USC Digital Folklore Archives / May, 2010
Material

Folk Object: Thimbles

Thimbles were once given by young men or boys to young women or girls to display their affection and feelings for them without proposing serious commitment or marriage. Thimbles could be regarded as toys or novelties. Deborah was first given thimbles by her grandmother. Later on when she was stationed in Korea, she started to receive thimbles as gifts from people because she expressed to them that she didn’t have much room and was living in a small apartment. She now owns over 350 thimbles in her collection. Her oldest thimble is from medieval times; her second oldest dates back to 1720. Deborah takes great pride in her collection and claims that she is just a beginner in comparison to other thimble collectors. It appeared that she had a story for each thimble. She feels that the history of thimbles helps one feel what women’s role in society was for the last three centuries.

I was unfamiliar with the expansive history of thimbles. It is fascinating that this folk object was used for more than protecting one’s fingers while sewing. Jewelry when given to a woman by a man was believed to be a serious commitment; when men wanted to demonstrate interest in a woman, but not make such a commitment, thimbles became the perfect alternative because at the time every woman would have known how to sew and would have done so regularly.

Annotations

The idea of thimbles as a folk object and novelty is documented in The Story of the Thimble, along with a history of the thimble.

McConnel, Bridget. (1997). The Story of the Thimble. Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing

Musical

Indian Folk Music

The ancient Hindu shloka (song) defines infinity. Shlokas are used far more frequently than any other meter in classical Sanskrit poetry. The traditional view is that this form of verse occurred to Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, on seeing a hunter shoot down one of two birds in love.

For example, the first verse of this song is that same shloka. Shekhar explained to me that music was learned in many parts of India but has been residing in Bangalore for the last 25 years. Chidananda Roopa Shivoham is a chant from Indian music historical culture. A lot can be written and said about music. Shekhar expressed that, “Music is life, especially Indian classical music. This chant brings peace to heart and mind.”

It is important to note that this meter is used in multiple ways: in poetry, in books, in music. Many composers, authors, and poets use the shloka meter, yet it is un-owned and instead belongs to the people. People find both creative and subtle ways of incorporating it into their piece of work. It is difficult for me to fully grasp the meaning and correct usage (if there is one) of shloka.

general

Holiday Tradition – Hungarian

Zsuzsa, who is originally from Hungary, told me about a Hungarian tradition that happens every year on Easter Monday. “On Easter Monday, boys and men go around town (door to door)—even to unknown people’s house—recite a poem which in fact said that “I have come along way, and I was wondering if I can spray you with perfume.” Then the hostess says “yes” and then they spray the person, and at the same time the hostess brings out a basket of painted and ornamented red eggs or sometimes chocolate. And then if the hostess knows the men or the boys, then she invites them in, and they treat the people with snacks and drinks and the drinks are such that by the end of the evening, the older men get really drunk because every place they went they got something to drink. The older version is that the boys go on to these visits with a bucket of water, and they actually get the girl into a conversation, and then they throw the whole bucket of water on the girl. Since it’s in April, the water is cold since it comes from a well, and the weather is still cold so sit’s quite a shock. Invigorating.”

Zsuzsa sent me a link to a video on Youtube showing this process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2B3oJBTyqY

She also sent me the text for a spraying poem:

“Kerek erdõn jártam
Kék ibolyát láttam.
El akart hervadni
Meg szabad-e locsolni?”

This is loosely translated to:

“I went round-woods
I saw a blue violet.
He wanted to fade
It is to be watered?”

Essentially, according to Zsuzsa, it basically says “Can I spray you?” at the end.

Zsuzsa and I discussed the origins of this tradition. She said the following: “My understanding is that this has to do with the spring festival. Interestingly, when I saw the video of the water throwing, is when I first realized that maybe they were throwing it at her crotch, so it reminded me that maybe the original meaning means to reinstate fertility and celebrate spring fertility. It’s probably been happening for hundreds of years. Hungary has a history of two thousand years, and this probably is a Christian tradition, and it was King Stephen who converted the whole country to Christianity in the year 1000, so we have a 2000 year history, with 1000 years of Christianity. Tradition has its origins in throwing water at each other because it has the idea of renewal in the spring with it, and that slowly changed to perfume throwing. The Biblical origin has that the soldiers were at Jesus’ grave and they were protecting the grave and the women who were around there. When the women saw that Jesus rose, the soldiers were trying to calm them by throwing water at them. Also, the red color of the eggs given out after the perfume spraying has to do with Jesus’ blood, and the coloring and painting of eggs is a worldwide tradition.”

We also discussed the differences between this celebration of Easter and other celebrations. “This is the modern version of what we call Easter Monday. In Hungary, Sunday is when people go to church, and Monday is the day when people socialize and go around with this spraying thing. The big difference I find between that and in the United States is that Easter Monday in the United States is such a regular day but in Hungary Easter Monday is a big holiday. People don’t go to work, they have the day off. And that’s what they go to do, they throw perfume at each other.”

In terms of personal experience with this tradition, Zsuzsa said: “It’s funny when you get that splash of perfume on you, and it’s stinky. Most of the time they use cheap perfume because they are going to use a whole bottle. As a child you start resenting the idea. People then visit for a long time, so the socializing aspect of meeting up with people…sometimes it’s the only time of the year you get visits from people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s the idea that you get so stinky that you really have to get a big shower and wash your hair at the end of the day because of the perfume smell.”

In terms of this tradition and traditions in general, Zsuzsa is usually “in favor of tradition. I like traditions, I like when people like to maintain and support and practice traditions, be that religious or whatever. I like it. And I’m not one who is good at maintaining or practicing them. So I really love that people do it, but if I had to make the effort I probably wouldn’t. If I were the guy I probably would not go and do it. But as a girl, because they do come to your house, you end up just preparing anyway. I love traditions, I love these cool ceremonies.”

Annotations

A website dedicated to Hungarian culture, called Hungarotips, has a separate page dedicated to Hungarian Easter traditions, including the spraying.

Lilla Hudoba. Easter Folk Customs in Hungary. Hungarotips. 28 April 2010. http://www.hungarotips.com/customs/locsol.html

[geolocation]