USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘family’
Legends
Narrative

El Chupacabra in the Fog

Folklore Piece

“So my story… Um… It’s the myth of The Chupacabra by MK. When I was… When I was, let’s say 10 years old, my eldest cousin, one of my elder cousins, um came in one christmas and shared that he had witnessed something in the fog in my grandparents house. Imagine an old red house in the middle of the farm. Outside of their house, which was a quintessential farmhouse out in the country in Corcoran california, which, side note is best known for the Cochran Prison that houses Charles Manson. Charlie Manson? Charles Manson. Anyways, so Cochran. And he went outside and came back in and claimed that he saw lying on the side of the road, a Chupacabra. Now, if anyone is familiar with El Chupacabra knows that it’s basically a mythical creature, um, and he claims in his heart that it wasn’t a wolf, it wasn’t a coyote, it wasn’t a possum. It was all those things put together as one. And he came in and he scared us. We actually went outside to try and find it. And it was miraculously gone. OK? This animal that wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. He claims he saw. And it was scary for us because we knew it wasn’t true, but at the same time the myth of The Chupacabra lived on. Because every year, or every time we would be out there, and it was just a little bit foggy and there was a full moon, we would hear this animal that was said not to exist, which was said not to exist, but we knew in our hearts that it did. And I do honestly think it’s true. I think he saw something that wasn’t, it wasn’t, like I said it wasn’t a wolf or a mountain lion, it wasn’t any of those things. In my heart I believe that it was true, because when we went out to go find it, it was gone. This animal that he had seen. So there it is, the myth of The Chupacabra, and we still talk about it to this day.”

 

Context: When I asked the participant if she had any stories to tell, she told me immediately. “Oh, yeah, but I’m sure you already know about The Chupacabra.” I pressured her a bit more to tell me her version of it, and it ended up being the story above; not on the origin of El Chupacabra, or particularly any action by El Chupacabra, but just a possible sighting. She likes this piece of folklore because she says she “doesn’t generally consider [herself] to believe in this sort of thing, but I do.” And that, if anything it’s a “fun story that shows how crazy my family and I are.”

 

Personal Analysis: Legend sightings are prevalent throughout the world. Be it alien sightings, ghosts, demons, Bigfoot, Loch Ness, or Leprechauns. What’s interesting about these stories is that the person experiencing the sighting doesn’t often actually interact with the entity; they’re other-worldly both in that they do not take a typical earthly form but also that they can not be interacted with along the same plane as the informant.

Take this story, as an example. The participants cousin saw this animal-like thing through the fog, and it laid motionless on the side of the road. Despite not having interacted with it, he is certain it was El Chupacabra. His certainty also impacted the participant and her family; they believed the story despite never having seen it, simply because her cousin saw it through the fog for a split second.


I believe this is because these legends are constantly reinforced to the point that they create confirmation biases. Everyone in California has heard of El Chupacabra, similar to how everyone in Scotland has heard of the Loch Ness. If one might not have, they probably would not see the objects they see as anything but what they actually are: perhaps roadkill, a rock and a stick, a funny looking shadow. Instead, they take their previously conceived notions about these legends and projected them onto their sightings to confirm them as the creature.

Foodways

Sunday Family Barbecues

The informant is a 39 year old male from Ecuador. His family used to live in Ecuador, where he was born. He moved to live in Southern California with his immediate family and cousins.

Informant’s Tradition: Every Sunday, my family makes barbecues. It’s always carne asada, or some form of carne asada and ribs. Sometimes other families will come over and it turns into a bigger party, but it’s just what my mom does. If my uncle comes over, he’ll bring something else. If I go, I’ll usually get guacamole and salsa. My mom has always been more of a house wife, taking care of the kids. When I was a kid, she always took care of me and the other kids. She takes care of my sister’s kids, so she’s always been like the homemaker.

Collector: Why do you think your mom does this?

Informant: That’s just who she was. She was the oldest sibling–she was the first daughter, so she has six brothers and sisters. And she always helped my mom take care of the other siblings. My mom enjoys it.

Collector: Where did your mom learn this from?

Informant: From my grandma. My grandma used to own a restaurant, so she taught my mom how to cook.

Collector: What does this mean to you?

Informant: To me, I think it’s just a way of keeping the family together, always knowing that there’s this event to bring us together. So they’re always there doing their thing, so they bring the family together.

Weekend barbecues is a very popular American tradition, and it’s interesting to see how cultures blend together when an Ecuadorian family participates in the culture. It shows the “melting pot” nature of the United States–the blend of Sunday barbecues with carne asada, guacamole, and salsa. It also shows there is a universality of the mother’s multiple roles in taking care of her family.

Childhood
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Easter Treasure Hunt

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.”

Analysis:

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.

Adulthood
Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Dance
Game
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Midsummer (Sweden)

And then we have our Midsummer…which is the biggest drinking holiday in the world I would say. It’s the Friday of, that’s the closest to the summer solstice. And the origin is, that way back when we were pagan, we would pray to the gods for a good harvest. So…we would raise a maypole…which is a big penis…directed into the ground, to fertilize the ground to have a good harvest. And we would dance around this penis, you know, it’s a big thing you have to do. And that night, if you’re a woman, you have to pick seven different types of flower, out in the wild, not in the store. You have to go out in the wild and pick them from a field, seven different ones, put em under your pillow, when you sleep that night you’re gonna dream about the person you’re gonna marry. It’s all about fertility! It really is.

 

So you danced around the maypole?

 

Oh yeah! We do it every year.

 

What was that like?

 

It’s, I mean now it’s more of a fun, family, keeping the tradition…it’s not so much a pagan ritual anymore. But the actual like, you carry the maypole in, all the men in the village or society help raise it. And the women have spent the whole day decorating it with small flowers. And then traditional music is still playing…

 

And everyone’s drinking during this?

 

Everyone is drinking all day. So this is the progression. Usually you have lunch, where you eat herring, herring and potatoes, that’s when you start drinking, you have some schnapps. And beer obviously with your lunch. Then you go to the area where the maypole is. And usually it’s organized, your society or village, if you’re a bigger community there are several spots so you can walk there close from your house. And there’s musicians, that play music so that you can dance to… There’s usually games of different sorts… and you know, if you’re too drunk at this point you just enjoy coffee, and you know. So it’s basically sort of desserts, but like thicker desserts, so you have coffee, you have cinnamon rolls, that kinda stuff. And you sit on the ground, on blankets, everyone brings there own blankets around this pole. So everyone dances, and then they’ll take a break, there’s some raffle stuff… And then after that you go home, and if you’re a bigger society you go home and then you have games, like seven or ten different games that you compete in against each other. And usually it’s by teams, and if you’re fewer people it’s individual. So you do that closer to where your home is, and then there’s a barbecue, and you keep drinking. And I mean you keep drinking throughout the whole day, like you start drinking at 11am in the morning, and then you keep drinking. And because it’s in the middle of summer the sun never sets, so you’re up all night. So you have your barbeque, you keep drinking, and then 2am, the sun is still up, you go skinny dipping…and then…you know……and then you pass out. And then you have sex in a bush. Everyone has sex, nine months after Midsummer there’s a lot of babies being born. Because everyone has sex, outside, you just pick a bush and have at it. You would love it. And that’s how you end your night. You easily drink…..probably a liter of schnapps per person. And probably uh….depending on how much of a beer drinker you are but let’s say you’re going with beer…probably drink about 3 gallons of beer? You know. So it’s a fun holiday.

 

So when specifically does it happen?

 

End of June. Cause harvest is in the fall for us.

 

What is the age group of people that are dancing around the pole?

 

Anything from one year olds that can hardly walk, to 85-year-olds. It’s a whole family thing. Usually what happens is, eventually after the barbeque, if you’re still a young teenager, you celebrate with your family, and then you head out to a party somewhere. But once you get old enough, like if you’re past 18, like you can still do it with your family during the day, you’ll have lunch and the celebration around the maypole with your family, and then you’ll hit the barbeque party, you’ll have dinner with your friends. And then party all night long. And if you’re doing it extra special, if you’re out in archipelago, you might leave…because everyone is off Friday, except like, firemen, policemen, hospital people. Everyone else is getting fucked up. So Friday’s always off, you’ll start Thursday, you’ll fill your car up with alcohol and food, take your boat out to your summer place which is out in the archipelago on an island, and you stay there the whole weekend. And midsummer’s on the Friday, on Saturday you wake up and…start drinking again! And then Sunday, you have a couple of beers just to…mellow out. And then you go home. It’s a lotta fun. And I mean, it’s a pagan ritual. That’s what it’s from. So that’s one of the ones that’s not gonna go away…ever. That one will definitely stay around.

 

ANALYSIS:

This is a common spring festival throughout Europe, traditionally occurring in Germany, England, and Sweden, according to The Festival Book by Jennette Lincoln. This is a spring fertility festival, both about fertilizing the ground for a good harvest, and also about the young generation reproducing and starting a new generation. There are many rituals with symbolic (phallic) imagery, and games and celebrations in which families come together and also young people from different families. Flowers are a big symbol, as the pole is decorated with flowers, the girls have to collect flowers and put them under their pillows, etc. Girls both ‘come into bloom’ in this liminal pre-adulthood stage in which they become able to bear children, and are also ‘deflowered’, two symbolic meanings in relation to flowers. Alcohol is clearly a big part of the festival, both in celebration of plenty and abundance, and probably also as a way for the young people to loosen up, party, and “interact” – which seems to be expected and even condoned by the adults and families. People copulating outside in nature also has a connotation of fertilizing the earth for a good harvest.

Customs
Game
general
Life cycle

Family reunions and “batchi ball”

The informant was discussing several things her family does for family reunions, so I asked her to elaborate on the details.

“We do family reunions, and one of the traditions is we wear really horrible t-shirts that have our family crest on top. And they’re usually like a super garish yellow and they’re super ugly, and the back of it says, ‘memories build traditions,’ and during the reunions we usually play horseshoes and batchi and my grandpa makes ice cream… We used to hold them down by my grandparents’ house, and they live in southern Indiana on the Ohio river, and there was always a tree down, and so my grandpa would take slices of the tree, like he’d take cross sections of branches, and he’d write ‘[family last name] reunion whatever year,’ and then he’d write like a quote from the reunion, like something that happened and then he’d lacquer it and drill a hole on the top and he’d give it to everyone for Christmas.

We play batchi ball… batchi ball is like a giant rectangular area, locked off by a string, and then you toss a ball around and then you have a really little ball, and the goal is to get the little ball as close to the bigger ball as possible. It’s kind of hard to describe without showing. It’s like an Italian game, I think… it can be made of different materials. Ours is made of a kind of… I think it’s like a metal ball and it’s covered in plastic, and they’re about the size of two fists, and you.. there’s… like four different sets of colors and two teams will… choose a color and you can have up to four teams, I think. And then, um, you basically take turns… OH, no no, this is how it works: you toss this little white ball in the middle of the thing and you can toss it either really close or really far, and whenever you toss it you want to toss it to the furthest corner, because then the goal of the rest of the game is to toss the larger balls and get them as close to the small ball as possible… but if they go out of bounds, then it doesn’t count. So, if you put it in the side corner, then no one’s gonna be able to reach it. Because the heavier balls are heavier and hard to toss”

Family traditions, especially family reunions, are quite common. But as illustrated above by my informant, some families go to great extent to make sure those reunions are a big deal and memorable. Games seem to be a common theme of family reunions, but making t-shirts is probably less heard of.

Customs
Foodways

Early family dinners on Sundays

My informant was telling me about some customs his family in New Jersey celebrates, and he seemed particularly fond of early Sunday dinners at 2pm.

Informant: “Every Sunday you eat dinner at like 2pm, and you have like a really big dinner that someone cooks. And you always have bread at the table, salad, pasta, and your whole family is expected to be there.”

Collector: “And then you wouldn’t have dinner after that?”

Informant: “Yeah, it was really dumb, like ‘why are we eating dinner right now?’… Italians really like to cook, and when they have a guest, they always try to feed them”

When I asked the informer if he knew why his family chose to do early dinner at 2pm instead of just a regular large dinner at the “normal” dinner time around 6pm, he was unable to recall how this tradition started. My personal hypothesis is that it’s a way for the Italian side of his family to reconnect to their European roots, since many European cultures eat a large meal at around 2pm, and then dinner is typically late at night, around 10pm or so. However, a 10pm dinner would probably be too out of the ordinary for this Americanized family to handle, so they just chose to stick to an easier option, of having a large family meal at 2pm.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Respect for your Mother and Father

Informant: “One ‘Ca Dao’ [longer Vietnamese Proverb/poem] that I’ve heard used a lot is

Công cha như núi Thái Sơn
Nghĩa mẹ như nước trong nguổn chảy ra
Môt lòng thờ mẹ kính cha
Cho tròn chữ hiểu mới là đạo con

This relates to the idea of, I believe in English the word is… filial piety…? The relationship or respect between children and parents. But in English, it’s not a common word, but in Vietnamese our word for that is hiểu, and that’s very common there too, like kids are named that and it’s a very common name, and a very common word we’d use. It’s not nearly as obscure as filial piety, which I’m still not actually sure what filial piety means, but I was told that’s the closest English translation to that word. Anyways, the best English translation for this is

Dad’s labor is as big as the Thai Son Mountain
Mom’s love is like water flowing from the source
With all my heart I respect and honor my parents
to uphold the [filial piety / hiểu] is my duty as a son/daughter

I heard this first from my parents, and they told me that their parents would say the same thing to them, and it’s supposed to show the sort of respect for parents and elders that exists in Vietnamese culture. I actually think I first heard this is the context of Buddhist Mother’s day, but otherwise it’s something that you would hear people say when you were growing up as a little kid.

Informant is a student at the University of Southern California. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam after the Vietnam war. She was born in the United States, and was raised bilingually by her parents (though she says that Vietnamese “Is definitely [her] primary language at home”). Most of her knowledge of Vietnamese culture comes from her upbringing in he Vietnamese family in an area where a lot of immigrants from Vietnam settled. Additionally, when she was growing up, she learned a lot about her Vietnamese heritage through “Temple School” which she described as “Like Christian Boy Scouts, except for Vietnamese Buddhists”.

Collector Analysis: One of the more interesting aspects of this particular piece of folklore, in this collector’s opinion, is the fact that according to the informant, this proverb contains words in Vietnamese which had no direct English translations. It’s strange to think that a language barrier could also extend to some degree into a culture barrier. Aside from this, this particular saying does a good job of showing the degree to which parents (and to an extent, elders in general) are respected and venerated in Vietnamese culture, to a point where they have need for one common word which serves a purpose that can only be completely encapsulated by two relatively obscure English words.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Having a successful child is a blessing

Informant: “In Vietnamese culture, there’s this very popular saying which is

‘Con hơn cha là nhà có phúc’

which means, if the child is…This is very loosely translated, but ‘if the child is better than the father, then the house is blessed’. So ‘better’ in terms of not that the father is a bad person, but that the father worked hard enough to raise a child that was more successful than him. So

‘if the child is more successful than the father, then the house is blessed,’

which means good family, good parenting, and good lineage. So in Vietnamese culture, or especially Vietnamese immigrants who came to America after the war, a lot of the children of these immigrants were succeeding when their parents didn’t really have anything, like, a lot of these kids of immigrants were going to college and being the first ones in their families to go to college and get a PhD or become a doctor or something. And this is something where if the parents would be talking to each other, and I guess bragging about their kids, they would say ‘oh, my son is successful now, more than my parents and more than us,’ and that was supposed to be a huge blessing.”

Informant is a student at the University of Southern California. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam after the Vietnam war. She was born in the United States, and was raised bilingually by her parents (though she says that Vietnamese “Is definitely [her] primary language at home”). Most of her knowledge of Vietnamese culture comes from her upbringing in he Vietnamese family in an area where a lot of immigrants from Vietnam settled. Additionally, when she was growing up, she learned a lot about her Vietnamese heritage through “Temple School” which she described as “Like Christian Boy Scouts, except for Vietnamese Buddhists”.

Collector Analysis: This particular proverb does an excellent job of showing the family-centric nature of Vietnamese culture. This is also a very good depiction of the American Dream, the idea that you can come to America with nothing, and be successful enough through your own hard work to give your children a better upbringing than you yourself may have had.

general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Competition to see who loved the other the most

Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.

Bolded portion is a quick summation of the the particular piece of Folklore.

 

“J: So when I was growing up, and, to this day, my Grandma, what she liked to do was, she liked to challenge me to see who loved each other more and we would do that by someone saying “I love you” and someone saying “I love you more”, and someone would say I love you the most.

J:So what would happen when we were kids, when we were at the pool, is we would try to figure out who loved each other the most, so instead of just saying it more we had to wait five minutes before some could say it again in order for the time to reset. So we’d be doing something, we’d be swimming in the pool and than all of a sudden someone would be like “oh I love you the most” and they would love you the most for those five minutes. And, ever since, ever to this day everytime we finished talking we’d always just go “I love you the most”, “nope, I love you the most” and try to say “No, I love you the most I’ve loved you before you were born”, so it’s something that we do with our family.

Me: Um, when you say, wait five minutes, is it sort of like the first person to say it wins? Or is it that, they sort of, for that entire five minute period they are the winner and then they until they are “challenged again”?

J: It was just kind of like you just couldn’t say it right away and whoever did it was the winner for that five minutes. It would restart five minutes later. Whoever could say it than obviously loved the other the most because they were paying such close attention in order to tell the other person.

Me: So let me get this straight, somebody would say “I love you the most” after a sort of like ‘escalation’, and than you’d wait five minutes…

J: It went to the point where you didn’t even have to start it off, it just began when you said “I love you the most”.

Me: Okay , so who started that tradition?

J: My grandma.

Me: And did she do that with her, uh, family as well with her Great Grandparents or… did it happen spontaneously?

J: Uhhhh…  I think it kind of just happened spontaneously, I wasn’t alive for my Great Granparents on her side of the family, it would have been a long time ago. ”

Analysis: The game appears to be a game that reiterates the loving feelings among family members while allowing friendly competition between family members, this sort of ‘endearing competition’ allowing family members to prove their caring for one another. The tradition, started by his grandmother, who is American born (as he told me after the interview), had parents that were Ukrainian, so the tradition could have been generated or duplicated in the United States or Ukraine. His grandma’s use of the game allowed the use of the game to reiterate the feeling she has for her grandchildren, and the competitive aspect could help motivate the children to play along, while allowing them to express admiration for each other and her. As “J” described it, all members tried to answer first, and the competitive aspect was taken seriously.

 

Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Udon Noodle Christmas Tradition

“D” is a 19 year old female student at The University of Southern California. She is a Chemistry major and interested in pursuing Pharmacy after college.  She is Vietnamese on both sides of her family and describes herself as very close with her sister, whom she shares many Folkloric traditions with. She played soccer up through high school and is currently active in the rugby community.

 

Transcript:

“D: So you know like the Udon noodles? Well udon noodles they take like forever to make. Ever since we were little my uncle who lives in Massachusetts, whenever he’d come down to California he’d come over and literally all the kids would help him make these noodles.

Me: Mmmhm.

D: We’d only have them during Christmas time because they was the only time that he’d come by and were all together, so like different kids would do different jobs at the time and like make the noodles.

Me: Do you guys still do it every year?

D: Expect now that we’re all older we don’t really need him to be there, so like my sister would start it and me and my sister would run it and all my little cousins would come help.

Me: When he came and stuff you could all finish it up?

D: Yeah, yeah! We did it one year without him though.

Me: So this is obviously before the meal, so you all get ready and get together and do it. Are there any other songs or sorts of rituals you do during the proccess? Or is it the very first thing that you do during Christmas dinner?

D: No. But it’s the thing that we all look forward too.”

 

Analysis:

As “D” indicated, the tradition began with her uncle within her lifetime, being motivated by the fact that it brought the whole family together. The choice of udon noodles allowed a common goal for the whole family to work on as a team, while allowing each member to play a role in the eventual creation of the meal, reinforcing the group dynamic already contained by them being in a family. As “D” and her sister can now perform the role without their uncle, it may act the symbolize competency in an ‘adult’ task that was originally denied to them as children. Much in the vein of the carving of the Thanksgiving turkey, which is passed down from father to son, this task may be passed down to former helpers as they grow up.

 

[geolocation]