USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘bible’
Customs
Holidays
Life cycle
Narrative
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Reading of the Christmas Story

A father has implemented a tradition in his family that the eldest family member present reads the “Christmas Story” as recorded in the book of the Bible, Luke. This occurs before any Christmas presents are opened, he explains:

“I started this tradition as a way of reminding everyone what Christmas truly means without getting too wrapped up in the excitement of the holiday and the gift aspect. Christmas to me is a true celebration of life and having the oldest family member read the story is another way of celebrating life itself.

This version of the Christmas story text reads as follows (Luke Chapter 2: 1-21, NIV edition):

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the         Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”

 

 

Background:He is 53 years old and raised in Los Gatos, CA. He was raised in a Catholic home and began to strongly identify in the Christian faith after college and into his years as a father. He attended Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.

Context:He shared this tradition with me at a dinner we had just the two of us. His mother had just passed away, and he was reflecting on his fondest memories of her.

Analysis: Family traditions, particularly those linked to particular holidays or particular people, is a really emotional form of folklore. There is something about a holiday ritual that evokes such a strong sense of family unity and solidarity that I think is very unique. In terms of the Christmas tradition explained above, the most captivating element is that the reading is done by the eldest family member every year. This is really emotional to think about, as the eldest family member could potentially change every year depending on family members who pass on. For the person who shared this story, his mom was the one reading the Christmas story for many years, until this Christmas, when the tradition had to be passed on to someone new. The tradition becomes heavy in this sense, but also a really beautiful way to continue someone’s legacy and memory within one family unit.

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Myths
Narrative
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Feminist Interpretation of Adam and Eve

The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories.


“Women are equal to men, because when God made Eve, he took a part of Adam’s rib. If He had taken a part of Adam’s head to make her, that would have meant that she is above him, because she cam from the highest point of the body. If He had taken a part from Adam’s leg or his foot, that would have meant that she was below him, because she came from a lower part of the body. Since God had taken from the rib, that makes them of equal status since the ribcage is sort of a midway point of the body.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant’s mom grew up Christian and went to a Catholic, all girls school. Nowhere in the actual bible does it mention this interpretation of Adam giving rise to Eve. When I asked whether the informant thinks that Indonesia has more gender equality, she said no, however in this particular scenario, since her mom had grown up in an all-girl’s school, they were more likely to learn variations on Bible scriptures that undermined the original intent of the Bible.

This particular interpretation of a very well known story, gives me a bit of hope for the future. Obviously gender inequality has gone down over the past years, however with popular culture and strict interpretations of the bible, our society will never make it to the desired endpoint. With folklore coming into play however, I see a trapdoor opening up.

general
Magic
Myths

Sleep Paralysis and Devils

Sleep Paralysis

The Informant:

My friend, was born in Diamond Bar, CA. He is the son of a pastor whose church is in Diamond Bar. He lives with his parents and three younger siblings, a sister and two brothers. His father is Chinese and his mother is Korean.

The Story:

The first time that this happened to me was when I was either a sophomore or a junior in high school. I was lying on my bed, obviously in the middle of my sleep, when all of a sudden I realized I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move my body, I couldn’t scream, there was no air in my lungs. I tried to scream but couldn’t and I started to freak out. All of a sudden… I felt super cold, from top, my head, down, to my feet. I don’t remember if I was outside the blankets or inside but regardless I felt the wind. Suddenly I felt a heavy weight on my chest, as if something was sitting on it, and a shadow on top of me. I don’t really remember what happened after that. All of these instances blur together after a while. This was the first time it happened. After that it happened on a weekly basis for at least a year. There are times when I know it’s coming. You just feel like you’re getting really tired, or sometimes you can just sense something is off, as if there’s something in your room with you. I’ve never seen anything in my room though, and it always happens at night. There’s nothing I could do except wait for it to pass… and I’m always alone when this happens.

The Analysis:

This is a different occurrence of the scissor lock that my other friend experienced. We talked about this in his room, and a couple other friends were present. As he continued to tell his story, our other friends slowly became quiet, and then silent. The way Trevor spoke was genuine and even though such an occurrence would be questionable, there was no doubt in his voice that this was true. In Trevor’s instance, this happens on a semi-regular basis, with the last one occurring a couple months ago. Before that, it happened once a week or once every other week. There is no basis for why he goes through the scissor lock so often, but his actions showed that he doesn’t get used to it, even though it’s happened numerous times. It is creepy that this has happened so many times that they all seem to blur into one for him. One aspect that was interesting is that he is a pastor’s kid. This was one difference I noticed between him and my other informant on this same topic – it is probable that his stronger faith or adherence to Christianity has an affect on these continual occurrences. Whether it is due to faith or not, I wondered if it was the devil’s doing, and led me to question the existence of the devil and it’s many forms.

 

Researchers have attempted to examine the causes of the scissor lock, dubbing it generally as sleep paralysis: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FB%3ADREM.0000005896.68083.ae

A different version of sleep paralysis from someone not religious can be found at: http://kerryonian.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-experience/

Childhood
Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Nightly Bible Stories

Here my informant recounts a tradition she shared with her Mom in childhood:

My mom used to… We had this old book of Bible stories, but they were kid versions, it was like, our kid Bible which our grandma bought us, and so we’d read a story from that every night and that was always really with my mom.

This tradition shows how the informant and her mother combined the common family custom of mothers and children reading stories before bed with her religion, sharing nightly Bible stories with her mother. The informant explained how she feels this not only strengthened her bond with her mother, but it is now a large part of her faith, and the stories she read as a child are still her favorite Bible stories today, as they carry the added significance of her Mother’s love.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Proverbs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

My informant first heard the phrase from her husband about twenty years ago. The two of them were in their car in the parking lot of a shopping center looking for a space to park in. The parking lot was quite full, and my informant was getting impatient, as they had been driving around looking for a space for some time. Finally the husband came upon a parking space deep in the back of the parking lot. My informant did not want to have to walk that far to the store, so she told her husband to continue looking for a space closer to the store she wanted to go to. At this, the husband told my
informant, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

The husband used this analogy to explain that even though the spot they found was not the bast spot, continuing to search for a closer spot that didn’t exist at the time was not wise because there were no guarantees that they would ever actually find that closer spot. In other words, the spot they had was better than the prospective closer spot that wasn’t available.

Annotation: This phrase can be found in the Living Bible Version of the Bible in Ecclesiastes 6:9.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Pride goes before a fall.

This phrase was first told to me by mom when I was about eight or nine. She continues to remind me of even now, at the age of twenty-one. She can always tell when I’m beginning to get a swelled ego, and she will quickly bring me back down to earth with this phrase. As I have had success in baseball, there are times when things are going so well on the field that it can make one feel like he’s invincible; like he can do no wrong. At times like that my mom will hit me with the phrase “Remember, the Bible says, ‘Pride goes before a fall.’ Always give all the glory to God.”

This proverb likely carries most of it’s weight in religious circles, because it actually comes from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. In the religious sense, many believe that pridefulness leads to sin and destruction because it will cause a person to rely on himself or herself rather than relying on God.

Annotation: This proverb can be found in the Bible in the book of Proverbs 16:18.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
folk simile
Folk speech
general
Protection
Proverbs

Laughter is good medicine.

This is a phrase my mom first told me when I was a young child. She used it when she would do or say something to cheer me up when I was feeling down, after which she would say, “Cheer up, laughter is good medicine.” From then on she always reminded me to have something in my day that would make me laugh, for she said it would actually make me feel physically better. Every once in a while when I was little, and I wanted to watch cartoons and my mom didn’t really want me to I would try to persuade her by saying, “But mom, laughter is good medicine.” That always made her chuckle a bit. The phrase actually came from the Bible, out of Proverbs 17:22. It says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” My mom also told me that she read in a medical journal that doctors will actually have patients watch or read funny material, and some how it actually makes them feel better.

general
Proverbs

Proverb

“Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath”

Sherri informed me that she learned this proverb that was based on a verse from the Bible as a child between the ages of 8 and 10.  Her father, Jack, taught it to her and one of her sisters while they were in a dispute one night.  At first, Sherri and her sister did not know what this meant until Jack taught them that it meant to “not go to sleep while you are angry at someone.” Sherri elaborated by stating that not only will you be able to sleep better when you are not in a fight with anybody, but it will also give you a peace of mind when you start your next day.  She said it was very important to start each day with a fresh start, and this is just one of the many ways you can accomplish this.  Sherri told me that this proverb was just one of many sayings that were taught to her by her parents.  She says her parents’ use of proverbs helped her learn many invaluable life lessons, including “don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.”

I believe the interpretation of this proverb given by Sherri to be spot on.  I do not know of any other way this can be interpreted.  I agree with Sherri that this lesson is very important.  I think it is very childish, for one, and it will also prevent you from getting a good night’s rest.

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