Tag Archives: blessing

Giving Monetary Gifts that End in One

NA is describing an Indian custom around the amount of money you should give a gift. 

NA: There is also like when you give gifts, you don’t give like 50 or 100. You give like 51 or 101. It can be any hundred amount, but it can’t be like a ten is has to end in one. 

C: Is it related to luck or anything like that?

NA: I guess it’s so like that, Indian people see it as, when I give you 100 it’s like a hundred full stop. When you do 101 it is like money will keep coming to you. 

Context

NA is a 20 year old USC business student who comes from a Sindhi Hindu family from India. She grew up in southern California as an active Hindu going to temple and fasting on Mondays and active in her Hindu tradition. She is also my roommate and I asked her about folklore she had related to her Indian background.  This information was taken from a casual interview conducted with NA over Facetime. 

Analysis

One explanation for addition of the $1 is that it represents the continuation of wealth. It also makes the gift more meaningful by showing the recipient that not only are they providing money but also a blessing of the sort for you to be more successful in the future. Thus, making a gift that may seem somewhat impersonal more meaningful. I also found a tradition of giving a single Rupee coin when a larger monetary amount is not given. Thus, showing an aversion to the finality and absence the number zero represents. In contrast to the potential form growth represented through the number one. Additionally, even though zero comes before one, one is the number we start counting with. As a result, the giving of a Rupee coin is often giving on occasions that represent new beginnings, such as a wedding 

Indian Holiday of Karva Chauth

NA: Ok so there is this holiday called Karva Chauth and you have to fast for your husband’s long life all day until you see the moon and then you have to do this weird thing and nobody knows why you do this but like you take a flour sifter and you hold it up to the moon at the end of the day before you break your fast. Nobody knows why the hell you do this, but you have to hold it up to the moon. When you do that, you do it at night, and once you do that you can break the fast.

Interviewer: Okay, and who participates in this?

NA: So it’s is only women and it can be like women that are married, like I can do it for my future husband like I don’t even have to know him. It is just for the long life of my husband. My grandma did it, so my maternal grandma stopped doing it after her husband passed away and my other grandma when her husband passed away she did it for my dad, so she did it for her son. It’s just women and then some men will do it for my long life so I’ll fast with them, um but otherwise men don’t have to do it. They really don’t have to show up until the end of the night when you do that flour sifting thing.

Context

NA is a 20 year old USC buisness student whose family India. She grew up in southern California, but is very conencted with her Sindhi culture. She is also my roommate and I asked her about any folklore she had relating to her Indian background. This information was gathered from an informal interview conducted over Facetime. For further context related to this story she is a single woman who has never been married. 

Thoughts

This holiday emphasizes the importance of the woman’s role as a wife and mother in Indian culture. Although it is not unique to Indian culture, it shows the importance of the role of women while men do not have the same obligation as a husband to bless their wives in the same way. It also shows the power of rituals. NA and her family perform the ritual because they believe in its power. However, that does not mean they know exactly why the particulars of the rituals are there. Thus, showing the level of trust in what has been passed down through the generations and how that can be effective without knowing why. 

Additionally, this ritual shows the connection between femininity and the moon that is seen in many cultures around the world. It seems as though women are using their connection with the moon to bless their husbands, demonstrating the power of that connection. Fasting also is a common symbol of religious observance in the Hindu faith with many religious holidays involving a fast, and many Hindu’s fasting on particular days of the week to show reverence towards the corresponding god. 

Superstition -punching bread before it bakes

Context: My informant (M) told me growing up she had to punch the bread her mother made or else it wouldn’t be good bread, or they would have bad luck-she wasn’t sure which, maybe both. Now, as an adult, she never makes bread alone because she needs someone to punch it before it bakes. 

Main Text: M: When you make bread you have to let it rise twice, once right after you mix it and then right before it bakes after you shape it. In between the first and second rise, you knead the bread, and someone else has to punch the bread, or else it won’t be good. But it has to be someone else, not the person who is making the bread. 

Analysis: I had never heard of this superstition before she told me about it. It seems to me like someone has to give your bread their blessing and approval before. However, this could have started as a way for a mother to entertain her child by letting her punch bread, and it turned into a tradition and then a superstition. 

Breadcrumb Blessing: Syrian Birth Tradition

When babies are born and are first brought home after birth, the grandparents of either the mother or the father of the child will take fresh baked bread and break it down over the head of the baby. The breadcrumbs are sprinkled over the head of the baby as well as the rest of the body to act as a blessing. This blessing imparts good fortune and health to the newborn so that they grow in good luck and will experience ease and happiness in their life.


Throughout the collection process for this particular interlocutor, he repeatedly mentioned the blessed nature of bread in his culture and religion. Because of his Arab Christian background, he acknowledges the religious aspects and holiness of bread. The holiness of bread was passed down from the elder members of his family as they played a key role in enforcing the belief in its divine association and powers. This implementation is used through multiple celebratory occasions, ranging from births to weddings to even funerals. The interlocutor mentioned that he now is skeptical of the actual powers of bread, but he still joins his family in utilizing it through various celebrations, especially working with family members in the kitchen to bake it, thus implying that it obtains a social value as well as a sanctified meaning.

Due to the holy nature of bread, this act serves to consecrate the child as soon as they enter an arguably difficult world. This obtains religious undertones, especially as the Christian faith asserts the transformation of bread into the body of Christ. Thus, the child is showered in the most sanctified substance to preserve its innocence and promote its luck in life. The rising of the bread during the baking process may also symbolize the rise of new life and the potential that a few simple components have to create something beyond their own capacity.

May You Grow Old Sleeping on One Pillow

Item (direct transcription):

May you grow old sleeping on one pillow.

Background Information:

The informant learned this blessing from his grandfather, who told it to him when he got married.

Contextual Information:

This blessing is meant to be given at a wedding. After the informant’s grandfather grew too old to attend weddings and eventually passed away, the informant took it upon himself to perpetuate the blessing by telling it at family members’ weddings.

Analysis:

This blessing has a simple, literal, and obvious meaning. Clearly, its power comes not from its unique insight or wit, but rather from its emotional connection to a beloved and deceased family member.

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.

 

Blessing the Grapes

“My mom says that they bless the grapes every harvest. They have a rabbi and a priest come out and bless the grapes.”

Background Information and Context:

“[They do it] to prevent curses (her voice raises like a question). I don’t know. They just do it, I guess.”

The informant is from Lompoc, CA, which she often facetiously refers to as “wine country ghetto.” Her mother works at a winery.

Collector’s Notes:

Despite wine production and wine tourism being an important part of her hometown, the informant is not necessarily knowledgeable of the traditions of the industry. This shows how one does not necessarily have to identify with local traditions. A cursory Google search revealed to me that blessing a harvest is common in vineyards across the world and that the purpose is to ensure a bountiful harvest. In many places, the blessing precedes a festival. I found it interesting that the tradition that the informant mentions involves both a rabbi and a priest, showing that it incorporated more than one religion.

For another example of a blessing of the grapes ceremony, see “Blessing of the grapes celebrates Livermore Valley’s 2017 harvest” on The Mercury News.

Polish Easter Basket Blessing

Nationality: Polish

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Polish

Age: 28

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 15, 2017 (Skype)

 

Christopher is a 28 year old man, born and raised in Warsaw, Poland and who emigrated with his family to the United States when he was 8 years old.  He is a College Graduate with a degree in Political Science. He is currently employed as a doorman in an apartment building in Queens, New York.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. Does today being Holy Saturday bring back any memories of how you celebrated Easter in Poland?

 

Informant: So on Holy Saturday we would wake up very early and we would make um an Easter Basket with the family. Usually the youngest in the family will make the basket and in the basket you would put in a boiled egg, a piece of bread so ah a piece of Kielbasa little items like that. And that Saturday Morning, you and the family would head to Church and the Easter Basket would be blessed by a Priest. You would not be allowed to eat meat until that Easter Basket is blessed. Once the basket is blessed the whole family can enjoy meat on that Saturday. And that is the Polish Tradition of Easter on Holly Saturday.

 

Interviewer: Do you have any special remembrances when you celebrated in Poland as a young child then when you immigrated to the United States?

 

Informant: Oh my best memory is just how people would dress up and take the holiday very seriously. It was a very big, big holiday in Poland growing up.

 

Interviewer: Were there any changes when you got to the United States and the way the Polish Community celebrated Easter as opposed to in Poland?

 

Informant: Well in Poland they would held a big mass and this would take two hours to do. Everyone would get together with the Easter Eggs and baskets and getting blessed.  Over here in America I noticed it is a quick five minute process. You enter the church, you see the priest, then you are right out the door.

 

Interviewer: Now, as you live in America and people are less devoted to faith then in Poland, does the holiday take on another significance beyond religious?

 

Informant: For me personally this is ah about family, it keeps the family together. This tradition keeps the family together. It is about tradition.  Without tradition we start to lose family. As I said, we all get together for dinner, we see each so it is just a great way to catch up with family you haven’t seen in a quite a while.

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Polish immigrants that want to continue or revive this tradition of “swieconka” in the US, can find a list of church services and traditional basket ingredients on sites like this: http://www.cleveland.com/cooking/index.ssf/2014/04/easter_basket_blessings_of_foo.html Symbolism of basket ingredients is explained here; http://luzdelmes.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-traditional-polish-easter-basket.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweeping blessings out the door

“I remember growing up my mom would tell me that when you are sweeping the floor in your house, uhm you are not supposed to sweep you know the dirt, directly out the door, you are supposed to sweep it into a pile and pick it up with a damp paper towel or some cloth or something and put it in the trash because If you sweep out the door it will sweep out the blessings from your home. My mom learned it from elders in the village she is from.”
For many families it is very important to make sure that their homes are safe and sound and always blessed therefore there are all these traditions in which they have sort of rituals to make sure that no bad omens enter the house and only blessings enter. The homes are seen as this safety harbor that protects the children and overall the families therefore taking extra steps in order to make sure its safe becomes a very common part of folklore.

Italian Toast

“This wine is good and clear.
Good health to everyone.
Hope they bring to the cemetery the ones
who wanted to do away with it.”

This saying has been passed down through the paternal side of my family, who are all of Italian heritage.  My father’s grandparents were immigrants in the early twentieth century and were the last to speak Italian fluently in my father’s genealogy.  Some of my older relatives still remember this saying, however, and have said it on occasion though it is obsolete.  My father begins it when toasting to his family, but never gets past the first sentence.  As it involves Prohibition (1920-1933), its terminus post quem is 1920.  As recent immigrants, my great grandparents had left a country where good wine was plentiful and many people drank it daily, and were now faced with an across-the-board ban on every kind of alcoholic beverage.  According to my informant, the Italian men who immigrated near this time would continue to make wine that their families would drink, keeping it hidden in their cellars while brewing.  When the wine was finished and illegally drunk, a toast such as this would be offered.  This particular saying was either created or picked up by one of my father’s grandparents, and as my family has increasingly forgotten Italian (I know essentially none), the saying has remained, whether or not my relatives are aware that it is an anachronism.  Though it is obsolete, it reminds us of our common heritage and of my great-grandparents (now deceased) and their families.