USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘christ’
Customs
Earth cycle
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Foodways
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Holidays
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Symbolizing that Christ Has Risen Through Greek Easter Eggs

The informant shared a Greek Easter tradition of cracking red eggs with me, while her younger sister provided supporting information. The game starts with every member of a family receiving an egg, and then cracking it against someone else’s egg. Whoever’s egg remains un-cracked at the end of the game receives good luck for the year.

Informant: The Greek eggs are dyed red because it signifies the blood of christ… the red… and um they can only be dyed red on Thursday… Maundy-Thursday. And also when you crack the eggs … when you crack the eggs it’s like Christ being released from the tomb

Support: the shell symbolizes the tomb 

Me: Do you practice this every year for easter?

Informant: Yes, yes. The interesting thing is that depending on the calendar. Sometimes Greek Easter and regular Easter are the same day. And other times it can be as many as  4 weeks apart?

Support: Yes, Greek easter has to be after the Passover and it has to be the first full moon of the month

Informant: After the first full moon

Support: Yes after, there has to be Passover and then after the first full moon. It has to be after that. Because the last supper was a Passover dinner, so we’re on a different calendar. We’re not on the Gregorian calendar, we’re on the Julian Calendar.

Informant: But in the American tradition, Easter is the same time as Passover because that’s when Jesus went into Jerusalem was before the Passover. But the Greeks have a different date for the Passover I guess.

Support: It’s because we’re on a different calendar. But it can’t be celebrated before, so those two things.. Passover and the full moon dictate when we celebrate.  

 

Context: 

The Informant is a Greek woman who was born in the United States. She currently lives in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA. Though she was not born in Greece, her parents immigrated to the US and she was born into a very Greek community in Phoenix, AZ. The performance was held during an Easter party, in front of her younger sister, who provided supporting information, as well as me.

Analysis:
Being part Greek, I have always been aware of the ‘Red Egg’ tradition my family practices during Easter. However, I never knew how in depth it went as a cultural practice. For me, it was just a game where the winner would receive good luck for the year, but as I talked with the informant I discovered that it was so much more. The tradition represents the many different components of Easter in one unified ritual.

 

For more information on Greek Easter eggs and why they are dyed red, you can reference page 25 of Greece by Gina DeAngelis.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Material
Narrative
Protection

Saint Christopher Medallion

Content:
Informant – “When I was being raised, Saint Christopher was an important saint. All of us, the kids, got medals, little medallions that we wore, that were Saint Christopher medals. Saint Christopher was the patron saint of travelers.
Now Christopher means Christ carrier. And the legend is that he was a big person, almost a giant, and he came upon a little boy on the bank of a stream and the little boy asked him to please carry him over to the other side. And so Christopher said sure and proceeded to carry him on his shoulders across the river, and as he went further and the water got deeper the boy got heavier and heavier, and it took all his strength, and when he finally reached the shore, exhausted, he asked the child ‘My gosh how could you weigh so much?’ And the child revealed that he was really Christ and that he was carrying the weight of the world. And then he disappeared.”

Context:
Informant – “I grew up with it. And while I was growing up, Christopher was touted as being a real person, but more recent research has found that there is no real record of his existence. The first mention of him was like 3 centuries after he supposedly existed. So they say he’s pretty much a legend.

JK – “What were the medallions for?”

Informant – “It was really a religious good luck charm. It was supposed to protect us from the travails of travels and journeys and all that.”

Analysis:
There is an interesting connection between the medallion and the story. One wears a medallion around one’s neck. You feel the weight at the back of the neck – the same place where you would feel the most weight if you were carrying someone on your shoulders.

Customs
Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Martinmas Festival

Content:
Informant – “On November 11th, Waldorf schools around the world celebrate Martinmas. As the story goes, Saint Martin was a Roman soldier. He saw a beggar shivering in the cold, so Martin cut his own cloak in half and covered the beggar with half. The beggar was actually Christ. To commemorate his generosity, the 1st and 2nd graders create lanterns and walk through campus sharing the light with the school”

Context:
Informant – “This is a festival of light. As the light decreases on Earth, the light becomes more inward. We bring the light inwards so that we carry the light within. Martinmas is celebration of Saint Martin, but it is also a sharing of our own internal light with the everyone.”
The informant learned about this festival when she started teaching at Waldorf.

Analysis:
Despite the references to Saint Martin and Christ, the actual festival is more pagan than Christian. It’s interesting that only the youngest grades make the lanterns and carry them through the school. Not only are they are spreading light at a time of darkness, they are also spreading youth and life at a time of dying.

Legends
Narrative

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, MI

The informant, a screenwriting major, mentioned to me he one day wants to write a screenplay involving “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.” Ypsilanti is a city in Michigan, the informant’s home state. TP is the informant, PH is myself.

PH: What is that? Is that a legend? Could I collect it for my folklore project?

TP: You can collect it, I’m not sure if it’s folklore because I’m pretty sure it’s true

PH: How about you tell me and then I’ll decide later whether to put it in?

TP: Okay. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. There was a really well known mental institution in Ypsilanti in the ‘50s.

In it, there were three different men who thought they were Jesus Christ and they decided to put them in a room together and see what happens.

So they spoke to each other for eight hours and at the beginning of the conversation they all got along really well but when they got into who is Christ there was an argument and by the end of it they each decided that the other two were mentally ill and they were Jesus and then they were friends after that

For a published, book-length detailed version of this legend, which was in fact a psychiatric case study, see The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach

Customs
Folk Beliefs

Italian superstition of bread orientation

My informant comes from a very italian family. She informed be about the superstition of the orientation of bread on a table:

“Putting a loaf of bread top-crust facing down on the table is like making Christ lie face down. It brings bad luck.”

My informant first heard this from her grandmother in Italy. She said that it was an old italian superstition, yet she still never places bread crust down.

I had never heard of or noticed such behavior by her or any other Italians before. I suppose it is because I am so used to everyone placing bread crust-side up that I have never thought that it could be “bad luck” to do it differently. I believe this superstition to be important because it reflects on the respect that even modern-day Italians have for the beliefs of their ancestors. It also reveals how religious they are in its connection to Christianity through the mention of “Christ”.

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