USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘christmas’
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Ferias De Cali

Cities are important to the location, each city has its own party, they call it ferias, the feria de Cali just happens to be during Christmas time , the carnivals are in Barranquilla Carnival. These carnivals are huge festivals in which the Colombian people showcase different sets of parades and a lot of other different stands just to show off their different type of foods or even toys for the kids to have fun with.These carnivals last for many weeks sometimes in order to celebrate through the time change of the seasons.Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people

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Tradition of Gift Giving- Christmas (Cali, Colombia)

During Christmas, it is, really common for people to make a lot of breads and pastries in Columbia to just give to surrounding neighbors. The more popular treats would be empanadas which are a pastry in which the inside is filled with different type of sweet pastes. The sweet pastries are a form of telling your neighbors to enjoy the festivities and have a great time, basically a good omen for the holidays. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This seems like a great way to start the holidays with gifts, as how usual Christmas goes in the United States.

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Naciemento de JesusChristo

During Christmas time, the whole family gets together right before eating dinner. In this family ceremony, everybody gets a Jesus looking treat, usually something the mom of the family makes, and everybody then kisses Jesus on the forehead and then eats the head. It’s to symbolize Jesus and the Holy Spirit being in you. This always happens between the hours of 2am-3am after Christmas Eve. The time is important, because that is the time in which it connects to the “witch hour” where Evil is supposedly the strongest.

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Eloisa is a Michoacan born lady who has lived in Arkansas since she has been a little girl. She used to be really religious, but after being opened up to human rights, and mostly women rights, she has taken a step back and tried to analyze everything to decide on what she can really identify as part of her.

Holidays
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Predictions

The source of this folklore describes a tradition her family does every year: writing down predictions for the next year at Christmas. It’s something the source’s mom did with her own mother as a child and passed down.

We write down predictions on a piece of paper at Christmas. We don’t read them until the next year. And usually you forget what you wrote. One year we all predicted if we’d be living in the same house in a year. I predicted we would and my brother predicted we wouldn’t. He was right.

Are they are predictions about the whole family or are some of them personal?

Some are personal. You write personal ones on one side of the paper and on the other side it’s usually a question we all ask each other and try to guess–like about the house.

Do you share the personal ones with the other people?

Umm… I don’t. You don’t have to. My mom definitely doesn’t either. Actually we all keep the personal ones to ourselves.

What’s the feeling you have when reading them?

I usually think my handwriting looks really weird. Like how much it’s hanged in a year. [laughs] I guess that’s not a feeling.

Well… sometimes things turn out better than you predicted or something really good happens that you would have never predicted, and you’re happy.

But sometimes things don’t go as well… you know… What’s the feeling? That’s hard to answer…

Of course. But it’s not an insignificant thing?

No, no. Right it feels very significant. Yeah for sure. It’s always felt very significant to me.

 

Childhood
Holidays
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Soren Banjomus

Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Hør på Søren Banjomus, han spiller nemlig nu.
Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Kom og syng og dans med os, det syn’s vi, at I sku’.
Vi glæder os til juleaften, så bli’r træet tændt,
og vi får fine julegaver, ih! hvor er vi spændt.
Skillema-dinke-dinke-du, skillema-dinke-du!
Bar’ det altså snart var nu.

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: A Danish Folksong Soren Banjomus by Jens Sweeney

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where     or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: From my mother. It’s a Christmas Carol about singing and dancing in the joy of Christmas.

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: West Jutland

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: Danish heritage

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: Christmas time. From my first memory.

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: It’s a Danish children’s song, sung on Christmas.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: Home, Family, Warmth, Love, Joy

 

Context of the performance-  conversation with a classmate

 

      Thoughts about the piece-  If you listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hasJBmVzt-U you may find that you recognize it. I thought it was a preschool nonsense song that I learned as a child from Barney (the purple dinosaur) “Skidamarink a dink a dink, Skidamarink ado, I love you.”  It turns out that the Danish was actually adapted from an American Broadway musical from 1910!

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Eve Tradition

“So every Christmas Eve, back when my entire family and extended family lived in Seattle, we’d all meet up at the market downtown and then split up into groups so we’d be all over the entire market.  Each group would buy separate ingredients together that make one meal, and then after the market we’d go back to our house and each group would prepare their meal together, so once we all finished cooking we’d have a ton of different meals with our entire family and it’s always delicious and different every time. It’s something we did for twelve years, and now that our family doesn’t live so close together we can’t do it anymore”

ANALYSIS:

What I like about this tradition is that it’s completely unique to this specific family but still rooted in the broader tradition of family coming together over the Christmas holiday.  It’s also really sad that geography had to tear the family apart and bring an end to the tradition.  It makes me wonder if the tradition will live on when the informant has his own family, or how the tradition might evolve within this family now that geography is at play.

Customs
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Finnish Tradition

Main Piece: Finnish Tradition

 

Told to me by my high school friend Mika, about his Finnish grandmother:

 

“On Christmas before dinner Mummi(his grandmother) would sneak off into the forests near their house with her brothers and sisters to go pick wild boysenberries, and explore in the forest.

After picking berries and bringing them back to the house, her brothers and sisters would go into the sauna, then after a short while after getting hot in the sauna they would run out and jump into either the snow or into a freezing cold lake.”

 

 

Background:

 

My friend Mika told me this story after I had first met his grandmother Mummi, and she had a very heavy accent so I asked where she was from. He told me that her and her husband were born and raised in Finland, so he went on to tell me some stories that she had passed down to him.

He particularly likes this story because he grew up in southern California where his house was surrounded by other houses, and the weather rarely dropped below 65. We have been friends since elementary school, and in the winter we used to go in his sauna when it was freezing cold out and after we got too hot we would run out and jump into his freezing (most likely 60 degree) pool, and cool off. I never really thought anything of this, just thinking it was something we did when we were bored and hanging out. But Mika did this because of what his grandmother had told him about when she was a kid.

 

Context:

 

Mika was first told this story during one of his family gatherings at Christmas time. Mummi told this story when they were all sitting down at dinner as a way to pass on her heritage to her grandchildren. That was another tradition that Mika told me had been in his family for many years, where they would have Christmas dinner with extended family, having grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins all for a large feast.

There isn’t much other context this sort of tradition would be passed on in, other than if you were in Finland and were attending their family Christmas. This may not necessarily a country wide tradition, but it is something unique to their family given where Mika’s grandmother was raised.

 

My thoughts:

 

I think this a pretty interesting tradition as it is very specific to the location and climate where Mummi grew up. It seems like something only the children would really do, as getting your body hot then jumping into something freezing cold to cool you off seems like a bad idea. My family has a Christmas tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every Christmas eve, and I like to think this is a lot like that .

Customs
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Christmas Eve Soup

I asked my friend if she had any holiday traditions. She told me that on Christmas Eve, her mom prepares soup:

Me: Why soup?

Lindsey: My mom’s side of the family is Irish, so I think it’s tradition in Irish culture to have soup on Christmas. Maybe the warmth of the soup is comforting in wintertime? Also, I think soup is an easy meal to have on Christmas when people would rather be focused on their family than on cooking.

Me: What type of soup does she traditionally make?

Lindsey: It’s just a stew of different vegetables and beef. Really light. Really simple.

 

Analysis: Having soup on Christmas Eve is not a tradition I had ever heard of. I think the idea of spending time with one’s loved ones instead of cooking in the kitchen makes sense. It is more important to have Christmas with family and invest in quality time, than having an extravagant meal.

Customs
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas “Novena”

My Great Aunt Nora clarified that at Christmas, the main holiday ritual in Colombia to celebrate the “novena” or 9 days of Christmas, not the twelve days celebrated here in the US. Between December16-24th, 9 families will coordinate parties at each of their homes. Everyone is invited to all the parties especially those who are hosting at some point.  If you are invited but not one of the families hosting, it is customary to bring a lavish hostess gift.  The party starts with a prayer, then food, songs and candies. People are expected to dress as lavish and festive as possible. It is traditional that each home will have a “Natividad” a nativity scene with baby Jesus in the manger and the three kings. Ironically, even though Jesus was born in a simple manger, people like to spend lots of money to buy very elaborate and beautiful manger that can take up a large coffee table to show off, which is a cultural traditional aspect of most Colombians, to always want to show off as much as possible even when it is not called for.

Analysis: I find it especially hilarious when they incorporate English Christmas villages with fake snow as ground covering and glowing windows in the cottages. As if the warm arid climate of Bethlehem would have look like that. Baby Jesus is always depicted as white having blue eyes and dirty blonde curls. There is strong cultural bias that having white skin, light colored eyes and light colored hair is highly desirable in Colombia. I once traded out baby Jesus at my grandmother’s house with a African American baby Jesus just see her reaction, priceless. The practice of holiday rituals even for those who do not attend church or practice their religion except during the holidays make these rituals even more important since they have to make up for their lapse from the rest of the year.

Folk Beliefs
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The Jólakötturinn

Background Information:

My informant is a 23-year-old student originally from Iceland, but studying in Dublin. She was born and raised in Reykjavik and moved to Ireland in her 20’s to come to University there. The Jólakötturinn, literally translating to ‘Christmas Cat’, is also known in English as the Yule Cat, a tradition similar to that of Krampus, where a giant cat would come around to check if children had gotten all their chores done before Christmas. If they had, he would not eat them. Interestingly, he seems to be confined to Icelandic folklore, and does not crop up in larger Scandinavian Yuletide traditions. She is signified by the initials A.J.

Main Piece:

A.J.: In Iceland, it is traditional for children to be given the last of their household chores to finish up before Christmas, like decorating the tree, sweeping the floor, helping out with the cooking – that kind of thing. If the children did that, they’d be given new clothes to wear for Christmas Day among their presents. The Jólakötturinn is a huge – and I mean huge, as in, bigger and taller than a house – sized cat that lives in the woods and wanders around from house to house looking in the windows to see what presents the children got for Christmas, so you have to leave all your curtains open on Christmas Eve night to let him see in. If he sees that the children have been given clothes as presents, he assumes they have been good and moves on. Even poor people do this, something as small as socks or a hat will do. But, if you haven’t gotten clothes, the Jólakötturinn will firstly eat your dinner that you would have had on Christmas Day, and then he will eat you. I think the purpose of it is similar to that of Santa Claus, in checking whether or not you have been good during the year. But I think this tradition is meant to make people also generous, because sometimes on the last day of school before winter break the teacher will give the children chores to do in the classroom, like tidying up the presses and cleaning the tables, and then the teacher hands out socks usually to the children, and you can give them to someone who did a really good job. In the end, everyone ends up with a pair of socks. It’s good for people who don’t have as much money, to keep the tradition alive without the parents having to spend a lot of money. I also think it’s nice thing to do with your friends, and makes everyone work a bit harder.

A: And do you know where the tradition came from?

A.J.: It’s been around for a long time, as my great grandmother tells me that she was told it by her grandmother, and that was a very long time ago. It’s a bit of fun to believe in, I don’t seriously believe in it but again, I got clothes every year so I didn’t have to experience whether it was truly real or not. Also it’s a good way of making kids behave, and so this seems to me to be why it has survived for so long. I was told the story by my parents when I was about five or so, and I think I will pass on the tradition in my family in the future.

My Thoughts:

The concept of someone or something checking whether or not a child has been well-behaved around Christmastime is not one unique to Icelandic tradition. The popular character of Santa Claus serves the same purpose, if not with such grave consequences should the child have been bad, rather giving them coal. It speaks to the heavy emphasis on generosity and community within the culture. The use of the cat is Iceland-specific, and this seems to me to reference the fat that cats were the companions of Vikings, and so there is a large population of cats in Nordic countries, and so it is natural to choose something so prevalent in a culture when personifying a tradition.

For another oikotype of this, see the Krampus tradition in Germany and surrounding areas: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-krampus-christmas-santa-devil/

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