USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘family gathering’
Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Easter Egg Traditions

Context & Analysis

My roommate (the subject) and I were sitting in our dorm room talking about how our families celebrated different holidays. The subject’s family is relatively large and extremely tight-knit. Most of her extended family live within an hour radius, and they highly value family gatherings. The dying of the Easter eggs the night before is a tradition carried out only by her immediate family, suggesting that this tradition might not be shared with her extended relatives. It is also interesting to consider that the family chooses to celebrate Easter despite not being religious themselves. Additionally, the subject and her sisters are all high school age or older, so I think that it is fascinating that their mother maintains the façade of the Easter bunny hiding the eggs. It appears that the tradition of the performing the event in the exact way it has “always” been is a way to preserve an important part of girls’ childhood.

 

Main Piece

“On Easter, we always do an Easter egg hunt and the night before we always dye hard-boiled eggs. And my parents always hide the eggs and it’s funny because they keep the façade of ‘Oh, the Easter bunny hid it over there, wow he’s so sneaky!” but its them, it’s like—but my sisters and I are (all three) old enough that we know that, but, like, it’s funny that they still keep that. My mom won’t shop for Easter bunny stuff in front of us, she’ll like—my sister pointed out some stuff to her at Target like “Oh mom, look those are cute baskets for everyone “ and she’s like “No that’s Easter bunny shopping, the Easter bunny will come back later” [laughs], so she attempts to like keep that going, but it’s funny and it’s always been that way.”


 

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Portland Christmas (Childhood)

Informant Info: The informant is a 22-year-old male who was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and comes from a Catholic family. He currently is a senior at USC and is very into half-marathon and marathon racing.

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Growing up, did you have any big holiday traditions?

 

Interviewee: I would say my mom is the biggest proponent of like keeping the traditions strong in our family. I would also say that Christmas is definitely the one that has most traditions surrounding it. When I was a kid we had ones that would be like kind of like silly now. We would we all do the mass on Christmas Eve together to a Catholic Mass. Before that we always went off to a nice dinner. And at that point nice was Olive Garden for me. So that’s what I though was a nice dinner (laughter). That was a joy. But I think later on I realized that Olive Garden was not indeed a nice dinner, so we changed it up a little bit. But up until I was probably in like the seventh or eighth grade, I uh – We did that as a tradition. So, would go out, we’d have the same waitress at the Olive Garden and we’d have our same meals. I would always order the same thing you know like a fettuccine alfredo and a raspberry lemonade. I remember that very clearly. And then after that I would go to Mass. I think it used to be at 10:00. And then we come home, and we do our little rituals….we had a very set routine before we go to bed on Christmas Eve. We would come around, my mom would have the cookies that she would have out, uhh she’d bring a variety of cookies into the living room and then be laid and

we would each have one or two of those. And then we would read a book. So, we’d have like a massive stack of Christmas books in our living room. And you choose two to three for people to read and at that everyone would be getting pretty tired, so my mom would usually read it and we kind of like were falling asleep. But before that we actually would write a letter to Santa. So, one interesting thing about my parents is that they still will not openly admit that there is no Santa. So even though it’s all kind of like tongue and cheek at this point… Like it’s a bit silly that we still have to write a letter to Santa even though you know as the youngest I’m 22 years old and so that’s kind of like I would say had an example of like the emphasis my mom has on tradition. And so we always write a letter to Santa and maybe cookies and a beer at this point. Uh and so, in the morning, Santa has written back and has eaten the cookies and has drank some of the beer as well. But then in the evening what we do is we have the cookies then we have my mom read the story and then we write a letter to Santa and then we open one present. When I was a kid that was like what I really looked forward to and now as the presents dwindle underneath the tree…We’re like kind of like “Well I really don’t need to because that’d be opening like half of my presents under the tree!”

So we still most of that, I still have like that tradition of it. And then we go to bed. Usually right around midnight. When I was a kid I would always try and stay up as late as I could, as always, and try and listen for Santa coming in. And now I’m like just like a homebody. So I’m like already so exhausted and like “I’m going to sleep, I’ll get up in the morning” and then I would say like in the morning it always would be I would be the first one up. So I would be because I was young as I was usually the one to get up and like my brothers and sisters who are teenagers they would sleep in later. I would always get up and I would try and run to the kitchen and my parents would get up and grab me and not let them go in there quite yet because whenever we wanted to open our presents or see our stuff from Santa we would always have to be there together so I would just sit in parents room and I’d be like sitting from 6:30 to 8 just waiting for everyone to get up and it was the longest hour of my life. Eventually it’d get later and later the older we got.

Anyways, then we would go into the living room together and our presents from Santa wouldn’t be wrapped, they’d be in or by our stocking, so we’d go and see if we got what we wanted and them we went. Then all the other presents would be wrapped so we would do our Santa stuff at first and then my mom would start making breakfast and she’d made most of breakfast the day before. We have really big, really big breakfast with like a casserole and bacon and grapefruit and cinnamon rolls and stuff like that. And that’s something I always look forward to and it was like the calm before the storm of seeing what our Santa presents were and opening the wrapped presents. Instead of just going in and ripping them open, my mom always made sure we had always taken turns, or all had one at a time to open. Afterwards, she’d make sure you wrote thank you notes afterwards. When I was a kid, I was kind of impatient but now I appreciate it. So that was like when I was a kid and those were my habits and traditions. As I’ve gotten older, they’ve changed and adapted slightly but not by much.

Analysis:

The informant’s family Christmas seems to be a very traditional American and Catholic Christmas. On a religious level, it is one of the most important holidays, and he holds Christmas Mass to be very dear to him. On the other end of the spectrum, it seems extremely traditional in terms of it being a time that the family can be very close together. His family traditions of having a large Christmas eve dinner, opening one present at a time, and having a large meal on Christmas align with my own family’s traditions and shares similarities with many other Christmas collections.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Portland Christmas (Adulthood)

Informant Info: The informant is a 22-year-old male who was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and comes from a Catholic family. He currently is a senior at USC and is very into half-marathon and marathon racing.

Interview Transcript

Interviewer: As an adult, what are you Christmas traditions like now?

Where we’ve changed our Christmas Eve traditions a little bit as we’ve gotten older is about when I got to high school. There’s a place called the Downtown Chapel or St. Andre Bassett that has become like our parish… So, I’m a Catholic so Christmas is primarily a Catholic holiday for us not necessarily or whatever like an Amish holiday. So, we would go and that became our parish. But they are in downtown Portland, so they are a really big resource for people experiencing homelessness. So, they had a lot of like programs on like every day of the week. On Fridays they had soup kitchens. All that stuff. So, it’s like that’s like the mission of the of the church more so than normal church that we used to belong to. We made our tradition started for me in fifth grade and in making it like our full tradition when I was like maybe in eighth grade or ninth grade is that we would go down on Christmas Eve during the day and you would serve a t a Christmas party. So, they had like a Christmas party where they host like over 200 or 300 people who were experiencing homelessness in Portland and they have all this food and coffee and they have like different Christmas movies playing and they have chances to make like gingerbread houses and all the really, really, fun Christmas related things and just an opportunity for them to get out of the cold. And so that’s what we’ve now been doing every single year since like middle school and since then I look forward to Christmas a lot more because it reminds me a little bit more of like how fortunate I am and also like the chance that I can still interact in my parish even when I’m coming home from college. And so we do that and then after that we go to watch downtown at this place called Dan and Louise which is like a chowder… A clam chowder spot. And it’s like actually not particularly good food. Like I think it’s fine but like it’s more become tradition so its not like we can stray away from it even if we wanted to. And then we all go get a picture with Santa. Now literally I’m 22 and the youngest and my brother is almost 30 and we still get pictures with Santa. It is ridiculous, but we are not able to sway my mom in that sense.

And usually it’s like I would say that Christmas is one time that my family is coming and spread throughout the country and it’s hard to try and find time where we can all be together. But my mom made a really, really, really, big effort to kind of make sure that we’re all together on Christmas which is something that I appreciate more and more as I get older. So, I think that having some normalcy of most of the traditions that now seem kind of arbitrary or like silly or like things like I’d be fine changing if it wasn’t the tradition. I think for her and it provides a sense of security and family comfort. So that’s kind of like what I interpret as our traditions for Christmas but definitely one of our most tradition laden holidays.

Analysis:

It is interesting to see how the informant’s Christmas traditions have evolved as he was growing up. The context behind this collection refers back to a previous collection of his Christmas traditions as a kid, and how they have changed as he has gotten older. It’s interesting to examine how he looks most forward to volunteering and serving the community on Christmas now, whereas a kid he seemed to only look forward to the presents.  This seems to be primarily influenced by his mom, who he mentioned held traditions to be extremely important.

Holidays
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Texan Christmas

Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do you have any major holidays that you celebrate? How do you celebrate it?

 

Interviewee: My family has celebrated Christmas the same every year since my brother was born almost 25 years ago. We start Christmas Eve as you would any holiday by prepping “dinner” for around 3 o’clock. We all get in our Sunday best and eat Christmas Eve dinner as a family. After dinner, dessert, and a lot of laughs we sit in the living room reminiscing old Christmas memories. My personal favorite is the one my Grandaddy used to tell about how ecstatic I was to receive a hot wheels toy at a mere 3 years old. After story time we each open a few presents which are the same every year. We start with our matching Christmas jammies and we all change into them immediately. Then my grandma hands us each three boxes. One has pistachios (And uhh..I don’t know the origin of that one). One has a check. And the last has an ornament she found earlier in the year that reminds her of us. After we hang our ornaments on the tree we write our letter to Santa. Each sibling alternates writing it each year and since there’s 4 of us we get a pretty decent break! Last we set out milk and gingerbread cookies for Santa and hang up our stocking, including ones for our fur babies. Then we all go to sleep and wake up not so bright and early Christmas morning!

 

 

Analysis:

Within this one family, there are several interesting pieces of folklore, that I was unfortunately not able to fully get out of the informant. Her family seems to hold on to old traditions and memories, yet the origin is unclear. She says that her family has been doing this for at least 25 years. By the sounds of it, many of the traditions, such as the matching pajamas or the pistachios, fall into the genre of practical jokes. She claims that she loves everything about her Christmas and plans on doing the same thing for her kids, once she has a family of her own. In addition, this tradition seems to share similarities on a macro level, such as a large family dinner on Christmas Eve, writing letters to Santa (a common folk tradition), hanging ornaments, and leaving out milk and cookies.

 

Customs
Folk speech
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Friendship Toast

When at a large group dinner with many friends all drinking and eating, Lizzie offers a toast:

“There’s good ships and wood ships and ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships so cheers to you and me”

After she gave the toast, I ask when she uses that particular toast:

“I use it every time I’m with good friends, old or new, to bring everyone together. Regardless of if everyone knows each other or not, it gives everyone a reason to laugh.”

 

 

Background: Lizzie is a recent graduate from USC originally from Riverside, CA and now living in Westwood, CA.

Context: Lizzie will offer this toast frequently when out drinking or eating with friends. I personally heard her say this once at a small party and another time at a birthday dinner. Originally, Lizzie heard it from another friend offering it as a toast when she was 17 years old living in Riverside. She then adopted it as her signature toast and her friends always expect it from her now.

Analysis: Proverbial sayings and in particular short toasts spread very easily since they are usually concise and catchy. In this circumstance, I found it interesting to consider a proverb or toast becoming a part of someone’s personal identity or image to other people like this has for Lizzie. Whenever Lizzie is at an intimate social event, her friends expect this toast from her. It made me consider any phrases or sayings that I frequently use in my daily vocabulary, and if there is a word-based habit that would remind my friends or family of me.

Customs
Holidays
Life cycle
Narrative
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Reading of the Christmas Story

A father has implemented a tradition in his family that the eldest family member present reads the “Christmas Story” as recorded in the book of the Bible, Luke. This occurs before any Christmas presents are opened, he explains:

“I started this tradition as a way of reminding everyone what Christmas truly means without getting too wrapped up in the excitement of the holiday and the gift aspect. Christmas to me is a true celebration of life and having the oldest family member read the story is another way of celebrating life itself.

This version of the Christmas story text reads as follows (Luke Chapter 2: 1-21, NIV edition):

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the         Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”

 

 

Background:He is 53 years old and raised in Los Gatos, CA. He was raised in a Catholic home and began to strongly identify in the Christian faith after college and into his years as a father. He attended Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.

Context:He shared this tradition with me at a dinner we had just the two of us. His mother had just passed away, and he was reflecting on his fondest memories of her.

Analysis: Family traditions, particularly those linked to particular holidays or particular people, is a really emotional form of folklore. There is something about a holiday ritual that evokes such a strong sense of family unity and solidarity that I think is very unique. In terms of the Christmas tradition explained above, the most captivating element is that the reading is done by the eldest family member every year. This is really emotional to think about, as the eldest family member could potentially change every year depending on family members who pass on. For the person who shared this story, his mom was the one reading the Christmas story for many years, until this Christmas, when the tradition had to be passed on to someone new. The tradition becomes heavy in this sense, but also a really beautiful way to continue someone’s legacy and memory within one family unit.

Legends
Narrative

Haunted House

Informant (A.G.) is an 18 year old student from Los Angeles.

A.G.: “My mom is really religious and my grandma is really religious. I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church and stuff”

While his “dad is Italian” and his “mom is Colombian,” they “both grew up in Columbia” to come here when they were “18 or 19.” Alex’s mom is a “stay at home mom,” and his dad does “construction” and owns some local “properties.” We grew up in the same area of Los Angeles, and started to hang out in high school. He was telling some ghost stories at a party one weekend, so I set up an interview for the following Saturday afternoon. I picked him up and brought him to our mutual friend’s house to conduct the collection.

A.G.: “In my apartment building, we used to live in one of the back apartment units.”

While the family still owns the apartment building, A.G. has since upgraded to a nearby house.

A.G.: “At the dinner table… my brother and sister used to talk about stuff that would happen to them because our house was super creepy.”

Here “our house” refers to the family’s apartment building.

A.G.: “The roofing in the house used to be really fucked up and you could see through the roof to the wooden beams. My sister and brother said that every night there were these two green dots up there looking down into the bunk bed. My sister said that one night it just wasn’t there anymore. They said it looked like eyes or something.”

By only sharing their unpleasant supernatural experiences attached to the old building after moving out, A.G.’s siblings expressed relief in the move to the family. As A.G.’s siblings’ description of the unidentified eyes don’t doesn’t mention them belonging to any particular entity, I inferred that the building itself was responsible. Further, A.G.’s description of the building suggests it was not an ideal environment to grow up. I interpret A.G.’s siblings’ scary story as expression of both happiness for having moved, and fear for the condition of the apartment building.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Legends
Narrative

Grandma’s Ghost

Informant (A.G.) is an 18 year old student from Los Angeles.

A.G.: “My mom is really religious and my grandma is really religious. I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church and stuff”

While his “dad is Italian” and his “mom is Colombian,” they “both grew up in Columbia” to come here when they were “18 or 19.” Alex’s mom is a “stay at home mom,” and his dad does “construction” and owns some local “properties.” We grew up in the same area of Los Angeles, and started to hang out in high school. He was telling some ghost stories at a party one weekend, so I set up an interview for the following Saturday afternoon. I picked him up and brought him to our mutual friend’s house to conduct the collection.

A.G.: “In my apartment building, we used to live in one of the back apartment units.”

While the family still owns the apartment building, A.G. has since upgraded to a nearby house.

A.G.: “At the dinner table… my brother and sister used to talk about stuff that would happen to them because our house was super creepy.”

Here “our house” refers to the family’s apartment building.

A.G.’s family connects over the supernatural. For instance, while the non-religious A.G. is less concerned with Christianity than his pious mother, she is less concerned with the supernatural. However, they all contribute supernatural experiences to the dinner table discussion.

A.G.: “This happened to my mom. It was weird hearing it from her because she’s always like ‘oh that stuff’s bullshit.’ This happened in Florida when she was visiting my grandma in her last days. After a few days after she passed away, my mom said she was sleeping in the living room or something and then she said that she woke up at night and the TV was on and she saw a figure that reminded her of her mom.”

A.G’s mother’s experience of seeing a recently deceased family member is a regular part of the grieving process. Such memorates, referred to as crisis apparitions, make up a large part of the ghost story genre. While A.G.’s mother’s experience was attached to the deceased grandmother, A.G.’s siblings had their own supernatural experiences attached to the old apartment building. Whether it’s remembering the loss of a loved one, or a displeasurable living situation, I interpret the exchange of scary stories to be the family’s way of bonding over personal tribulations.

For more ghost stories about deceased loved ones, visit http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/23/living/crisis-apparitions/

Legends
Narrative

Bob’s Frieghter Jump

Informant Bio

My informant is a student at USC who hails from Detroit, Michigan. He grew up in the suburbs around Detroit, attended a private Catholic school there, and has great pride in his city. He has a large family with whom he is very close.

Bob

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, my informant’s family has a lake house that they use for family gatherings in the summer. His family is rather large, so these gatherings involve three or four sets of grandparents, anywhere from four to six sets of aunts and uncles, plus my informant’s parents, and up to ten of my informant’s cousins along with him and his two siblings.

At these family gatherings one year, someone brought up a story that they’d heard about a man who leapt off a freighter into Lake Michigan and had never been found. No one knew who that man was, or why he jumped. The family together tried to research the incident online, but couldn’t find a single news story that sounded similar.

Over time the story has been brought up at the gatherings and has become a joke for my informant’s family. Someone in the family decided that the man’s name was Bob, and that somehow Bob was still hanging around the Upper Peninsula. My informant’s sister along with some other young kids from a nearby lake house once came across a large slab of broken rock that they declared “Bob’s Tomb.”

The story has circulated around the lakeside community, and has become a popular legend of the Upper Peninsula. But to my informant, it remains a family joke.

[geolocation]