USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Baby’
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Magic
Signs

“If you eat a double cherry when you’re pregnant, you’ll have twins.”

The informant, then twelve years old, first heard this phrase from her uncle, whose wife was pregnant at the time.  Her uncle and aunt were gathered with the family and announced their pregnancy.  Later after dinner, the family was eating cherries together and was discussing whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, when the topic of twins came up.  The informant’s uncle saw her aunt eating a double cherry and said, “Did you know that if you eat a double cherry while you’re pregnant, you’re going to have twins?”  My informant doesn’t really believe that this is true because she does not believe in superstitions, although it is a superstition that everyone in her family likes to joke about, because it also happened to come true.  Her aunt ended up giving birth to twin girls six months later.  This is why the informant likes to retell the tale, because it makes the superstition much more mysterious and believable when it actually comes true.

I believe this superstition is highly unlikely to be true because the events are completely separate, and that the informant’s story just happened by coincidence.  However, superstitions are always driven by the chance occurrences that happen to confirm them, making some people believe that they’re true while they may completely be random happenings.  I believe the informant tells the story only to joke around, poking fun when pregnant women are around.  The superstition is so seemingly arbitrary that people tend to believe that nobody could possibly create such a fantastical story up, so it must have some sort of truth behind it.  This is how the superstition of double cherries is spread and dispersed.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Magic
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Russian Folk Beliefs: Baptism Rituals

Interview Extraction:

Informant: “At least in the old times, you are having a baby- I mean you had a baby, right? And before the baby is baptized in that period like, nobody is supposed to see that baby because you know like, evil people or evil spirits can kind of be attached and stay with the kid forever. So, like usually if you have the baby on the stroller it would be covered with something. Or just only parents and relatives would be able to look at the baby or play with the baby. But after the baby is baptized it means that the baby is protected.”

Analysis:

I have heard of this superstition before in a pervious class where I researched Russian folklore, though I thought it was interesting that my informant explained that  the tradition of covering the baby before it’s baptism is no longer done.  The reason why this tradition is no longer done in Russia, except in highly religious families, probably has something to do with the fact that the Soviet Union discouraged the practice of all religions, not just Christianity.  The Soviet Union policy on religion comes from Marxism-Leninism ideology which pushes the idea that religion is idealist and bourgeois, which lead the Soviet Union to adopt atheism as the national doctrine of the USSR.

The ritual of not showing the newborn baby to anyone before the baptism to protect the child from evil spirits is also an interesting idea.  This is because this shows a blending of Christian and pagan beliefs, which is also known as ‘double belief’.  The Christianization of Russia occurred during the mid 10th century, and instead of replacing the Slavic pagan beliefs, the Russian peasants saw this new religion as something to add on to their old religion.  Russian superstitions today still feature customs and beliefs that are a mix of the Christian and Slavic pagan beliefs, which can be seen the the Russian baptism ritual.

My informant was born in 1977, Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia).  On completing her undergraduate education in Moscow, she moved to California to earn her graduate degree in theatrical design from Cal State Long Beach.  She now works as a faculty member for the USC School for Dramatic Arts.  She became a US citizen in 2012.

general

“Never say no when asked to hold a baby.”

Informant: Brittney Bang
Nationality: Korean
Primary Language: English; Other Language: Korean
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Westwood, Los Angeles

“Never say no when asked to hold a baby.”
My friend, Brittney, has a boyfriend who is El Salvadorean. She first heard this saying from her boyfriend’s mother, who told her that it is terribly bad luck to say no when asked to hold a baby because the baby will get sick. She had always believed in this saying, ever since someone refused to hold her son, and he was hospitalized for a week afterward due to a serious illness.
Superstitions are common in Hispanic cultures, and the mom seems to be a firm believer in the idea that certain actions can influence luck. Family is also considered extremely important in Hispanic culture, so it makes sense that refusing to hold someone as innocent as a baby can be said to bring bad luck.

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Life cycle

Blue For Boys, Pink For Girls

This piece of folklore is something that is widely known across the country, if not the entire world. My informant is a pregnant woman, and works and lives in the Los Angeles area. When asking her about folk practices that she takes part in regarding her baby during pregnancy, she said that she is waiting to find out whether it is a boy or a girl so she can find out whether to paint the baby’s room pink or blue, get it pink or blue blankets, or get it pink or blue clothing.

When I asked my informant where she got this notion of baby boys being ‘blue’ and baby girls being ‘pink’, she simply said “it’s everywhere”. We all have grown up in a society where that’s just how it is. Popular culture, magazines, movies, and more all exhibit that this is just how it is and how it’s always been.

“The other day”, she said “I was watching the sequel to Father of the Bride”, and they were creating the baby’s room. She was going to be a girl, and they showed the room and it was “all pink, pink walls, pink furniture, pink stuffed animals, pink everything!” she said. It got her thinking about it, and solidified the fact that she would have to do this for her child if she wanted it to have a ‘normal upbringing’.

When I asked her how she believed that this notion and tradition started, she just said that it’s probably in human nature. Blue looks like a more masculine color, and obviously, pink is feminine she said. When I asked her why blue and pink rather than any other colors, she said that she wasn’t sure. “Maybe they’re just the most inherently masculine and feminine colors” she said.

I believe that this tradition started because, like my informant said, blue and pink are the most inherently masculine and feminine colors there are. I remember reading of a study saying that men are more naturally attracted to blue, while women are more attracted to pink. I believe that this tradition stuck on, and is now a big part of our popular culture and traditions of a baby.

Annotation: Father of The Bride Part II (1995), Movie.

Game
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Humor
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Happy Flaw” Game

“There’s something called your “happy flaw.” It’s a Gaelic thing. There’s a word for it in Gaelic and it loosely translates to “happy flaw.” It’s a game you play when babies are born. Sometimes you do it at the baby shower but you’re not really supposed to do it before the birth. You do it either at the birth or at a big gathering. You’re supposed to do it when you’ve met the baby. Modern people do it at baby showers, which sort of defeats the point.   

When the baby is born, they have a party. Um, it’s really soon after where everyone comes and everyone gets to interact with the baby for a second. At the end you all guess what the baby’s happy flaw is going to be. It’s a characteristic that is going to make the person successful but also make it unhappy. For example, mine is curiosity. I mean, everyone guesses something different, but that’s what my Gran guessed for me. And let me tell you, she is the champion of it. She maintains to this day that she was right. It’s a compliment but it also gets you into trouble. And, um, yea, so basically you all guess and it’s a matter of pride if people think you are right. It isn’t something you can actually win. It’s something you tease people about later in life because people like to tease the fuck out of you in Ireland.

I’ve been to them and I’ve done it. I’ve never been right so far. It’s a reason, like, for example, people can bring it up to remind you or remind everyone else that they’re right. My Gran will always say this phrase that means “curious until death and even then,” which is a Gaelic phrase. It’s sort of teasing. It means even if it kills you, you’re not going to change. It’s endearing but it’s also kind of offensive. It’s a little at everyone’s expense when you’re older because everyone will always be right and then bring it up.”

 

This game sounds like a wonderful idea and much more meaningful than many of the traditional American baby-related games that I have heard of or partaken in. The game clearly stems for the well-known Irish sense of humor; the point of the game is simultaneously kind and cruel. It also serves the purpose of helping family members and friends to form a connection with a child from the outset. By guessing a child’s happy flaw, you are forming a bond with the child and saying that you will watch the child grow up. The happy flaw is something that you can bring up in conversation with the child as he or she grows up. It’s a way to keep you close to a family member or a friend’s kid, even if you don’t get to see them that often.

I also found it interesting that the informant told me that modern, Americanized versions of this game are often played at baby showers, before the child is born. She was very dismissive of this variation of the game because it doesn’t make sense to her, since the point of the game is to interact with the baby before you choose a happy flaw. This variation shows how folk traditions can change as they are blended into other cultures (in this case, incorporating the rather American practice of a baby shower with the Irish happy flaw game) and the informant’s opinion of this variation shows how there can be resistance to such cultural conflations.

 

Folk Beliefs
general

Baby Beauty Stealers

Carey Cook

Kingwood, Texas

April 11, 2012

Folklore Type: Folk Belief

Informant Bio: Carey Cook is married to my cousin, Debbie Richter Cook. He is half American and half Australian. He is very sarcastic and funny.

Context: I had flown home for Spring Break the evening before we drove almost an hour to my Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank’s to see Carey, Debbie, and their new baby Ashley. As Ashley was amusing herself with some suspended toys, I asked Debbie what some of the things she got told when she was pregnant were. Carey chimed in, in the middle.

Item: If you start to break out it’s cause she is robbing you of your beauty.

Informant Analysis: He laughed, and said I dunno (shoulder shrug).

Analysis: Clearly, Carey did not pay much mind to his comment other than the fact that he thinks it is funny. Especially because he knows our family is notorious for horrible acne which my cousin is not exempt from. What underlies this possible folk belief or saying is that there are stories where mothers or step-mothers are angry because their beauty is fading as their daughters’ is growing. This is the process known as aging, but some women do not want to accept that. So the answer is that their daughter must be stealing their beauty for themselves. This folk belief is actually a reflection of women’s struggle to accept how they look as they age.

Annotation: There is a book called Beauty by Nancy Butcher where the main character’s mother, the queen, is so obsessed with being the most beautiful she rounds up all of the young girls in the land including her daughter and puts them in an academy where the teachers give them drugs so they lose their minds and learn that ugliness is beauty. The mother also uses potions and other concoctions to maintain her youth and beauty. In the end the main character confronts her mother and with some bad mixing of poisons and concoctions the mother dies, and it is hinted her beauty gets transferred to her daughter.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

Folk Beliefs
folk metaphor
Folk speech
Proverbs

Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten

German Proverb: “Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten”

Direct Translation: “Pour the baby out with the bath”

Common Translation: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water”

My informant doesn’t consider himself fluent in German, but he’s taken several years of German coursework.  Last year he was studying a course reader and at first glance, he thought he had read that someone killed their baby.  However, when he read the page over again and realized it was just this proverbial expression that he recognized in English.  He could not recall the first time he had heard the expression in English, however.

My informant understands the proverb to mean that one should be careful not to discard something worth holding onto.  While a baby in a tub of bath water may be the most extreme example of this sentiment, my informant likes to use it because it’s dramatic and this makes it useful as a persuasion tactic. He also suggested that this proverb is commonly used because anyone can discard something they would rather keep and that there is no German significance to the proverb, other than that its origin.

With respect to using the proverb, it comes in handy when convincing that there may be valuable material in what may seem to be a trash.  The idea is that one can get another party to be careful not to confuse important material with junk.  It is also important to note that with the advent of better indoor plumbing, bath water no longer has to be thrown out, given that most modern showers have drains.  So the popularization of modern indoor plumbing indicates a time period that the proverb existed before, or a terminus ante quiem.  It’s important to realize that regardless of the change in technology, this proverb continues makes sense because the context can be understood.

I recently heard this proverb in a chemistry lecture.  The professor was explaining that when constructing a certain diagram, it was only required that we only had to represent the lowest energy model.  In this case, we were allowed to leave out part of a diagram.  He used the proverb to encourage the class not to discard a part of the diagram that was still needed.  In accordance with my professor’s example, I also believe it means not to get rid of anything you might need when discarding what you don’t.

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