Night, where you stay up all night with your classmates doing different things. It varies from school to school and year to year and stuff, like I know some schools do DisneyLand, but at my school, we went to LACMA after hours, and they literally took us to a bar! (Laughs) They only had non-alcoholic drinks though. We then went to a bowling alley… and… a comedy club… it’s honestly hard to remember at this point where exactly we went. We just stayed up going different places around LA.

LT: What’s the point of it? 

AT: No matter what you do, the point is it’s just that last time you’re all together as a class. Like ours was after graduation, and I remember watching people get picked up and just thinking “I might never see them again.” 

Background: 

AT is a twenty-three-year-old from Los Angeles, where she attended a private all girls high school. Like most private schools in LA, this school was known for having elaborate events, including Grad Night, so she had been waiting for her own ever since she first attended the school. In addition, AT says that due to the nature of her school being very small and all girls, Grad Night in particular is historically very emotional. She also says that Grad Night felt more ‘real’ than the graduation ceremony because it was more casual and “actually felt like we were just hanging out, and it’s where I said goodbye to a lot of people.” 

Context: 

AT is one of my relatives with whom I’m quarantining. This piece was collected in our living room as we were sitting at our kitchen table. 

Thoughts: 

I think Grad Night speaks to the greater idea Americans have of adolescence. There are countless American movies that take place during a character’s senior year or the summer after high school, symbolizing the end of their childhood. While some societies put an emphasis on aging and wisdom, our society values youth, and it depicts the transition into adulthood as being stark and not gradual, hence the need to fit in as many memories as possible before that youth runs out. Grad Night is a perfect and exaggerated example of this. High school graduation is arguably the most significant milestone in terms of becoming an American adult, and Grad Night is essentially put on by the school so the students can have their last chance at making childhood memories. We hold this belief that you can’t have fun once you grow up, so there’s an added importance to the end of high school to ‘live while you still can.’ 

For more background on the emotional significance of Grad Night:

Spicer, Susan. “12-14 Years: Grad Night.” Today’s Parent, vol. 27, no. 6, 06, 2010, pp. 148-148,151

Afikoman

Main Piece:

So a Jewish Tradition on Passover that we do is my dad will hide the Afikoman somewhere in our house. The afikoman is a few pieces of matzah bread wrapped in usually a cloth napkin. And after the seder dinner, my siblings and I would run around the house and try to be the first person to find it. It was and still is extremely competitive, and the first person who finds it gets some cash. But the cash was not even the important part it is definitely just a pride thing. But I believe the meaning behind it is kind of convoluted. I think the tradition was mostly created to keep kids engaged at Passover dinner, because it can be really long and boring depending on which one you go to. Like I don’t think most people our age still do this but it’s always been a big deal in our household and we have yet to grow out of it. But on the deeper level, it’s supposed to represent the Jews’ liberation from Egypt, and like despite the fact that we found freedom from that, we are still always searching for a deeper, hidden freedom yet to be discovered? Like I said, convoluted.

Background:

My informant is of Ashkenazi descent, and is a participant of Judaism. She grew up under Jewish parents and a household that practiced Jewish traditions from a young age- though not enforced, she definitely had exposure to the culture ever since she could remember. She currently lives in South Carolina, where Jewish American heritage has long history compared to other Southern regions of the United States. She also comes from a family of four children, her being the third eldest, and they’ve all been practicing Jewish traditions together. This sense of family, tradition, and rivalry amongst siblings definitely had a factor as to why her family kept this tradition of Afikoman alive, even though my informant is currently 19 years old, which is older than what most Jewish people would consider appropriate to practice this tradition.

Context:

My informant and I watched a 2019 film titled “Uncut Gems” together, a film starring famous Jewish American actor Adam Sandler. In the film, there is a scene involving this very tradition of Afikoman. Enticed by this foreign concept, I had asked my informant to explain what that tradition was. The conversation took place in the Uber ride on our way back from the theater, in a comfortable environment where the only outsider listening to us was the driver.

Thoughts:

Personally, I am a big fan of any traditions involving a ‘treasure hunt’ element. It adds so much engagement from participants, and it’s such a great tool to gather a large group of people. The tradition of Afikoman hunt has been a valuable one for my informant’s family, as it has been a source of entertainment and comradely amongst her siblings, and hearing about it was a great delight. With cash as the prize, I find no reason why her family should stop practicing this tradition.

Good Luck Shower at Bat Mitzvah

Main piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a phone conversation between the interviewer and the informant.

Informant: So when I was 13, is when I was Bat Mitzvah’ed. Like, coming into my womanhood or whatever. It’s a big deal that all Jewish girls go through. There’s an hour and a half long service, I read from the Torah, I chant my prayers, I wear a really pretty dress.

Interviewer: And you get to choose the dress?

Informant: Oh yes, and getting a dress you want is a big deal. I got to choose my own. Anyways, all of my family and friends are there and there’s a baller party after. But after the service, there is tradition that the congregation will “shower me with good luck and sweetness.” What that means is everyone in the synagogue throws gummy candy at me. It’s supposed to be a loving act but people usually throw to hard and it ends up hurting a little.

Interviewer: What kind of candies were thrown? And is there significance in the types of candies?

Informant: Not really, it was a random assortment of candies. I specifically remember Jolly Ranchers hurting the most, because you know, out of the gummies they’re the hardest. I got hit in between my eyes with a grape flavored Jolly Rancher, and I avoid that flavor even till this day.

Interviewer: Is there any bad intent in throwing these candies hard? Or is it strictly an act of showing blessings and kindness?

Informant: I think it comes out of good means. It’s just that anytime little kids and throwing any objects is involved, and especially when the target is your friend, they tend to get jokey and try to throw it hard. But it’s a light hearted prank, kinda like cake-facing someone at their birthday.

Background:

My informant is a 19 year old college student who comes from an Ashkenazi descent. She grew up in a family which practiced the religion, and she was exposed to the culture from a very young age. Her three siblings also practice the religion with her, and Judaism is a big part of her family tradition. She comes from a large family with plenty of Jewish relatives, so Bat Mitzvah for her was a big deal.

Context:

I was aware of the general concept of Bat Mitzvah, but I was never sure what specifically went down during the process. I had asked my informant to describe the most interesting thing that happened at her Bat Mitzvah, and this shower of good luck was her choice. The conversation happened over phone, where I was in Los Angeles (2:00 pm PST) apartment while the informant was in South Carolina (5:00 pm EDT) in her house, in her room.

Thoughts:

Learning about this tradition reminded me of how different cultures utilize candies to represent good luck. My mind went immediately to piñatas, Trick o’ Treat, and Easter egg hunts. Candies are sweet, and it’s that sweetness that makes humans associate it with good luck and a ‘sweet life’. Imagining being a 13 year old getting showered with candies by my loved ones, it definitely made me happy.

West Bengal Wedding Traditions

Context:

The informant – RB – is a middle-aged Hindu woman, originally from West Bengal, India. She now works as a nutritionist in South Florida, and is one of my mother’s closest friends. The following happened during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about some of her favorite Indian folklore, particularly about wedding traditions.

 

Piece:

Indian weddings vary from state to state. In my state, the wedding traditions are different from in our neighboring state. I was just at an Indian wedding. Our wedding is typically a four-day affair. What happens is, the day before the wedding, the groom’s family invites their own friends and family – no one from the bride’s side – because, apparently, that is the last bachelor meal the groom is going to have. So it’s a big deal. When I went, they had invited over 100 people, there was catered lunch… The groom was served on silver platters with all kinds of silver bowls… everything! It was like a big, big, deal: all the groom’s favorite foods. It was almost as if you were taking him for his last meal before you kill him or something. We give gifts to the groom… anyway, that is the day before the wedding.

The morning of the wedding, the groom’s family sends all kinds of gifts to the bride’s family. Clothes, jewelry, anything… It depends how rich you are and how much you want to spend.

The morning of the wedding, there are some rituals from the bride’s side. One ritual is turmeric. It is considered very auspicious and anti-inflammatory. In the olden days, there was no makeup or anything, so I think that’s how it started. That, what they do is put a little bit of oil and turmeric on the bride and groom’s face, then take a shower, so you glow on your wedding. I think that’s how it started because it’s all organic. And they put fresh turmeric, sandalwood, and oil into paint, and you put it on each other.

That evening is when the groom goes to the bride’s house and the wedding ceremony takes place. The groom does not come back that night. In our culture, the bride and the groom spend the night at the bride’s house, because the wedding takes place all night long. There is music and dancing, everybody stays up all night long.

The next morning, the groom brings the bride home to his family. So when he brings the bride home, it’s like a big welcoming ceremony, because the groom’s side of the family invites all their friends and family to meet the bride, and they welcome the bride to the house. They shower her with gifts – usually lots of jewelry. Gold is considered as an asset for the women, because women were not allowed to inherit property, so during the wedding, the father of the bride gives whatever value they would give to the son, equal amount value in gold to their daughter. So that’s how the ritual started. But now, not so much, since women are allowed to inherit property, and are now very independent and professional, so they don’t need that.

Then, again, there is a big lunch where they invite friends and family to meet the bride. The following day, typically, there is a reception. There is no ritual that goes on; typically you just invite five, six, seven hundred people… it is a huge affair, with catered food, but there is no alcohol served: never on the wedding or reception day. This is just for your friends and family to meet the new bride.

 

Analysis:

It is interesting to hear how much bigger an affair weddings in India are than they are here. It seems as though Hindus really value large social gatherings, and will throw huge social celebrations for holidays and occasions, like weddings. In fact, it seems that the point of many religious occasions is much more social than it is religious. I was shocked to hear that a typical Indian wedding consists of 500-1,000 guests. I feel that this is likely the result of a seemingly much more inclusive and accepting religion, that values socializing and lifestyle over religious and social boundaries.

 

A Polish Wedding Joke

Main Piece

QJ: “Can it be a dirty joke?”

Collector: “Yes.”

QJ: “A lot of the jokes I grew up with are kind of dirty…most Polish ones are…I think one that my grandfather would say asks what is long and hard that a Polish bride gets on her wedding night?”

Collector: “What?”

QJ: “A new last name.”

Analysis

This joke seems to be fairly popular among Polish people, and I have heard it beyond my informant. In fact, I have heard it outside of the realm of Polish culture, and have seen different ethnic backgrounds attached to it. It seems that many prideful Slavic people make light of their often long and hard to pronounce last names through jokes like these. Given my informant’s background for the joke and explaining that he heard ones like these growing up, I would also assume that his culture and family have more of an openness to tell dirty jokes in front of younger audience. Generally, it would seem that older people have more of a relaxed ability to tell jokes that otherwise would not seem appropriate. This joke also implies a patriarchal society, where a woman would receive something from her husband in any interpretation of the joke, but no jokes suggest the woman giving the man anything.

 

Determining Marriages from the Chinese Zodiac Calendar

Context:

My informant is a 55 year old woman that immigrated from China to America in her early 30s. She is a mother, a registered nurse, and also a teacher in nursing school. This conversation took place in a hotel one evening, and the informant and I were alone. In this account, she explains the significance behind the Chinese Zodiac calendar in relation how marriages or compatible partners are determined. I asked for the story behind this folklore because I know the Chinese zodiac calendar holds a lot of importance to the informant, for she has discussed it a lot with me in the past. She told me that she doesn’t remember how exactly she learned all of this; rather, it’s so integrated into Chinese culture and talked about so often that it almost seems like common knowledge that everyone will learn one way or another. Because her English is broken, I have chosen to write down my own translation of what she told me (while still trying to stay true to her performance), because a direct transcription may not make as much sense on paper as it did in conversation (due to lack of intonation and the fact that you cannot see her facial expressions or hand motions in a transcription). In this conversation, I am identified as K and she is identified as S.

 Text:

S: “In China, we have these zodiacs to, um, see what type of animal you are. For example, this year is the Year of the Pig, so everyone born this year will… have the Pig as their zodiac animal. I don’t remember exactly how it works, but, um, like, the Zodiac calendar lines up with the lunar year—everything we do and believe is connected to what point of the lunar year we’re at. So you can see why this zodiac calendar is so important. We even use it to, um, determine marriages. For example, if a person’s zodiac animal is a Chicken, they can’t marry someone who’s a Dog because chickens and dogs always fight in real life; symbolically, this means that these two, if they get married, will fight for the rest of their lives. Eventually, all of this fighting will break their marriage. Basically we turn to the zodiac calendar to look at, uhh, compatibility. Before Chinese people couples get married, they want to look at each others zodiacs and then look at this other thing called a ‘huang li,’ which determines which years and days they should get married.”

 

K: “Who else can’t get married?”

 

S: “I know that Pigs are considered perfect matches with Tigers, but, um, though I honestly can’t tell you why. I do know that Pigs, in Chinese culture, represent wealth, riches, and, like, will bring lots of happiness, so most people want to marry someone who’s zodiac animal is the year the Pig. People also want to get married the Year of the Pig, and especially want to have children the Year of the Pig.

 

Thoughts:

When I was a kid, my parents would always talk about our zodiac animals—my father is a sheep and my mother and I are rabbits. They would always talk about how their love was meant to be because, in the Chinese Zodiac calendar, sheeps and rabbits are considered perfect matches. Because it was so integrated into my childhood, I think I started to take on the characteristics and personality traits that were expected of a “Rabbit.”

After being told this folklore, I looked up what the expected traits of a Rabbit were, and the weaknesses include “timid” and “hesitant”—though I’ve grown out of it now, as I child, I rarely spoke to anyone because I was too nervous. Strengths of a Rabbit include being polite, generous, and responsible, which were all things that I was (and still am) known for among my family, friends, and peers. Because these traits of our Zodiac animals are so true to who we really are, it’s hard not to take these animals so seriously. As I’m getting older, the concept of marriage is becoming more and more relevant, so it’s natural that my Chinese parents, relatives, and the informant (who is also a Chinese relative) are starting to talk about my Zodiac in the context of marriage. Rabbits are apparently extremely compatible with most other Zodiac animals, according to my family, so perhaps that’s why they’re so confused as to why I’m not in a relationship yet/ thinking about marriage yet.

 

Hick’s Road Blood Albinos

Context: The informant was speaking of odd legends around her hometown, San Jose.

 

Piece:

Informant: Alright so, I’m from San Jose California, but specifically a small town called Almaden within San Jose, and there is this really famous road in San Jose called Hick’s Road and it’s famous because there is an urban legend… this is real, I’m not making it up… that the road is haunted and that there are blood albinos that live there. Basically there are these albino people that supposedly live there and who like suck people’s blood— like blood sucking albinos. And they’re supposed to live there. And when you live there you just like always hear about the blood albinos at Hick’s road and its supposedly really scary and people like die there and it’s like in one of the more rural areas and you drive there and there is just not a lot of stuff there and it’s kinda dark. Once you become a teenager it becomes kind of a rite of passage to like go with your friends and like brave Hick’s Road.

Collector: Do people actually die?

Informant: Like no! Not that I know of, everyone goes there and because you’re so scared you like imagine stuff.

 

Background: The informant, a 19 year old USC student, is from San Jose and has gone to Hick’s Road. The legend is part of her hometown’s dialogue and culture. It is a sort of rite of passage as a teenager to go to Hick’s Road.

Analysis: This legend is very reminiscent of vampires, but instead with blood sucking albino people. I have never heard albino folklore, so it is really interesting to see that the legend is basically a vampire story. The fearful nature of blood sucking and death that is part of the legend makes it perfect for a rite of passage. By going to the road as a teenager, as the San Jose folks do, you prove you are capable and that you are an adult. This also creates a bond amongst those who go together and those who have braved Hick’s Road, as if saying they are the ones who survived these legendary dangerous people. It is also important to note that she says the legend says that people die but then firmly states that no one has died from these creatures, indicating the liminal and truth questioning nature of legends. This site also attracts these locals in a way that resembles to ghost tripping but for the albinos that suck blood.

Berkeley Senior Steps

Context: The informant was reminiscing on traditions at her high school, Berkeley High in Berkeley, California. The senior steps were a major part of the folklore at her high school.

Piece: So in high school, there were these like these stairs, these steps with like a bench on them and we called them the senior steps. So like only the seniors were allowed to stand on them and if there was like a freshman or sophomore standing on the senior steps, people would like stare them down slash be like what are you doing on the senior steps? It’s inside of the school, and we actually had a meme page that has like 5,000 followers, ha weird flex, and like basically some sophomore actually a few weeks ago peed on the senior steps to like disrespect the seniors or something. And it was the biggest ordeal because like they’re just fucking steps and its like where the cool seniors eat lunch or meet up. Everybody knows the senior steps. And we had like rally day which is like once a year we dress up and everyone was drunk and high at school it was crazy and everyone was like yelling on the steps “Seniors, Seniors!”

I guess it’s just like a pride thing, and like I definitely like after three years of not being allowed you finally get to elevate yourself onto these brick steps. I didn’t really care but like a lot of people cared and like mind you these are gross steps like ugly and dingy. And like there was like tagged names or gossip written on the steps too. Ha it was so wack

Background: The informant, a 20 year old USC student, went to Berkeley High School, and experienced the tradition/rite of passage of the senior steps.

Analysis: This piece is a form of a rite of passage and ritual that was created surrounding these steps in her high school. The steps have become an honor that is bestowed upon seniors, as a form of status and privilege that they are entering the adult world. The steps create a hierarchy, showing that the school and consequently American society, pushes for the future and growth and moving up. In order to get to the privileges of the steps, you must work your way and finally get your status– which hows how the seniors will be leaving and moving into the future. The steps have been ritualized further by hosting the rally and the gossip markings, indicating its connection to school culture and spirit. The mention of more popular students being the regular utilizers of the steps indicates further this level of hierarchy ingrained in the culture of high school, and ultimately our society as Americans. By gaining the status, it serves as a stepping stone or rite of passage into the adult world.

Green Frog (Korean Story)

Background Info/Context:

I was a very energetic child, but when my little sister was born, I transitioned to become rowdy and disobedient. I didn’t want to do anything my parents asked me to do, and I was difficult for the sake of being difficult. As a 5 year old, my mom tried to get me to understand why she needed me to listen to her, so she told me this old korean bedtime story.

 

Piece:

Korean:

“옛날에 엄마말을 잘 안듣는 청개구리가 있었어요.

엄마 말은 안듣는 청개구리는 언제나 엄마말 반대로만 했어요.

그러다 결국 엄마는 병이 나서 죽게 되었어요.

엄마는 마지막에 청개구리한테

“내가 죽거든 나를 냇가(강)에다 버려주어라”하고 얘기했어요.

엄마는 산에다 잘 묻어주기를 바랬지만

반대로 강에다 버려달라고 말해야

산에다가 묻어줄거라 생각했어요.

엄마가 죽고, 말썽꾸러기 청개구리는 울면서 마지막 엄마 말은 꼭 지켜줄려고,

엄마를 강에다 버리고, 비오는 날에는 엄마생각을 하고 울어요.”

 

English Transcription:

Yet nah rae umma mal uhl an duhd nuhn chong gae goo ree gah ees sus su yo.

Umma mal ul ahn duhd nuhn chong gae goo ree nuhn uhn jae nah umma mal ban dae roo man hay suh yo.

Guh ruh dah gyul gook umma nuhn byong ee nah suh jook gae dae suh yo.

Umma nuh mah jee mak eh chong gae goo ree han tae

“Nae ga jook guh duhn nah rur nae gah (gang) aye dah buh ryuh joo uh ruh” ha go yeah gi hes uh yo.

Umma nuhn san aye da jal moot uh joo gi rul ba ret ji man

Ban dae ro gang aye da buh ryuh dal la go mal hae ya

San eh da ga moot uh jool guh ra sang gak hays uh yo.

Umma ga jook go, mal sung koo ruh gi chong gae goo ree nun ool myun suh ma ji mak umma mal uhn kok ji kyuh jool la go,

Umma lul gang aye da buh ree go, bi oh nuhn nal eh nun umma sang gak ul hae go ool uh yo.

 

Transliteration:

A long time ago mom not listen green frog there was.

Mom words not listen green frog always mom words opposite did.

But at the end mom sick got died.

Mom last green frog tell “i die my body riverbank throw away.”

Mom mountain well buried wanted

Opposite riverbank throw away tell him

Mountain bury think he will.

Mom die, not listening green frog while cry last mom words definitely listen,

Mom riverbank throw away, rainy day mom think about cry.

 

English Translation:

A long time ago there was once a green frog, called “청개구리” in Korea (pronounce chong gae goo ree) who did not listen to his mom. Everything he did was the opposite of what she would ask. The mom was getting seriously sick, and it was almost time for her to die. So the mom has to tell her last words to the green frog, and she wants to say that when she dies, she wants to be buried well in the mountains. But she was afraid that her green frog wouldn’t listen, so she told him the opposite. At the end of her life, she told him, “When I die, you can throw me in the nearby riverbank.” So once his mom died, green frog was so regretful that he always did the opposite of what his mom asked, he decided to listen to his mom’s last words. So he really just threw his mom’s body away in the river. He was so sad and regretful, so when it rained, the green frog would cry at the river.

 

 

Thoughts:

I think this is a really sad story, and I used to cry when my mom told me about the Green Frog. The narrative takes a bad “habit” that many children can empathize with, and shows a dramatic consequence that the green frog has to face. The story acts as an indirect warning to children to listen to what their parents or authority figures in their lives, even if they don’t want to. Respecting elders is a large part in Korean culture, and this story is an engaging way to teach that lesson to children.

 

For another version of this story read the children’s book, “The Green Frogs” (1996) by Yumi Heo.