My informant is a USC student of Armenian and Caucasian origin, born and raised in California and regularly exercises through distance running. She is also a human biology major with an emphasis in human performance.
“One of my Canadian friends who plays sand volleyball here told me this great joke, and its about how Canada got its name. And so basically people were pulling letters out of a hat and so whe they pulled the first letter they said “C—eh!”, second letter “N—eh!” third letter “D—eh!” spells CANADA!”
Analysis: This joke is one that the informant learned from someone else, who acquired the joke from people in her own country and culture. The spread of the joke to an American population shows how humor can be used to bridge cultural gaps. Even though the friend she heard the joke from was Canadian, the use of wordplay and the playing off of Canadian stereotypes (saying eh!) was humorous to both the teller of the joke as well as the listener, and provided a foundation for further conversation and friendship later on.
*Note: The informant, Kate, is my mother’s girlfriend. She grew up in Canada but is of Scottish heritage. She now lives in the Bay Area. Here, she describes a legendary creature said to live in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.
INFORMANT: “Ogopogo is a creature that I learned about when we moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta in 1971. He resides in the neighboring province, British Columbia. People always talked about him in the same kind of conversation as the Loch Ness Monster – he was like our Loch Ness Monster. He lives in Okanagan Lake. There were sightings and newspaper stories and he was all over the lore of Western Canada. He was actually a creature of the Salish nation, a figure of western Canada’s aboriginal peoples. There was a sighting of him sometime in the late 60s, early 70s, and he was in the news a lot then. As kids we always talked about wanting to go and camp at the lake and see him.”
COLLECTOR (myself): “What’s he supposed to look like? Do you remember who first told you about him?”
INFORMANT: “He’s a greenish serpent. I think it was my Edmonton friends who first told me about him. I was 10 when we moved to Alberta and when he came into my consciousness, and by then all my friends already had a deeper relationship with him. People would go to British Columbia for holidays and talk about hoping to see him. He was this kind of mythical creature in my mind because my family didn’t go on vacation there so he became bigger in my mind. He was an aspiration for me from the time I was about 10 until I was in my teens. I wanted to see him and know what they were talking about.”
COLLECTOR (myself): “So would you say you believe in him? Like, personally?”
INFORMANT: “I don’t know if I believed in him or didn’t believe in him, same as the Sasquatch or any other mythical land creatures that appear from time to time. The Sasquatch was also a big idea in our minds. Even more awesome in some ways, because you might actually come across him in the woods! Now, naturally I’m skeptical of Ogopogo and Sasquatch and all that. But back then? It was definitely a possibility.”
The Ogopogo, as Kate points out, is essentially a variant of the Loch Ness Monster legend, the Canadian oicotype. People are fascinated by the idea of creatures they’ve never seen before, especially creatures hiding right in your own backyard. Bodies of water are also great sources of mystery because you can’t just swim down to the bottom and see what’s down there. The Ogopogo story is so ingrained in Canadian culture that just becoming acquainted with the story made Kate feel more at home in her community after she moved. People bond over shared beliefs, so a childlike excitement over the possibility of there being a great beast right beneath our very noses is a great way to bring people together and enrich the lore and culture of a certain place or people.
ANNOTATION: The Ogopogo is one of Canada’s most popular and enduring legends, so it has spawned a number of books and reports, including Arlene Gaal’s 2001 book In Search of Ogopogo: Sacred Creature of the Okanagan Waters.
*Note: The informant, Kate, grew up in Canada.
INFORMANT: “Now, I didn’t grow up in this part so they didn’t really do this in Alberta or anything, but one year in high school my friends and I took a trip to New Brunswick for National Acadian Day. That’s on August 15, and it’s mostly celebrated in Acadia, which was a colony of France, so Acadians consider themselves descendants of the French colonists who lived in Acadia. Anyhow, we traveled to New Brunswick and while we were there I learned about one of National Acadian Day’s traditions, which is called tintamarre. Essentially, what that is is on Acadian Day people go through the streets making as much noise as possible with noisemakers and instruments or whatever they can find. It’s supposed to symbolize the solidarity of Acadia and basically to just remind people that Acadians are there.”
I looked up tinamarre after Kate told me about it, and it looks like it was inspired by the French folk custom “Charivari,” also known as chivaree, where people made a ruckus outside the homes of newlyweds. Because Acadia was a French colony, it could be argued that tintamarre is the Acadians’ way of holding onto their French roots and feeling connected to their heritage. In this way, the lore custom when the French settlers colonized Acadia, and it’s grown into a custom that’s uniquely its own but is also inspired by its French background. The word itself means “din” or “clangour” in Acadian French. I thought it was interesting that Kate considered the custom significant even though it didn’t directly apply to her. While it’s considered a Canadian custom, it doesn’t apply to all Canadians, or even all French Canadians, but rather is only totally relevant to Acadians. However, it seems that Kate still counts tintamarre as a Canadian custom worth mentioning.
*Note: the informant, Kate, grew up in Canada, Alberta specifically.
INFORMANT: “Well, in Canada we do a lot of pancake breakfasts, I’m not sure if this qualifies as folklore per se, but every time there’s a festival in the summertime, people cook up a ton of pancakes, and I mean a lot of pancakes, and they give them away for free! Or sometimes they charge a small fee to raise money for something. In Edmonton specifically, where I grew up, pancake breakfasts were huge, especially on K-days, which is a giant exhibition for 10 days in the end of July. Also in Edmonton we had the Calgary Stampede, Canada’s biggest rodeo, and pancakes were a huge thing there. Because in like the 20s or something, when the rodeo first began, some rancher started cooking up free pancakes on his camp stove and giving them away to whoever came by the festivities. Pancake breakfasts are even tied to politics, a lot of Canadian politicians will hold pancake breakfasts or make appearances or even be the volunteers making the pancakes. Also football. Lots of pancake breakfasts for football events.”
This is a food-related tradition that seems pretty specific to Canada, even though America has started doing similar pancake breakfasts as fundraisers. The concept of free pancakes is great, as everyone knows free food is extremely bonding. I think it’s interesting that politicians are capitalizing on this tradition and making it political, using pancake breakfasts as public events at which to make appearances or make themselves seem approachable or folksy by cooking pancakes.
“I think he got away on a kayak or something? Haha I have no clue how it got to that point but I know he disappeared, I think maybe someone helped him.”
There existed a tree off the coast of Vancouver that was considered sacred and highly meaningful to natives to the region (the indigenous people). The tree, called Kiidk’yass, was a bright gold spruce tree among a sea of green ones. A man who lived in the region grew very frustrated with society / the world, and wrote a manifesto detailing his issues. As a means to bring attention to his manifesto, he cut down the golden spruce tree. This caused an immense amount of anger and response from locals. The man was arrested immediately. However, on his way to court for his date of trial, he disappeared. The informant says he heard that the man was set free by someone else and kayaked away from Vancouver, never to be seen again.
The informant struggled to remember details of the story: why exactly the tree was sacred (beyond being stunningly stark in color), the man’s name, and the course of events that led to his identification and arrest. He was told the story by a family member, who heard it from a friend. Despite being born and raised in Vancouver, he didn’t have any personal connection to the idea of the tree, and neither did anyone in his family. He said the sacredness of the tree was mainly recognized by true natives — people who’s descendants were the first to populate the area.
In researching it further, the story of the golden spruce is rather well-documented by a book, The Golden Spruce. Filling in the details of the informants story, the man responsible for the crime took action as a statement against deforestation and industrial logging. He did in fact escape on a kayak, but the destroyed kayak was later found on an island. It is unknown if he died or purposefully left things behind on the kayak and was able to escape. Further information and another perspective on the story can be found in this book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Golden-Spruce-Story-Madness/dp/0393328643
My informant described a family tradition that takes place
Usually first week in august during their stay in their vacation home, which is located on Blueberry island (in Lake Joseph, Canada).
The following is a transcript of our interview:
“Each year up in Canada we go to this island called Blueberry Island for a picnic. It’s like a 90 minute boat ride and we have like 4 boats going together and we go and dock up next to each other on this tiny wooden dock and we jump off this rock, fry soft shell crabs, make s’mores, and sit on the rock, which has a nice view. It is a family tradition, and my whole family goes, often with extended family, every year for the past 50 years. My mother did this once when she was a little kid, and she liked it so much that she vowed to come back every year.”
To the informant, this day is the pinnacle of vacation, and he looks forward to it all year. He said it wouldn’t occur on a specific day, just when a majority of his family could come out for the picnic. He said he liked it so much because his family was together all at once, but isolated in the world because they were alone on the island.
The informant’s mother, who enjoyed this so much when she was a child, is sharing her favorite memory with her entire family. Also, by repeating what she did that day, she is likely conjuring memories of her parents and siblings and reliving the moment so that she could feel young again. The food, crab and s’mores, represents their vacation home and summer, since crabbing and cooking over the fire are limited to their vacation. Thus, this event serves to create a memorable experience with which to codify the vacation. Moreover, family is key to the event, which will not take place until a sufficient (but arbitrary) number of members can go, illustrating the importance of their established community. Spending time together, the family strengthens their bonds, and since this takes place on a private island, this trip reinforces their identity as part of the family.