USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘custom’
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Predicting Children- A Korean wedding ritual

Main Text:

Collector: ” You mentioned the clothing of the bride and groom that is traditional to Korean Weddings, but are there any acts that the bride and groom perform at most weddings that you have been to?”

HK: “I do remember one actually. So after the wedding ceremony, the bride has a white cloth that they have to drape and carry around their arms and someone else would have to carry the bottom of it because they are really long. Usually the groom’s parents will toss little ball-like objects into the air towards the bride and however many the bride can catch with this cloth determines how many kids she will have.”

Collector: “Does the cloth have a specific color like the clothes did?”

HK: ” I think the cloth can be any color but usually I have seen it as a white cloth.”

Context:

After I asked HK whether or not there were specific acts performed at Korean weddings she listed out many traditional pieces ranging from the color of the clothes the bride and groom are supposed to wear all the way to this piece about predicting how many children the new married couple will now have has been to family weddings in Korea as well as in the United States and and observed these wedding rituals in practice. When asked about her interpretation about why Korean weddings contain this act she said that children and family are a large part in Korean culture and that once a couple gets married it is expected that they jumpstart the process to conceiving children, so the act of predicting how many children they will have is a sort of precursor to this. I also asked her why she remembers this ‘performance’ specifically and if she would do it at her wedding to which she responded, ” I remember it because I thought that it was a really cute thing to do for a new family and I like to think I would do it at my wedding too because it is a fun part of my culture.”

Analysis:

The ritual that HK is describing is a ritual that is used in many Korean weddings to present day and the “ball-like” objects that the bride is catching are dates (대추), also called jujubes. While the weddings HK described in particular use the dates as a way of predicting the number of children that the couple is going to have this ritualistic act can also be interpreted in another way that is very similar to her explanation. The dates that the bride catches also symbolize the fertility of the bride and her ability to bear many children. As HK explained, children and family are very important to Korean culture so it makes sense to have such an act in the wedding.

Another explanation for this act is that it could figuratively symbolize the “deflowering” of the bride.  Proof of this symbolic deflowerment is that balls are being tossed into a cloth which is supposed to represent fertility or one’s womb and since the cloth is white , it is also supposed to represent purity and virginity. To many cultures, marriage is not necessarily about love but instead building a home together as well as procreating. This being said, the symbolic deflowering of the bride represents this belief that marriage is all about the next generation and establishing a place for your children in society. I think that this wedding tradition continues in traditional Korean Weddings because it is does, as I mentioned before, serve as a nice precursor for the family that is to be built by the newly married couple, which Korean culture places a heavy influence on.

Customs
general
Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Naval Academy Wedding Tradition

Main Piece:

Informant: When a newly-married couple is walking out of the chapel for the first time they walk through two columns of Midshipmen holding their sabre’s up high. The lines are made up of members of the wedding party and officers in attendance. It’s four on each side of the two rows. The first two will lower their swords making like a gate. The married has to kiss in order for the each row to raise their swords and let them pass. When the couple gets to the last two Midshipmen with their swords lowered they kiss one more time. When they pass the last two one of the last two will slap the sword against the butt of the civilian spouse and say “Welcome to the Navy!”

 

Background: The informant is my brother. He is a senior at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He first learned of this tradition through first-hand experience at the wedding of one of his closest friends at the academy. This interview was recorded over the phone. I asked the informant if he could recall any specific military traditions he has witnessed through informal mediums.

Context: The sabre is given to Midshipmen when they reach first class rank (the college equivalent of a senior). It is a point of pride amongst first class officers and is treated with the utmost care. The sabre arch is done right after the wedding ceremony finishes as the bride and groom leave the chapel. It is a highly-respected tradition and is always performed with punctuality.

Analysis: For most military members, the job can quickly become your life. Although the informant is a student, I have witnessed his transition into a full-fledged officer within the short span of four years. He holds the values and culture in the highest regard, much like his peers. In his words, “When you join the Navy you are making a lifelong commitment”. Well, some would also consider marriage to be a lifelong commitment. As I have experienced first-hand, the spouses of servicemen and women become an equal part of the military community they married into. As such, the tradition of the sabre arch is symbolic of that relationship. The spouse of the officer is committing to joining the military community around them. In return, through the sabre arch, the military community is grants the spouse acceptance. The cry, “Welcome to the Navy”, is confirmation of that acceptance.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Life cycle

The Jewish Slap

“It’s a Jewish tradition for mothers to slap their daughters after their first period. I don’t actually know the source of this tradition. Maybe it’s to warn the daughter of the pain of womanhood. I also heard from someone that the slap is supposed to bring blood to the daughter’s cheek, but I don’t know what that means. I never slapped my daughter, and my friend yelled at me because I didn’t. She slapped both of her daughters when they got their periods.”

Context: The informant is a Jewish woman with one daughter. Both of her parents are Jewish. She was raised in a Conservative Jewish household and raised her children in a Reform Jewish household.

Interpretation: The most reasonable conclusion seems to be that the slap is a symbol of the pains of womanhood. It could also be used to shame young girls out of sexual activity by immediately punishing them for being capable of reproduction. It also connects Jewish females both to their mothers through the slap and to other Jewish women through the shared experience.

 

Customs
Game
Humor
Musical

Long Island High School Band Customs

A – “There are a couple things we always did, every day we had class, once we got to class back in high school.  There’s this thing at Schreiber [our High School] where, every musician with their instrument ready would blow out some really poor-sounding tone, and then there would be a response from the other side of the room.  It didn’t really matter who responded, so sometimes there was more than one, but, you know, as long as there was a response.  And yeah, just a really poor tone coming from any instrument.  So this would happen every class, so twice a week, before our teacher/conductor got there, we were all getting ready.  This is kinda just our way of maintaining our individuality from the other students at school, I think we were all rather proud of being in the band.”

How were you Introduced to this tradition?

A – “So the first time I got into the band my sophomore year, I noticed people doing it, but no one actually said anything about it.  It took me a couple weeks before I realized that it was, like, an actual thing that we always did.  Taking part in that was kinda like a rite of passage, once you did it, you were a real member of the band.”

A – “I definitely won’t forget that we did that, I think just because it brings me back to my time in the band, where I had a lot of fun and spent time with people I liked.”

 

I was actually in the band with A, and I got there a year before he did.  So it was fun for me, who had gone through the same sort of vetting process with this one tone call and response, to watch him as he learned of it’s existence, and soon became proficient in it.  I definitely agree with his idea that this was a sort of rite-of-passage situation; I’d also add that it was almost a weird way of hazing new members, getting them to think that we sound awful, getting them to wonder why they’re even there if that’s the case.  Then we start playing.

Folk Beliefs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Snow Day Ritual

Description

“You would hear there was a snow coming, a big storm, and in order to secure the snow day, you would do the pre-snow day ritual. What you would do is wear your pajamas backwards, then flush three ice cubes down the toilet. While the ice cubes were being flushed you would chant ‘I love snow days.’ The ice needed to be gone, your pants needed to be backwards, and then you had to do it until the ice cubes were gone. If it worked, you were a genius, and if it didn’t work, you were pretty stupid.”

Context

The informant reported that in Michigan, where they are from, snow days are incredibly important to school culture. This ritual would be used when the informant was in school, usually in the winter, to attempt to secure a snow day, which involved shutting down school for a day due to inclimate weather.

Analysis

A lot of students have been heard of doing this — I had similar snow day rituals that the students believed, often well into high school. I find this sort of thing very cool because where does it come from? At what point, after the invention of the modern school day began, did something like this start, and how did it become customary for students? My own personal idea is that it comes from other rituals to ward off evil, but is a children’s bastardization of that idea, creating their own.

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

August vacation, El Salvador

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old.

 

She told me that during the first week of August, all companies, schools, and pretty much every single business is closed to commemorate Jesus Christ’s transfiguration. She says that about 90% of the country is Catholic, and everyone does it even if they are not religious. She says a lot of people go to the lake during does days, including her, and she gets to spend time with family and friends.

 

I think this is really interesting; we don’t have anything like that where I grew up, probably because there is a lot more of a variety in terms of religion.

Customs

La Mongonada, Panama

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Panama City, Panama and is 20 years old. It is about a party that construction promotors throw for their employees after a project is completed.

 

It was her uncle who told her about it, since he works in the construction business. When a project is over, promotors throw a party called la monongada, where the promotors provide food and entertainment to thank their employees for all their hard work. It is named after the mondongo, a Panamanian stew served with rice and beans (while in other countries it is commonly eaten as soup). He told my friend that it was the only time the promotors and construction workers really interacted outside work, and that it was always a beautiful experience. My friend was so interested in seeing what that looked like that she asked her uncle to take her to one a couple of years back. There were popular Panamanian singers, delicious food, and hundreds of people. She said it was one of the best parties she had ever been to, and everyone was having a great time.

 

I think this is a very beautiful tradition. My mom is also in the construction business, and she throws these parties as well. I’ve never been to one, but she’s showed me a lot of pictures and it is clear that everyone really enjoys themselves. I think this speaks to Panamanians’ classism to an extent, but it is still a nice way for these promotors to acknowledge the hard work put in by their employees.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Holi, India

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. She told me about a family tradition surrounding Holi, the festival of colors celebrated in India.

 

The festival is usually celebrated it in the beginning of march. The night before the big day of Holi, there is a smaller festival called Holika Dahan. There was a kind in Hindu mythology character, Hiranyakashyap, who was so arrogant and self-centered that he wanted to be the only one worshiped by his kingdom, but his son, Prahlad, continued to worship lord Vishnu (one of the 3 gods in Hindu triumvirate) who is believed to be responsible for the upkeep of the universe. To teach the son a lesson, the king’s sister, Holika, tricks him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika wore a fire resistant dress and hoped that Prahlad would die while she survived but as fate had it, the opposite happened. So for this festival, all the neighbors go to the common temple and they have and get a piece of the bonfire to put in their temples at home to commemorate the victory of evil over good no matter what the odds are.

 

She always looked forward to this because her mother, grandmother, grandfather, little brother and her would always go to the temple together to bring this piece of burning wood and she would get to pick it out of the fire. As a kid, that was really a rush, and it became one of her favorite family traditions.

 

I had heard about Holi before, and even been to Holi-themed events, but I had never heard about the story behind it or the temple ritual my friend described. I think it is a very nice way to bring families together and remind them of their religious backgrounds.

Customs

Sunday family dinners, El Salvador

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old.

 

She told me that every Sunday night, it is a tradition for all families across the country regardless of their social status to sit together and eat pupusas, a thick stuffed corn tortilla from El Salvador. She told me that her own family doesn’t really follow this tradition often, since her parents did not grow up in El Salvador, but that every time it does happen it is great quality time and she enjoys it very much.

 

I think this is a very beautiful tradition that speaks to Latin Americans’ importance on family time. It reminds me of the weekly lunches that my parents made me and my siblings go to every Sunday as an excuse to spend more time together.

general

Hand Gesture – Korea

My informant was born in South Korean, but moved to America when she was 16 years old. She explained to me how when she first moved, she was very confused by some of the cultural differences including hand gestures.

In America, we wave people over with our palms facing up. A similar motion that is common in western culture to beckon someone over is curling the index finger. However, in Korea both of these are considered extremely rude and degrading. They typically use the same hand motions to gesture over dogs.

Respect is a huge attribute in Asian culture. It is deeply rooted in family and demonstrated formally through gestures and language. Therefore, using the “American wave” on a human is equivalent to treating or calling them an animal. Koreans will signal people over by having their palm face down, and using a little “digging” or small swimming motion with their hand. Another way to describe it would be having your palm face down and waving it up and down vertically. If you tried calling a cab in Korea using the Western style wave, you would undeniably be rejected and ignored.

At first, my informant thought that Americans were “kind of arrogant and snobby.” She didn’t realize that there would be a significantly different meaning in something as trivial as gesturing someone over. She eventually caught on that people were not intentionally trying to be rude, and that it was just part of western culture to call people over using the palm facing up.

This made me really think about how important it is to be culturally aware, especially while traveling. There are so many little differences that may seem insignificant, but is actually really important to recognize. It helps us better understand our global peers and can prevent us from accidentally offending others.

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