Main Piece: “Shrove Tuesday is…uh…the last day before Lent. Lent…uh…precedes Easter. Lent lasts about I think a month and during Lent one does not eat as much. So one is more…um…frugal about eating. So the last day before Lent is called Shrove Tuesday and on that day, people eat a lot of pancakes. And the pancakes are tossed in a pan and people like to see how high they can toss them. They usually have lemon on them…squeezed lemon…they’re very nice. And that is the only time of the year that we ate pancakes, just that one day.”
Background: The informant, who grew up in the English countryside, began celebrating Shrove Tuesday as early as he can remember, but stopped around age 16, as the tradition was dying out. He celebrated this holiday at home with family. He notes that eating pancakes was the most enjoyable part of Shrove Tuesday. When asked about the name of the holiday, the informant said “shrove” comes from “shrive” which means to “absolve,” and in terms of this holiday, he thinks it means absolving one’s sins. However, the informant says he and his family did not celebrate Shrove Tuesday in that way.
Performance Context: We spoke over the phone.
My Thoughts: The informant understands Shrove Tuesday as a dying tradition. It seems to have already taken on another form when the informant was celebrating the holiday. As the informant noted, the name “Shrove Tuesday” didn’t accurately describe the holiday he celebrated. Most interesting and special to the informant was the pancake meal, since it was a rare meal to have. As the tradition began to be less celebrated by the informant, the foodways were the only particularly noteworthy component of the holiday. I think of the ways “Shrove Tuesday” in England parallels “Fat Tuesday” in the U.S., where the same notions of celebratory eating are present before the culmination of Lent.
“Ok so some of our um, uh traditions at Easter time in the Karam family where I grew up, and the Karam family is of uh, actually Syrian descent, and our family was Marinite Catholic and so we um followed Christian holidays and traditions. Ok so, a holiday tradition is to make a sweet bread called “ka’ik”(pronounced ka-yak) at Easter time, and my mother in law, used to always make it, and its like a dense biscuit, almost like a scone, and it has anise in it, which is sort of like the same flavor that licorice comes from, and she had a mold she would press it in before she baked it and they were kind of circular shape with an imprinted design on top, and then when they came out of the oven, she would pour just like a sugar water over it, I don’t think it had rosewater in it like the baklava, and uh so anyway we always had those at Easter time.”
Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.
The context of this traditional food exemplifies the Catholic practices of this family that is of Syrian/Lebanese descent. Because they follow the Catholic Church, they celebrate the traditional Christian holidays. Cooking for these holidays is an important aspect of the performance of folklore, because most of the recipes are passed down from through the women of the households. The informant learned of this recipe through cooking with her mother-in law, demonstrating the close and important familial ties of this culture.
The significance of this dish is that it comes from Syrian/Lebanese styles of cooking, which is exemplified through the use of anise in the recipe. Anise can be found in the Mediterranean region, and is a spice commonly used in dishes that are derived from this region. This exhibits how baking, cooking, and sharing recipes with family members is an integral part of sharing culture. As the informant also stated that she felt it was her duty to teach her children how to cook the family recipes in order to continue the customs of her traditional culture, it is apparent that recipes like this carry a special significance.
I agree that this significance is the importance of passing down traditional practices through the kitchen as a way of extenuating one’s culture. I also think it is interesting how the women are the ones baking and cooking together. I believe that this comes from the Catholic/Christian influence in the family. Because the Abrahamic tradition is patrilineal, it is apparent that the women have traditionally been the ones in the home doing the cooking for many generations. This continues to be the case as recipes are handed down from matriarch to matriarch.
The informant is a new professional in post-secondary administration. He lives in New Zealand, but he is originally from Apple Valley, California and went to university at the University of California, Irvine, where he was involved in student affairs and studied computer science. His background is Italian and Polish, and he has 3 older siblings.
This piece relates to an Easter tradition he performs with his family, and, more recently, his flatmates.
“Well, it’s Easter today, so that’s kind of on my mind. And so for Easter, what me and my family do is… rather than doing, like, a normal Easter egg hunt where you just go outside and hide a bunch of Easter eggs and go and just try to find them, like haphazardly and they’re all in random places, we do kind of a scavenger hunt. Or no, not a scavenger hunt, like a… map and clues, in a way? So you get the first clue and then that gives you another clue and that gives you another clue, and at the end there’s a basket with the Easter chocolate and the Easter bunny and all that.
Um, and so we’ve done that, ever since I can remember with me and my brother and sisters. To my best memory, we just kind of—my brother and sisters both really like those kinds of clues, so they just did it one year for one of us, and it just kind of became a tradition. But I don’t know, my parents never did it, it was just the siblings. My parents didn’t give us clues and we didn’t give them clues. Like my parents gave us the baskets to put at the end of it, eventually, but they didn’t participate. So I think that it’s my brother and sisters that came up with it. I don’t know where they got it from, or if it was their idea.”
Are you continuing with this tradition now that you’re living away from your family?
“I’m trying to continue it, cause I really liked it and it’s like, kind of my Easter thing now, like, whenever I think of those types of clues I think of Easter. And, like, I like those those types of puzzles, like things that you need to solve. It’s kind of continued in my life outside of the holiday but I associate that with Easter. Like for example, today my flatmate gave me an Easter egg hunt, but it wasn’t the kind of hunt that I’m used to in that sense, like it was just the hide it everywhere and go get it, and that kind of triggered a bunch of memories for all the different hunts I did with my family, and I remembered that I want to do it again and bring that tradition and continue that tradition on.”
This tradition interests me for a couple of reasons. It contains both elements of the Easter egg hunt with chocolate prizes, including eggs and the symbolic Easter bunny, and a kind of riddling competition. The informant showed me some pictures of clues that were used over the years, and they range from plays on words to codes that need to be cracked to logic puzzles. Each clue, like a traditional riddle, had the answer hidden somewhere in the question, although as they were in text form rather than shared orally, the answers were often embedded in the text itself.
It’s also interesting that the parents were not involved in this tradition, as it is often parents that hide the eggs for children in Easter egg hunts. It reflects the general trend in the United States that riddles and riddling games are primarily thought of as activities for children, as the children wrote the clues for one another and the parents provided only the prize at the end. However, the informant is attempting to continue this tradition with his flatmates in New Zealand, who are all adults.
M is a 20-year-old black female who is currently double majoring in NGO’s and Social Change and Communications at the University of Southern California. M grew up in Boston, MA but currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. M primarily speaks English, but she is also fluent in Spanish.
Me: Does your family have any fun holiday traditions?
M: Um. We are aggressive when it comes to Easter baskets. My mom is really happy that my brother aren’t home for Easter anymore because, I think she though she could like stop when I like reached 16, and she had the Easter baskets like out on the table, like you know, like we always do the hunt and then go to church, but she left them out on the table and we came downstairs and we were very upset and we told her she had to hide them, so she did, unfortunately very aggressively. And we didn’t even find them before church, so we had to go, we still didn’t have our baskets, and then it took us another hour and a half to find them when we got home. She was really annoyed. she was like, you’re ll adults you don’t need these, and my sister was…my sister to be fair was only 12, so she was like I am not an adult at all, like I want mine hidden. Then when my mom hid hers, my brother was like I’m only 14 and she was like ok. Then I was like, you can’t hide theirs and not mine. And then that’s when she was like, alright, these bitches… Yeah.
M talks about an annual family tradition of her mom hiding their Easter baskets and candy for her and her two siblings. Their mom thought that when they reached a certain age, that she could stop hiding the eggs, but the children all wanted to keep the tradition going. There was a sense of maturing and distancing from old childhood memories and games that the kids did not yet want to let go of, and so they continued the tradition until they moved out of the house. Not only was the Easter basket hunt fun for the kids, and kept their childhood spirit alive, but it was more time spent with siblings bonding and working together to find their baskets. They will likely carry on the tradition when they have children as it meant so much to them growing up.
My informant for this piece is my aunt, who performed the easter egg hunt when she came over for Easter. During my childhood, my family used to hold easter egg hunts, although we have since stopped the practice. This easter however, she made an attempt to resume this tradition.
Informant/Description of event:
During my childood, my family would hide plastic easter eggs in the backyard and I would attempt to find them. However, as my sister and I grew up, we no longer practiced this tradition. I remember that usually my parents would place coins or candy in the eggs. Sometimes there were special eggs that would have larger amounts of money or maybe a few more candy.
This year, my Aunt decided to attempt to revive this tradition by staging an Easter Egg hunt for us. She hid some plastic eggs in our living room, and told us to attempt to look for them. These eggs also had some coins in them, as well as small candies. When we had found the eggs, she hid them again, although this time it was easier for us to find them due to us knowing the hiding spaces. My aunt also attempted variation in this ritual by hiding items such as small boxes during the easter egg hunt which were filled similarly to the eggs.
I believe that the context of this was an attempt to revive an old family tradition that my family no longer practiced now that we had grown out of it. My takeaway is that this easter egg hunt also attempted to evoke feelings of closeness and togetherness that evolved out of previous iterations of this familial tradition.As a childhood ritual it did bring back memories of my childhood, and I guess reminded me of this ritual that I no longer do, and probably will not repeat next year.
Background about Informant:
Anna is a 22-year-old exchange student from Hungary, studying business at USC. She was born and raised in Budapest and has knowledge of many facts and traditions of Hungary.
General Description from Informant:
“We have a strange Easter tradition when boys have to pour water/perfume on girls – they do it with a bucket of water on the countryside but in cities people usually spray perfume. I personally always hated this tradition. Especially because by the end of the day, girls usually smell like a perfume store – never wash your hair the day before! And when I was around 6 my best friend’s friend who came to water her poured a whole bottle of perfume into my face by accident and it all went into my eyes. It was as pleasant as you can imagine.
The guys have to say or learn or write a rhyme “I went to this forest and found this flower, can I water this flower?” and the girl is the flower. And then they spray perfume or water on you.
Either the rhymes are sexual for teenage guys or kind of cute/dumb for non-teenagers. And it’s really cute when little boys remember the rhymes.”
- Where/who did you learn it from?
- “My parents when I was a kid, we always do this.”
- What does it mean to you?
- “I don’t like it because of the perfume. But it’s normal because it’s part of the Easter tradition. I’m fine when it
- Why do males throw water on females and not vice versa?
- “In the countryside, guys did everything. Also part of guys meeting girls and meeting your wife, and of course the girl is the flower and not the guy. How else would they meet the girls otherwise?”
- What do you think this festival symbolizes?
- “Something about fertility but I don’t know. But maybe it’s just a nice thing too.”
- Who are the participants?
- “Guys of all ages – even the grandfathers. And women of all ages too.”
Analysis from Collector:
I think this Easter Tradition found in Hungary is in line with many other Spring/Easter festivals found around the world. Spring festivals usually revolve around new life, reproduction, and fertility. In the Hungarian Easter tradition the woman represents the flower and the guys represent the fertilizing or stimulant. The flower represents virginity and fertility, while the watering represents the fertilizing of a flower and stimulating growth. Simply, it represents sexual intercourse between men and women for reproductive purposes.
The fact that the grandfathers and older women take part in the tradition seems a little strange, as fertility is usually centered on a younger generation. This part of the tradition may have changed with the times for everyone to participate and have fun. However, I believe the tradition started in the countryside as a way for men and women to meet each other and ultimately lead to reproduction.
*Collector note: The Lamb cake in question is a cake in the shape of a lamb, not a cake made from lamb.
Informant: “In my family, we always had a lamb cake for Easter, I think this was a Central European tradition, mostly in Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. When I grew up in Chicago, there were a lot of German people in the neighborhood, and there were always German bakeries full of lamb cakes around Easter. The connection to Easter was that Easter was about Christ, you know, the Lamb of God. And so we would eat these lamb cakes for Easter. My mother would make it, so else sometimes we bought them in bakeries in Chicago. My aunt [M] said that her mother made lamb cakes as well. I always thought it was funny having lamb cake because we would tell people about it and people would say ‘oh, it’s like a meatloaf or something’ when really there was no lamb in it, is was just shaped like a lamb and didn’t have any meat at all. Though I know some people would sometimes hollow out the cake and put strawberry jam inside so when you cut it it looks like its bleeding [laughs]. I know other people would color their lamb cake with red food coloring to make the inside look like meat, but I always thought that would seem a bit to gory for me”
The informant is a 77 year old retired anthropologist living in Portland Oregon. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Kingdom of Bohemia (in the modern day Czech Republic) in the 1890’s to escape the economic turmoil within the country in that time period. She was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and studied anthropology at Stanford University, during which time she became interested in learning more about the traditions of her heritage. She has on several occasions traveled to the Czech republic to visit relatives there.
Collector’s analysis: This particular tradition is an interesting take on some very core Christian symbolism. In the Christian faith (or perhaps, more specifically in the Catholic faith), there is this idea that the religious figure Jesus Christ was sacrificed for mankind. Because of the old, pre-Christian tradition of sacrificing ‘pure’ animals for religious purposes including lamb, Jesus Christ is frequently referred to as “The Lamb of God”. Thus, there is a connection between the Easter holiday and lambs. As for why the tradition is eating a lamb shaped cake rather than an actual lamb, the most likely explanation comes from the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on religious holidays, to which Easter was no exception. It should also be noted for this reason that the Czech republic, as well as the other Countries that the informant believes this tradition originated from, were all primarily Catholic nations during the period of time in which this tradition originated. As a side note, in this collector’s opinion, these cakes are absolutely delicious!
I was wandering down the main street of Lahaina, HI, when I saw two people weaving coconut palm fronds into fish, roses, and a couple of other designs. I stopped and asked the young woman about palm frond weaving.
Me: These are really neat. Where did you learn how to weave palm fronds?
Informant: From my friend.
Me: Where did your friend learn, and why do you do it?
Informant: He learned in the Caribbean. Apparently it was a common art form there. Here, we do it for fun, mainly. And for the tourists.
Me: Do you know how palm frond weaving originally began? And why the fish, the roses, and the crosses?
Informant: I don’t know exactly, but apparently weaving palm fronds has roots in Christianity. You know, Palm Sunday?
Me: Oh? That would make some sense, I suppose. Given how palm fronds are associated with Palm Sunday, I can see how weaving palms became a tradition.
Informant: Yeah. Though it is not solely a Christian tradition. It is simply associated with Easter and Palm Sunday the most, which is why most of the designs that are woven are crosses – the most recognizable symbol of Christianity, especially during Easter, doves – a symbol for peace, hope, and the Holy Spirit, and the fish – which became a symbol of Christianity during the days that Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire.
Me: Ah. Interesting. And the roses?
Informant: That is not so much religious roots as it is more to express gratitude, or to be given to someone who has lost a loved one. You know, like how you would give flowers to someone as a gift? Palm frond roses are essentially the same.
Me: Okay. Makes sense, as roses do not have as much of a symbolism in Christianity, especially around Palm Sunday, as some of the other designs do. So how widespread is palm frond weaving?
Informant: People all over the world do it, as it has become a Christian tradition, as due to the European explorers and colonization, Christianity has been spread worldwide. Though my friend and I don’t do it so much for the religious aspects.
Me: Interesting. Well, thank you for talking with me.
Informant: You’re welcome, and I hope you do well.
I find it to be incredibly interesting that palm frond weaving has become a Christian tradition. Until this interview, I had never known of this Easter and Palm Sunday tradition. Palm Sunday celebrates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. As he was entering the city, the people laid palm fronds down in front of him. To me, this practice of weaving palm fronds on Palm Sunday is rather like a kind of magic – using the palm fronds at that time and weaving them into such shapes is a kind of ritual that helps to connect the practitioner with his/her faith, as Easter is the most important holiday for Christians no matter their denomination. The cross is almost like a talisman, a reminder of how Jesus was welcomed into the city and how he was betrayed and killed not a week later. The dove is often a symbol of hope and peace, such as what Christ’s resurrection offers to Christians. The fish is a reminder of the persecution that the early Christians suffered as their Messiah suffered under the Roman Empire.
“We have a ranch. It’s 30 acres, fairly big. I’d say if you walked all the way around it, on the fence, about three miles. Um and on this ranch we’ve got forest area, and then we’ve got these big fields, and every year, at Easter, my grandpa would take 1500 dollars, and he’d put them in eggs, and he’d invite everybody, depending on who was coming, he’d like, up the ante, you know, if a lot of friends of the family we’re coming he’d put down 2000, 2500 in these eggs. And the night before, you’re not allowed to watch him, you couldn’t even be there, he plants these eggs, in this field. Sometimes he’ll dig [pauses for emphasis] a foot deep. The trick is, they have to be like visible. Sometimes he’d plant them and then at night it would rain, and the eggs would sink to the bottom, get covered up by mud. The thing was, he’d always keep track of how many eggs there were, he made a map, of where all the eggs were so if anybody didn’t find them he wouldn’t waste any money. Now, it was getting to the point where he’d put money into the eggs at the beginning, and people weren’t finding all of the eggs. But, he started to just place all the eggs out there, empty, and mark them with either like a 0, an x, a triangle, you know, like a square, and each one of those corresponded to a certain amount of money. And you’d collect all your eggs, these empty shells and you’d give it to him you’d hand them in and he’d pay you that amount of cash. And of course there was a brunch. It started at eleven o’clock [pause] but there was a brunch, and a dinner. Anyway the brunch, the kids ten and under got to go in first, get a five minute head start.”
The informant, who went to high school with me, regarding his family’s Easter tradition, stated: “it was just a family gathering and we did that every single year until my grandpa died this year, so uh we don’t do it anymore, but we did it every year since I could remember. I think, I think even like decades before that, you know. And it’d be a time, where the whole family got together and told stories from over the years because people would come from all over, come from Alabama, we had people from Kentucky come, things like that. We would have all of our family come in, and one year, people from Phoenix came in, and Barstow, which is just down the road. So we’d tell stories, get to catch up.”
The enthusiasm with which the informant told this story indicates how important this Easter tradition is to him. That the tradition died along with the death of his grandfather demonstrates the great extent to which the grandfather was revered in the informant’s family. The importance placed on this game of egg hiding and the lengths he would go to make this game a success reveal a lot about the character of the informant’s grandfather, mainly that he was a sporting man that was invested in devising the best possible egg hunt, but also a wise man, one who would thoroughly plan his endeavors.
Informant Bio: Informant is my mother. She was born in West Virginia and spent her childhood moving around the country, eventually settling in Massachusetts. She was exposed to many different traditions as she moved around the country as a child and still carries some with her to this day.
Context: I was interviewing my mother about traditions, stories and rituals she remembers from her childhood.
Item: “Growing up in the Kentucky hills, Easter celebration is special. Everyone dresses up in beautiful new spring clothes; the girls wore hats and white gloves. First we went to church. As a child it seemed to take FOREVER. We had to wait for the service to end, the socializing after the service to end, AND THEN the good stuff started. We got to go to my grandfather’s house. He hid Easter eggs all over his yard. He had a HUGE yard and he loved to watch his grandchildren running all over frantically trying to find the most eggs! We got a new basket to hold our eggs each year. Also, my grandfather always gave my grandmother a chocolate rabbit as a gift! Also, she didn’t like chocolate; but, it was his tradition, he always did it, and they laughed about it each year”.
Analysis: Easter seemed to be a very religious event for the adults but not for the kids. Like Christmas, it seemed to bring people together (but to not as great an extent). Easter also served as a way to usher in the changing of seasons, with the wearing of spring-type clothes, hats (for the sun) and white gloves (a southern tradition, but again showing the coming sun, brightness and purity that spring brings).
The grandfather’s house serves as the rendezvous point for the entire family, showing the prominent and important position that elders held in Southern families. The inclusion of eggs and an egg hunt is prevalent throughout many Christian cultures and seems to define the whole experience for the children. This may have served as a way to blend tradition and religious context with fun in a way that would reinforce the message about Jesus Christ while helping the children have an enjoyable experience and make memories after sitting through the lengthy Church service earlier in the day.