USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘celebrations’
Folk Dance
Musical

SAE Fraternity Memorial Celebration

At the University of the South (informally known as Sewanee) in rural Tennessee, I witnessed and participated in a large informal celebration held in memory of my late brother, with the university his alma mater. The celebration was preceded by a more formal memorial charity golf tournament held earlier in the day. The party detailed below followed not long after at the university’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE for short, also my late brother’s fraternity). The fraternity also arranged the golf tournament itself and arranged for a recreational social gathering to follow. The entirety of my late brother’s former fraternity members (known as a pledge class) were present, along with former classmates.

 

Earlier in the evening, a small concert led by popular local musicians was held on the porch, along with barbequed food consisting of brisket, sausage, and potato salad (among others).

 

Following the departure of the band and caterers, the approach of the crowd in the building shifted as higher levels of activity (and intoxication) became acceptable now that the night had progressed, and daylight had passed completely into night.

 

A crowd of around 50 to 75 remaining partygoers congregated completely into a large corner room of the building, an area adjacent to the kitchen where food is typically served for similar events. For such functions, there is a large rectangular table centered in the room bearing the yellow and purple colors of the house along with their coat of arms and titular house letters.

 

With large speakers taking the place of the band and copious amounts of beer taking place of the caterers, the entire crowd then gathered around the center table to the tune of a pre-arranged musical playlist of Harry’s favorite songs, occasionally breaking up any potential melancholy brought about by the playlist with popular dancing songs in order to keep energy levels consistent.

 

In tandem with the music starting, people in pairs or trios came to take turns dancing on the tabletop for a few minutes at a time, usually remaining for the duration of two to three songs before excusing themselves from the center of attention and being helped down, to be quickly followed by another pair or trio hopping up.

 

The entire party lasted until the hours between 12am and 1am, when large activities are legally required to shut down. Given that the gathering in the table-centered area began around 9:30 to 10:00 pm, this particular activity therefore extended for roughly 2 to 2.5 hours in total.

 

Although this congregation of friends and family came about in remembrance of tragic circumstances (ie someone’s untimely death), the resulting proximity of so many at once where they may have otherwise not been brought together in such a way prompts not only a celebration of the life of he who passed, but also a celebration of the many lives that have continued on.

 

Such a situation goes to show how happiness in large groups is capable of wholly overwhelming any notions of sadness, and that such celebrations in the wake of tragedies can be considered appropriate when such an effect is properly achieved and initially intended.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Magic
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The evil eye sees celebrations

“We don’t have bridal showers or wedding showers, because the evil eye will see, and you won’t have a baby or a husband. You better not celebrate too soon. So, even if you have a bridal shower or a baby shower after the baby’s born, that’s a bad idea, because you’re not trying to bring attention to the good things you have in your life.”

 

My informant learned this from her Italian grandparents. It seems to be a common theme across cultures that drawing attention to good fortune will somehow jinx it; in this case, they believe that celebrating a marriage or a baby will draw the attention of the evil eye. This is interesting because my informant and her family are devout Catholics, and the evil eye is not a Christian belief. This shows how folk beliefs can get passed down through generations and endure through different religious traditions.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Big/Little Week

It’s a tradition in every sorority for each girl to get a big sister and a little sister. Getting a big and a little is an exciting part of being a new member and helps to bring you closer to girls in the house. New members always excitedly await the day when they finally meet their Big and Bigs cannot wait to get their Littles. In my informant’s sorority, the week-long reveal process involves lots of crafting and spoiling the Little with gifts, but the final reveal and adding a Little to the sorority family is always exciting.

 

My informant described Big/Little week as a crazy process. It starts the week before when both the new members and the actives who are intending to take a Little submit their requests. The sisters are paired based on mutual selection and on the Friday before Big/Little reveal, the Bigs find out their Little. In my informant’s sorority, Big/Little week officially starts at Monday Night Dinner (the weekly dinner that precedes the sorority’s chapter meetings). Bigs tape up colorful posters for their Littles and leave a small gift with a clue about who they might be. On the second, third, and fourth day of Big/Little week, Bigs leave little scavenger hunt clues around the sorority house for their new Littles to find a gift and another hint about their Big’s identity. Each day the gifts are more elaborate and the scavenger hunt is longer. On the night of Big/Little reveals, Bigs leave pajamas for their Littles to change into before the Littles embark on one last scavenger hunt to find their Bigs. Bigs (and the rest of their sorority family, Grand Bigs and Great Grand Bigs) hide in one of the bedrooms until their Little finally appears. There is lots of screaming and many pictures are taken. The whole sorority takes a picture together on the lawn and then sorority families leave to do something fun with their new Little. Usually this is something like going out to dinner, bowling, a movie, or some other activity of the Big’s choice. Even if the girls don’t get the Big they wanted originally, everyone ends up happy.

 

This is an important tradition in my informant’s sorority because it helps the new members feel more connected and helps to give each sister a smaller community within the larger sorority community. Bigs serve as mentors of sorts and try to help Littles with any difficulties they may have during the new member process. Bigs are also an instrumental part of the initiation ceremony.

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