USC Digital Folklore Archives / Initiations
Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Groom’s Shoes

Collection: Indian wedding prank

During a discussion about Indian wedding customs, the informant described a common practical joke. There is a tradition in which the bride’s siblings steal the groom’s shoes. Consequently, the siblings set a price that the groom must pay in order to get his shoes back.

Context: This tradition is considered a practical joke as it is implemented at the expense of the groom. Practical jokes are especially apparent in weddings because the ceremony is a rite of passage.

 

Adulthood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

That Haldi Glow

Collection: Indian wedding substance – folk object

After a prior discussion about Indian weddings, the informant continued to describe the second day of the celebration.  In the morning of the second day, the couple is physically painted with haldi by the families. Haldi is also known as turmeric which contains cleansing qualities and produces a glowing effect on the skin.

Context/Interpretation:  The couple’s cleansing is both literal and symbolic. According to the informant, it is important for the couple to be cleansed by their families prior to the unification. The yellow haldi represents blessings, purification, and it is supposed to ward of evil beings.

 

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Red in Indian Weddings

Collection:  Indian wedding – significance of red

A: “What is the significance of red in Indian weddings?”

B: “ Well red symbolizes a married woman, so the groom spreads red tika called Sindoor on the bride’s hairline…Oh! And the bride wear red.”

A: “A red dress?”

B: “It can be a saree, salwar suit, or whatever she wants.”

Context/Interpretation: While different colors take on different meanings and degrees of significance around the world, red is almost universally used in the development of womanhood. Marriage is a defining moment of adulthood, specifically womanhood, in many cultures. Therefore, the red in Indian weddings stays consistent with the red symbolism.

Annotated Bibliography:

SmarterTravel. “So THAT’S Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Green Hat In China.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Jan. 2017.

According to the article, “Red is the most powerful of all colors in Indian culture and holds many important meanings.” In fact, red can convey fear, power, fertility, love, beauty, and more. More significantly, red is known to symbolize an Indian woman’s marriage through red henna, red sindoor, and her outfit.

 

Folk Dance
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sangeet Dancing

Collection: Indian wedding dances – bride’s side

The interview began with a broad opening question about Indian weddings. The informant went on to describe the two-day event. The first day is called Sangeet which takes place in a venue where a reception might take place. However, this portion of the event is before the official ceremony. On this first day, there are many different dance performances and skits from both sides of the family. Most of the performances are from the bride’s side to “show the groom what he is getting himself into…what kind of family that he is getting into.” There are dances for the sibling, aunts, children, friends, and more.

Context: Dances are performed by different sides of the family on different days of the wedding.

Interpretation: Folk dancing takes on many meanings, purposes, and forms. In India, the bride’s family dances to symbolize the joining of two families. The Sangeet dancing is almost an introduction to her side of the family.

Adulthood
Folk Dance
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Indian Dancing Ritual

Collection:  Indian wedding dances – groom’s side

During a discussion about Indian weddings, the informant mentioned that the groom is not allowed to see the bride before the ceremony. On the day of the ceremony, the groom and his family travel to the bride in an extravagant dancing parade which symbolizes him claiming her as his wife.

Context/Interpretation: Folk dancing is performed for various reasons, and in this case, the dance portrays a traditional action. Further, dancing at wedding is a pretty universal concept, however this dancing demonstration signifies a deeper meaning which the the initiation into marriage. This dance is rite of passage ritual.

 

Customs
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

TMB Band Name: Cumquat

While interviewing my informant, Audrey, I decided to document her Band Name. She got her Band Name from the upperclassmen of her section in the Trojan Marching Band (TMB). Audrey is a member of the Mellophone section. I asked her to perform her band name to me as if she were asked to “introduce herself” by another member of the band:

 

Killian, who was sitting near Audrey during the interview, chimed in to start her off just as he would when asking another band member to introduce themself: “Who are you!?”

 

Audrey: “Once upon a time my name is Cumquat.”

 

Killian: “Why?”

 

Audrey “Because I Cum Quat-ly.”

 

My informant would usually perform this Band Name/Joke ritual in a social setting with other members of the TMB. Sometimes she is asked by alumni of the band who are interested in hearing the new Band Names their section has come up with. Members of the band also frequently ask each other because they are often humorous or come with humorous jokes attached. It is also used to test the band Freshmen to see if their jokes are up to par with the standard set by current band members.

 

According to my informant, everyone in the band has a Band Name that they have been dubbed by their older section members. The Band Names are different in each section. Some sections give their members short names that function as traditional nicknames (example: “Egg”). My informant was mostly able to give me knowledge of how the Mellophone section names its members.

 

My informant’s section gave her a strange because they have to figure out how it applies to them/ what the other section members know about them. My informant is not entirely sure why she is dubbed ‘Cumquat.’ She knows that it’s a reference to the movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Other than that, she is unsure why the older section members decided to call her that.

 

Analysis

I have seen my informant introduce herself on many occasions with a few different Name Jokes. The particular joke she gave me is about average compared to the usual raunchy, outrageous jokes the section normally uses, although it requires a little more thought to understand. I think this is a good representation of how Mellophone Name Jokes usually are. I personally enjoy this social band tradition. Everyone has a name, so it’s fun to get to know all the members of the band just to hear them. The tradition of Band Names also further unties the band as one entity.

 

Adulthood
Initiations
Life cycle

Family Tattoo Tradition

Everybody in Nicolette’s family gets a tattoo of a bull when they are 18, because her last name is bull… but everybody’s bull tattoo is done in a different style that accurately reflects their personality.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Elbow Grease- Military Practical Joke

When Chuck was in the military, the higher-ups would tell the lower-ranking or newer soldiers to go somewhere and get them a tube of elbow grease. Elbow grease, of course, is not an actual thing. The more experienced, older soldiers and members of the military were in on this joke, it was a sort of initiation.

Adulthood
Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Zeta Tau Alpha Belt/Sash

Title: The Zeta Tau Alpha Belt/Sash

Category: Ceremonial Object

Informant: Lisa L. Gabbard

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 58

Occupation: Housewife

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/8/18

Description:

The sash/belt is made by the member being intimated into the Panhellenic sorority Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA). The sash is composed of nine alternating ribbons in the ZTA colors: turquoise blue and steel grey. The sash is worn around the waist and over a white petticoat. The ZTA sash is only worn during two occasions of a woman’s life: ZTA initiation and the woman’s wedding day.

Context/Significance:

Zeta Tau Alpha is a Panhellenic social and philanthropic sorority. They are best known for founding the “Think Pink” breast cancer awareness campaign. The ZTA sash is hand made during a woman’s initiation ceremony and is worn over an all-white petticoat. After the woman is initiated into the sorority the woman will keep the sash in her possession until their wedding day. On their wedding day, the woman will wear the sash once more underneath her wedding gown and over the white petticoat (if applicable) beneath the dress’s fabric. The woman will generally make a point of letting the sorority sisters present at her wedding know that she is wearing it and show them prior to the ceremony.

Personal Thoughts:

It is interesting to gather this sorority tradition from my mother since there is no record of ZTA ever being present on USC’s campus and very few of my friends would know about their traditions. Traditionally, as a member of a Panhellenic sorority, female members are required by secret oath to withhold all secrets and traditions of their respective sororities to death and never tell others of their secrets. Luckily, my mother and I do not hold these secrets between each other and she shared this story with me. I understand this ritual to be a “full circle” sort of deal from initiation (innocence) to marriage (maturity). She explained to me that this was a way for her to share her wedding with her “sisters” and still keep them close as she moved on to the next phase of her life.

Gestures
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Red Lady

Title: The Red Lady

Category: Folk Object

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

The “Red Lady” is a large red bong used by a select group of the theatre community at Trinity Valley High School in Fort Worth Texas. None of the students know the exact origin of the object, they believe that it was purchased by the school’s theatre department for use in one of their shows many years ago. The “Red Lady” has been passed down from senior to senior in the theatre department as the years have gone by. The “Red Lady” is given to a trusted member of the group and it’s their responsibility to care for and keep the secret of the object— While still maintaining its hiding place on school property.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller was fortunate enough to have earned the “Red Lady” her senior year of High School and was abel to share this story with me. She said she earned it because she was known for smoking marijuana and for being an excellent “chill” actress of her senior class. When it cam time for her to graduate, she then passed the bong down to a rising upperclassman.

 

Personal Thoughts:

We had something similar at my high school on the cheerleading team. The senior captain was in charge of the “spirit stick” all throughout the year and for maintaining the level of excellence that our team had achieved that previous year. I wound’t say a “sprit stick” and a bong are extremely similar, but they could be used as motifs to describe the same sort of seniority earned possession.

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