USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘christian’
Childhood
Musical

One Child of God

This is an Indonesian church song that the informant’s mom used to sing when she was younger. Her mom grew up Christian and went to a Catholic, all girls school.

Translation

“‘One child of God goes to church, and then he brings a friend, and they go to church.’ And then it starts over, it’s like, ‘Two children of God, one of them brings a friend, and they go to church.’ All of them go to church together and it’s like this growing…”

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 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.

The name of this church song is “Satu Anak Tuhan” which mean “One Child of God.” When I asked the informant if this song is sung more in youth groups, she said she had absolutely no idea, but that it was just one of those little songs that you learn when you’re younger. This reminds me a a children’s song that most latin or hispanic people know, and that I myself learned from my dad who speaks Spanish, called “Un Elefante se Balanceaba.” The song begins with one elephant balancing on a spider web, and when he sees that it holds him, he calls over another elephant, and then they are both balancing on a spider web. This song can continue indefinitely. Just as with “One Child of God,” it is mostly children who learn and sing this song, and both were probably created to pass the time on long car rides, or to teach numbers and counting.

Protection
Signs

God be with you

Yes, I always say “God be with you” whenever I say goodnight to you guys. And then, make a cross with my thumb on your forehead.

I think I started doing that when Vince was in Kindergarten. But actually, I first learned it from Sister Carolyn. At some meeting with parents at St. Joan, she told it to all of us, and said her parents said it to her.

And I liked it, so I started saying it, too.

Context: I specifically asked my informant, my mom, about this and she told me one one one.

Thoughts: Sister Carolyn, who the informant mentions, was the principal

 In our family, we say this so often now that we don’t even really think about it’s meaning. I say it to my dog. We use it interchangeably with “Good night.” or usually in addition to it, and we text it to each other a lot. But I think the informant, truly means it every time she says it.

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/

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Saint Nicholas’ Day

“One of the things that I think is starting to die out, because I’m hearing less and less of it, but that was always big in my family, is Saint Nicholas’ Day. On, uh…December sixth, or December fifth…see, I’m starting to lose it. But it’s, uh… So every Saint Nicholas’ Day, we would, uh, all of us kids would take our shoes and put them out right inside the front door. And the next morning, we would find them filled with candy and sometimes action figures, and all kinds of stuff like that. I think, uh, when I was about fifteen, my parents put oranges, so that kinda killed the tradition. But, that was always a holiday we celebrated.

I’m pretty sure it’s Eastern European. My grandma is really deeply Hungarian, so she did that with my dad.”

 

My informant describes a traditional European holiday. It seems to be prevalent throughout Europe, not just in Eastern Europe, like he thought. Holidays where children are given presents other than just on Christmas Day used to be fairly common in many Christian countries, but, as he notes, they seem to be dying out (at least in America). Although he says that the gift of oranges ruined the holiday for him, oranges are a traditional Christmas and yuletide present, especially for those of the older generation. The fact that the children put out shoes is interesting; they serve as a kind of precursor to the perhaps more common practice of hanging one’s stocking on Christmas Eve.

Adulthood
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Humor

Ring by Spring

Allison attended Azusa Pacific University, a Christian college located in Southern California. During orientation her freshman year, she encountered a phenomenon called “ring by spring.” The idea is that women who enter college should or will be engaged by the spring of thei senior year. It’s presented in as a joking tone, as a caricature of a crazed woman who must get engaged before she graduates from college. This co-aligns with the idea that women go to college to get an “MRS degree,” in other words, they attend university to find a husband and get married.

Although “ring by spring” is presented as a joke, it is a common enough occurrence that the joke has weight in the community. My sister noted that 3 of the 20 girls in her graduating class of social work at APU were indeed engaged. If a girl does in fact get engaged just before graduation, she may get a lot of grief from her peers because of this widely circulated joke.

Allison pondered the weight the joke has in guy culture at APU, but she didn’t have any insight into guy’s reactio the the phenomenon.

This idea and joke is widely heard in a Christian context. Allison first encountered this idea at a Christian university and has since heard other accounts from other Christian environments like Biola University. In fact, in my Christian sorority at USC, Alpha Delta Chi, there are currently 4 girls who are engaged and graduating now. In a Christian atmosphere like APU or Biola, girls and guys who share the same ideals and believe in the same things are in close proximity. “Ring by spring” is an acknowledgment of the fact that one might meet their spouse in such a context, and it might not be a bad idea to be looking for one.

Customs
Game
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jewish Easter Egg Hunt

“So, in my family, holidays are a big deal, and we are not very religious one way or another, but we do, um, partake in several, I guess, Christian holidays, and Easter is one of the big ones. Um, however, we have this Jewish friend, who, um, had never experienced Easter before, um, and so, she, we decided to invite her to Easter one year so she could experience her first ever Easter and so she came over and um, we did the typical things like dyeing Easter eggs and having Easter dinner. But, we decided to twist our traditions to uh accommodate for her Jewishisms. So she told us about this tradition she used to practice as a child. It’s like this little stale piece of bread, it’s like matzah, and you hide it. She used to do this as a child. It’s called the afikomen. So, yea, I guess it’s a Jewish tradition to hide the matzah and be like, hey, kids, go find the afikomen. And whichever little Jewish lad finds the afikomen gets a reward.

So then, we decided to kind of mix the two traditions because finding an afikomen is very much like finding an Easter egg, so, um, my parents, along with hundreds of Easter eggs, hid an afikomen, and whoever found it got twenty dollars. We, of course, all expected the Jew to find the afikomen, but the first time it was my brother, a non-Jew, who found it. So now we do this every year… we hide an afikomen with the Easter eggs.”

 

The informant’s conflation of two different religions’ traditions is an interesting example of how folkloric traditions can blend together and change. The informant’s family found a common thread between the traditional Christian practice of hunting for hidden eggs on Easter and the traditional Jewish practice of hiding and finding a piece of matzah on Passover. In an effort to make their Jewish friend more comfortable and to learn about Jewish culture, the informant’s family blended together these two traditions.

However, the informant’s family took the search for the afikomen out of context. Traditionally, the children search for the afikomen at a Passover seder, and there are multiple reasons and explanations for this practice. Some say that the tradition of hiding and searching for the afikomen is an effort to keep the children awake throughout the seder, which can be a very long, traditional meal, sometimes lasting for hours. Searching for the afikomen can keep the kids occupied while the adults conduct the seder. Another explanation for the purpose of the afikomen is that seeking the matzah symbolizes future redemption for the Jewish people. However, in the case of the Jewish Easter egg hunt, the afikomen is used merely as a symbolic gesture— a lone Jewish artifact hidden among plastic Christian relics, but, ultimately, meant to serve the same purpose as the Easter eggs (you find something and you are rewarded for it.)

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Signs

The Legend of the Dogwood

In Jesus time, the dogwood grew

To a stately size and a lovely hue.

‘Twas strong & firm it’s branches interwoven

For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.

Seeing the distress at this use of their wood

Christ made a promise which still holds good:

“Never again shall the dogwood grow

Large enough to be used so.

Slender and twisted, it shall be

With blossoms like the cross for all to see.

As blood stains the petals marked in brown

The blossom’s center wears a thorny crown.

All who see it will remember me

Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.

Cherished and protected this tree shall be

A reminder to all of my agony.”

(author unknown)

This poem of unknown origin canonizes an old legend about this twisted, beautiful tree.  My informant originally heard of the legend from her grandmother, and was unaware of its roots.  As neither the Bible nor other historical records have anything to say about the wood used for Jesus’ cross, the idea that the dogwood was used cannot be verified.  The legend exhibits a high degree of Christian symbolism, which would lead me to guess that it has foundations in the Catholic church, which has always shown great interest in symbolism, perhaps as far back as the Middle Ages.
My informant said, “According to the legend, the dogwood was one of the largest and strongest trees in the Middle East at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, and thus was the wood of choice for making crosses. Supposedly, the biggest and strongest was used for Jesus’ cross…. because of his pity for those who suffered on the cross, Jesus spoke to the dogwood tree and told it that it would be slender, bent, and twisted, so that it would never again be used as a form of execution.”  She pointed out that one can look at a dogwood blossom and see that it has two short petals and two long petals in the semblance of a cross.  The edges of the blossoms display a color pattern that resembles a nail wound, “tinged with brown (rust) and red (blood).”
My informant also recalled part of the legend not mentioned in the poem.  Supposedly, three days after Jesus’ death, the dogwood trees began to wither and die.  Several years later, woodcutters were amazed to have witnessed how forests of the trees they once used for lumber had been transformed into groves of twisted shrubs with fair blossoms.

Folk speech
general
Magic
Protection
Proverbs

…From my lips to God’s ears.

My informant told me that a friend of hers used to say this phrase as sort of a superstitious prayer. It was sort of the opposite of the knock on wood superstition. The way it worked was that whenever my informant’s friend would talk about her kids, or her grandkids, by saying, “little Timmy’s so talented, he’s gonna be a fine doctor some day.”, or, “ That kid’s got a great arm, he’s gonna be a great ballplayer one day.”, immediately after she would say, “From my lips to God’s.”
There’s no getting around the fact that parents want the best for their kids, and I don’t doubt that there are a number of other similar types of sayings throughout the world. As I said before this saying is very similar to the knock on wood superstition, however instead of trying to ward off bad fortune, “From my lips to God’s ears” attempts to bring good fortune.

[geolocation]