USC Digital Folklore Archives / February, 2011
Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Festival – India

“During the beginning of the year or the beginning of winter, usually in January, there is festival called Makar Sankrant, it’s the first festival of the New Year. It falls on the 14th of January. It follows the Sun’s northward journey. Because its winter, you make sweets from sesame and jaggery, which is a more concentrated form of sugar. Sesame is a very warm seed, it creates heat in your system. This festival is always known as the festival of friendship. You give the sweet to your friends, or if people come to your house, you say “Tir gur gya, gode gode bola,” which means have this sweet and speak sweetly or be sweet. Typically, in Gujarat and Maharashtra they fly kites as well, during the festival. The festival is celebrated itself on January 14th but the people celebrate it even before, similar to how people are in the Christmas mood before Christmas Eve.”

It seems like this is the Indian celebration for the winter solstice, since this falls around the end of the winter solstice. Also, I feel like this isn’t a very elaborate festival since, from my mother’s description it only calls for the exchange of sweets and repeating a phrase. There are similar festivals that take place at the same time in other places in India, which are probably the same festival but just celebrated a bit differently due to regional differences. To me, it looks like the festival serves more as a time for people to get together and get into a holiday spirit.

Foodways
general

Recipe – India

“Puran Poli is a stuffed sweet bread, that is flat. First you cook the lentil, pigeon pea, which is called Toor Dal. You first cook it and add jaggery, and then cook it some more. You put a little nutmeg in it too. The stuffing is called Puran. Then, you make dough from self-rising flour, fine wheat flour. Then you add oil and water to the flour so that makes the dough kind of sticky, and knead it enough to make it nice and soft. Keep it for about 3-4 hours so that the liquids soak in nicely, and that it comes together properly. Then make small balls of the balls of the dough, flatten it a bit. Then take another small ball of the stuffing, and cover it with the dough, sort of like a dumpling. Then take lots of dry flour, and roll the dumpling of the dough and stuffing flat and thin. Make sure that the stuffing doesn’t ooze out, that’s why you need lots of flour. Then, on a flat pan, cook it till one side puffs up, then flip it over and cook it till it’s evenly brown on both sides. Eat it warm, with ghee, which is clarified butter.”

This is typically eaten during Holi, which is the festival of colors. It represents spring; it’s supposed to invite spring. It generally happens during March or April. My mom learned the recipe from her mom. They used to make this a lot in her, and she said she used to just love it and eat it as often as she could. She used to eat this as a snack after school, and would even eat it cold with lots of ghee. This is a difficult dish to make, so it would be made once a year and they would make a lot of it. It’s a difficult process and takes a lot of effort, so my mom doesn’t make it very often. When she goes back to India she brings Puran Poli back to eat. Nowadays, it is made readymade for people to buy and eat anytime. Before, people just used to make it in their own homes.

I actually had no idea that Puran Poli was supposed to be eaten during the Holi festival. I never associated it with a certain time of the year, and don’t remember being told that it was supposed to be eaten during Holi. I knew that Puran Poli was a treat to eat and that I didn’t get to eat it that often, and if my mom made it, she made a lot at one time. Now whenever someone goes to India, usually one of my parents, they bring back lots of Puran Poli because it’s easy to find and buy in large quantities. Since I don’t know much about Indian customs and traditions, I am just going to agree with my mom that it probably is supposed to be eaten during Holi.

Customs
Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition/Festival – Japan

“Every year, my family goes to the Buddhist Temple in Nuuanu, for this thing called Obon, which is in July. So, the Japanese belief is that during this period, which is around a week, the Obon season, Japanese people believe that the spirits of their ancestors are walking the earth. We have services at the Buddhist Temple. We burn incense, pray to all members of our family that are deceased. The monks chant a Sutra to Amitabha Buddha (from the Pure Land school of Buddhism). There are also Obon dances that the temples sponsor; different temples hold the dances at different times. There is traditional Japanese music, and people will dance, it’s very strict and there are concentric circles of people. There’s a certain pattern to the dance, you just learn the pattern and go in and do it. For one dance, there’s a big festival, with food tents and everything, things that are basically sponsored by the temples. There are also lanterns that are supposed to guide the dead, help them find their way back.”

Matt told me that the purpose of the Obon season was to pay respect to the relatives that have passed away. He goes to the temples for the services, out of respect for his family and deceased family members like his grandfather. He said that his grandfather died before he was born and that his family has been taking part in the Obon season since before he was born. He also said that he doesn’t know if he would continue to take part in the Obon season since it’s a lot to coordinate, getting the family together. He said that he knows about everything involved with the Obon season and knows what is supposed to be done, but doesn’t exactly know what every part means.

I agree with Matt’s analysis of the Obon season, since it is the commonly accepted reasoning behind the festival. There doesn’t seem to be any alternate meanings or purposes for the festival, but from the way Matt described it as being widespread and at various different locations, it might have also become a cultural event for people who aren’t Buddhist or Japanese. He said there are dances all over the place and some dances have food tents and things like that, so the Obon season or at least the dance part of the Obon season probably has attracted more than just people who are there to pay their respects to their relatives.

Annotation: This festival is cited in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin which is a newspaper in Honolulu.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Dancing for The Dead. 29 May, 2004.

<http://starbulletin.com/2004/05/29/features/story1.html>

Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Festival – China

“There’s this Chinese festival called Qingming, where you go to the gravesite once a year and pay respect to the dead. It happens around Chinese New Year. We do it for my “Po Po” and “Gong Gong”, my great grandfather and great grandmother. We have to put incense around the graves, in groups of three, because there is something spiritual about the number 3. Also, we set up a little table, a low one, so you can kneel and we make offerings to different spirits, one of them is the gatekeeper. You have to have certain types of foods, weird foods like fish heads and things like tea and wine. We also bring a large 55 gallon tub, a metal barrel, and we start a fire in there. We burn what is called hell money, which is fake money with pictures of the devil and some other perverse things on it. Afterwards, my whole family goes to this Chinese restaurant Hee Hing that we always eat at. Anytime my family gets together, we always eat there. We started doing this when my great grandmother died. This is way too much work, and my family is becoming less connected, and we don’t get together as much. I don’t think I will continue to do this.”

For Matt, the Qingming festival is when he and his family tend the graves of their ancestors and perform the necessary ceremonies. I was able to do some research and the Qingming festival is pretty much what Matt said it was. It is a Chinese festival that is meant to pay respects to the dead and calls for their relatives to tend to their grave sites. It also seems that the Qingming has become a large family event for Matt, sort of like a reunion, where he and his relatives get together and eat and spend time with each other.

Annotation: This is documented in the New York Times.

NewYork Times. For Visitors, Graveyard Holds Memories of a Bloody Era. 10 April, 2006.

<http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/10/world/asia/10china.html?scp=3&sq=qingming&st=nyt>

Folk speech
general

Folk Slang – Whitney High School, Cerritos, California

Supposedly, one day in AP Biology, a guy in my class who said “Kirr the Rorrie Porries” instead of Kill the Rolly Pollies. From then on, we started switching some of our L’s and R’s. We called it Rorrie Porrie. We would sometimes say raptop, instead of laptop. Things like that. We later found out that Eric (the guy who started Rorrie Porrie) never actually said “Kirr the Rorrie Porries” but someone thought it would have been funny if he did, and just told other people that he did. The class above ours has started a language called Tabish that was more elaborate and had actual words that were created for the language. Rorrie Porrie on the other hand just involved modifying English words. It didn’t spread very far, there was only a small number of people out of the entire class that would speak Rorrie Porrie. But, within my group of friends and some other people who I wasn’t friends with, we would sometimes just start talking in Rorrie Porrie. Sometimes it even happened when we weren’t trying to, which just made it funnier and perpetuated it. I don’t know about other people, but my friends and I do still occasionally break out in Rorrie Porrie just because of habit or to joke about high school, although most of the time we just speak normally.

Folk speech
general

Folk Slang – Whitney High School, Cerritos, California

“Tabish was a language created by a group of kids who called themselves, and were later known, as Tabes. The language was created so that they would be able to speak without anyone else knowing what they were saying. It eventually spread throughout their entire class and into mine, which was a year younger.”

A few words, meanings, and examples in sentences

Toig: This word meant hot or cute.  “That girl was toig”.

Maje: This word meant really or very. Pronounced like the first part of major but without the ending Maje could be put to the beginning of almost any word. “That girl was maje toig.”

Wah: This word meant ugly. “That girl was wah.”

Oh Yesh: This pretty much meant “yeah, right” or something to that effect. “ Oh Yesh you got into Harvard.”

Et Tu: This came from “Et Tu, Brute” and just meant to stab someone in the back. “ I got et tu-ed” or “You et tu-ed me”. You could even call someone an Et Tu.

Stadts: This word came from the name Hofstadter, who was an author of one of our books for the AP US History class. This pretty much meant to have gotten screwed over or done poorly on a test or something. “I got stadted.” “That test was stadts” or just “Stadts” which could be a response to a question.

C: This was pronounced like the letter C. Referred to Chinese people.

Iconnex: This referred to Indian people. The story behind this is that supposedly, all Indian people are connected to each other in some way or another or just all know each other.

Noid: This just meant nerd. “Haha, what a noid.” You could even change someone’s name to include the word, such as Justine becoming Noidstine.

Eyyyyyyyyyy: This was a common greeting. “Eyyyyyyyy.”

Yeah man sure: This was a common reply, somewhat analogous to “Oh yesh.”

Chiquites: This word meant small, could be what you call a short person. “Eyyyy, chiquites”

Dyome: I think this meant a cool person, or someone who tried to act cool. I am not too sure. “What a dyomes.”

Pabbed: This word meant screwed or owned. “Damn I got pabbed” “Got pabbed” was a common phrase that was thrown around when something went badly.

I went to a small high school where most of us were what would be classified as nerds. In my high school, there was a guy who was known as Kool Karl from the class of ’06, which was the class one year ahead of mine. Apparently, he was the one who created the language we all called Tabish when he was an 8th grader, when I was in the 7th grade. He was a Tabe, along with all the other people from that class who were instrumental in creating Tabish. It spread throughout the class of ’06 and ’07, even into the other classes. There was even an article about it in my school newspaper, and many teachers new of the language and what some of words meant. The language was created as a way for the Tabes to be able to talk amongst themselves without any other people knowing what they were saying. Basically, the language consisted of words that made it easier to talk about other people without them knowing, but it became a staple of my high school for a couple of years and eventually wasn’t able to perform its main function, which was to create privacy. Even though there were a lot of people who used the language, there were a lot who didn’t. The class that was two years ahead of mine didn’t use the language very much, while a large number of people in the class that created the language used it. The language was also relatively widespread in my class, with fewer using the language in the class younger than mine. Apparently, around 200 words were created; I can’t recall most of them, and actually didn’t even know that there were that many words. I’m pretty sure that the language has pretty much died out now in the school, but I haven’t been back to check. Although, some of my friends and I still use it sometimes when we talk amongst ourselves, and I’m sure that some members of the class of ’06 still do as well.

Foodways
general
Holidays

Recipe – Korea

“To make seaweed soup you need a large tub of water, with actual seaweed, not dried seaweed, beef stock, and a little bit of salt. Boil that for about 5 hours. That’s about it. Maybe toss in some tofu or some onion leeks, chopped up, that’s if you have them.”

Phillip told me that, since his mother is Korean, she makes this dish every year for the Korean New Year, or just the Asian New Year, because he wasn’t very sure which one it was for since he is also part Chinese. Every year, his family gets together to celebrate the New Year for dinner and one of the dishes prepared is seaweed soup. He said that, typically, Koreans will make a fancy dish instead of giving out red letters that contain money. Sometimes clothes are given as well during the New Year. Phillip believes that the reason special meals are prepared for the Korean New Year instead of money being given out is because New Year’s celebrations aren’t that big of a deal for Korean people. He said that he personally hates seaweed soup, and that he would prefer money, or at least a better dish, because seaweed soup is really nothing special. The reason that seaweed soup has become a traditional dish in his family is because when his mother lived in Korea, her family did not have much money and the best that they could come up with was the seaweed soup for New Years. Phillip thought that it was actually really depressing, that his family still makes such a simple dish that reminds them of a time when they didn’t have money.

From my view, it seems logical that the reason that the reason such a simple dish is made every year for Phillip’s because his mother’s family did not have much money back in Korea. Seaweed soup seems like it is a very simple dish, and it doesn’t seem to have much significance or any special connection to the new year as Moon Cakes do for the Chinese Moon Festival.  This is also supported by the fact that the rest of his family’s New Year celebration isn’t very elaborate, and doesn’t include the exchange of clothes or money. His family must have just continued to celebrate the New Year in the same way as they did in Korea as a result of habit.

general
Material

Folk Object – Russia

“It’s a silver ring. Through the generations, one male in the family is given the silver ring, and they are supposed to make a new design for it. It will be melted down and made into the new design.”

Phillip said that the ring has been passed down for many generations, and the tradition started in some village in Russia. It doesn’t matter if it’s the oldest son or the youngest son; one of them will get it and will pass it down. The tradition is from his father’s side of the family, since his mother is Korean. The ring Phillip made is a spin ring, with a maze design on it, it has no exit. The ring is passed down when the boy is 18 years old, sometime when they are 18, it doesn’t have to be their birthday. Phillip thinks that the way the tradition of melting the ring down and making a new design started was that a relative just messed up the ring and couldn’t remember how to make it again. But, now the tradition is supposed to symbolize the person (who is given the ring) forging his own path. This has been going on for a few hundred years, with pretty much the same piece of silver. They have had to add more silver every so often, because some metal gets lost in the process of melting and creating a new ring. Usually there have been Jewish symbols on the rings, like a Star of David since Phillip’s father’s side of the family is Jewish. Phillip put a Greek maze, a labyrinth; because he want to show how complex he is and doesn’t really feel that it was important for him to put a Jewish symbol on the ring side. He doesn’t really know if he will continue the tradition since it’s not that important to him.

From what Phillip has told me, I agree with his interpretation of the tradition of handing down the silver ring in his family. It probably did just start out as a ring that displayed a Jewish symbol, since his ancestry is Jewish on that side of his family, that was being passed down through the generations. And, from my point of view there is a high possibility that someone who received the ring did just mess it up and wasn’t able to remember what the design was, causing them to remold the ring with a new design, starting the tradition of handing down the ring and remolding it every time it was given to the next generation. The supposed meaning of the new owner of the ring forging his own path through remolding the ring was probably adopted somewhere down the line when it had already started to be remolded every time it was passed down.

Customs
Foodways
general
Holidays

Family Tradition

“Every St. Patrick’s Day, we have corned beef and cabbage. It’s been a tradition in my family for years, and I plan carrying that tradition on into the future.  We roast the meat with potatoes and carrots and then add the cabbage. It’s also served with mustard.  You begin roasting the meat in the morning, and it’s usually done in the afternoon when our entire family gathers to eat it. Additionally, the “leprechauns” come during the day sometime to mess up a room in the house.  As a kid, my parents and aunts and uncles used to do it for all of us children, but now that I’m older, we do it for the kids.  It basically represents the leprechauns trying to find a pot of gold amongst our stuff, and after they “find” it, they leave a trail of money or gold coins as they escape. Once it’s all done, the kids of course have to clean up the mess, but get to keep their ‘gold.’”

Summer told me that she doesn’t know exactly how the tradition started, since her family is Swedish, not Irish. I think it probably just started as a tradition for the kids, which Summer said. It was supposed to be a fun event for the kids, so that they could go on a hunt to find gold coins or whatever treasure that is left for them. The tradition is probably also a way for their family to get together and enjoy each other’s company. The tradition of corned beef and cabbage was probably included because it is the traditional meal that many people prepare for St. Patrick’s Day, because it might have just been a more “authentic” meal to mark the occasion.

Folk Beliefs
general

Folk Belief – Nigeria

“In Nigerian culture, fish in a dream is usually a very significant image. If you have fish in a dream, and no one is eating the fish, then it’s fine. It could mean the something might happen or something, but no one will really get hurt. If there’s a fish, and people are eating it, that means that something is wrong and someone might possibly die. If there are fish bones, then that means that someone is going to die, but that person won’t know they are going to die.”

Tobi said that she heard about the significance of fishes in dreams from her mom, but doesn’t recall the first time she heard about fish being significant images from her mother. She said that the night before someone died, her mom would have a dream about fish being the main course at a party or some other function, and that it was usually fried fish. She recalls one instance in particular that she remembers her mom waking up in the middle of the night one time, with a dream about fish. Her mom told her and her siblings that they should be careful. The next morning, her father’s professor’s wife passed away from breast cancer that she had tried to keep hidden. I asked Tobi whether she believed that there was a connection between images of fish in dreams and the events that happen after them, to which she very emphatically replied yes.

To me, it’s a very interesting belief, and though it has obviously manifested itself for Tobi, I don’t think I would associate any dream I have of fish with the events that happen after it. It seems like fish have an important part in Nigerian culture, probably because it is one of their few sources of protein. That can actually hold power over ones mortality. However, I am a bit less likely to start believing in the significance of fish in dreams, most likely because I haven’t personally witnessed many, or any, instances where a Nigerian person has a dream about fish. Another reason I am a bit less likely to believe is that most people can’t recall every dream that they have in full detail, whether there was a fish that was being eaten, was just present, or if there were bones in the dream. Also, I would ask what happens if a non-Nigerian person dreams about fish, whether that holds the same significance.

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