USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Family tradition’
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Saint Patrick’s Day Food

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, as reflected in the subjects emphasis on “we always always do [it]”. Most of her extended family live within an hour radius, and they value family gatherings. Though this is the case, the subject only celebrates St. Patrick’s day with her immediate family members. I thought it was interesting that the subject’s family celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, considering no one in their family is of Irish descent. Additionally, I thought it was interesting how the family doesn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s day in a traditional sense (i.e. celebrating by drinking or gathering with extended family); instead, I believe the incorporation of images from the Dr. Seuss story, “Green Eggs and Ham”, reflects the nurturing and supportive environment of the family and the encouragement of uniqueness.

 

Main Piece

“On Saint Patrick’s Day—my family and I—we always make green eggs and ham, um, it’s not really specific to St. Patrick’s day, it’s a Dr. Seuss book, but, um, we have everything green for that breakfast. This year my dad even made the butter green so the bagels look really wonky [laughs], that was a little gross, but, um, we always always always do that, and if it’s not breakfast or we can’t be together for breakfast we’re together for, um, dinner or something, and we’ll like dye our Indian food green [laughs].”


 

Customs
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Ancestral Visits

Informant Info: The informant is a 21-year-old male who was born and raised in Chanhassen, Minnesota. His parents both moved to America from India when they were in their twenties. He is currently a student at USC studying Electrical Engineering.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do your parents, being first generation immigrants, have any traditions or rituals that they’ve passed down to you?

 

Interviewee: Every time we go to India, we take the train down to my mother’s ancestral village, like where her parents and grandparents grew up. It’s really old and small… only like 20 or 30 people live there I think…so it’s really tiny. And everyone is old, I think the average age is like 80ish, not to be rude.  But it is really, really important to my mom, so we go every time.

 

Analysis:

This story represents the significance of ancestral history. Despite leaving India and coming to America, his mother’s ancestral home is still very important her. It is where she grew up with her parents, spent her childhood, and was taught all of the values and traditions that she still carries with her today. For her, she goes to pay her respects to her ancestors and her hometown, and by doing so, the informant is also learning about its importance.

Customs
general
Humor

Bonding through Media

Informant Info: The informant is a 21-year-old male who was born and raised in Chanhassen, Minnesota. His parents both moved to America from India when they were in their twenties. He is currently a student at USC studying Electrical Engineering.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do you have any little family traditions among your family?

 

Interviewee: Every time I come back to Minnesota. I always watch the same episode of Top Gear with my brother. The same, single episode. It’s called the Vietnam special, in case you want to know. We’ve done it since I left for college, every time I come back. It’s such a stupid episode, but it’s just something we do together and I can’t stop it now.

 

Analysis:

This tradition is yet another tradition where the sole purpose is to help the family, or in this case brothers, bond. I wasn’t able to gather any context as to how the tradition started or if there was significance behind the tradition, other than the fact that the brother just really likes Top Gear.

 

general

Family Roadtrips

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: Can you tell me about your favorite past time?

 

Interviewee: I think my favorite past time would have to be being in the car. Not sitting in traffic, but with people I love going on a spontaneous adventure.

 

Interviewer: Really? Where did this come from. Like why do you love driving or what are your favorite memories from it?

 

Interviewee: One of my most cherished memories was the road trip my brother, best friend, and I took from San Antonio all the way to Fayetteville, North Carolina. It’s a 22-hour trip and I drove for 18 of them. We stopped in so many places along the way. Our first stop was in Houston to get coffee. I ended up drinking a total of 8 shots in a matter of minutes and I do not recommend that…but I was awake for the rest of the trip! Then we were in Louisiana when the sky decided to break and rain harder than I ever thought possible. Next thing you know my driver side windshield wiper flew off and straight into the bayou… Like…Great. We pull over as soon as we can and I switch from the passenger side to the driver side. We ended up in Gross Teet, Louisiana and the name to this day still makes me laugh. We got new ones and went on our way. Next stop was New Orleans, and boy! It did not disappoint. Beignets by the dozen and fortunes from the voodoo man were in store. After living my Tiana dreams we were on the road again. Next stop Pensacola. We stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel and we were on the way again. My brother drove the last four hours into North Carolina but before we crossed into the state we had to stop at south of the border: the most insane truck stop experience EVER. Once we got to North Carolina, I decided I wanted to keep going to Virginia Beach to see my maw and grandaddy and to this day I’m so happy I did. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d ever see my grandaddy and I hold that memory very close to my heart. After Virginia, we went back to North Carolina and I graduated high school and then traveled to the happiest place on earth (Disney World) and made some more really great memories, like meeting you!

 

Analysis:

This is not direct folklore, but it is an excellent example of story-telling. I was with the informant in person when she told me this story, and she gave a very active-performance. She was very excited, spoke with lots of arm movements, and loved being able to talk about her favorite past time. At a later time, off the record, she brought up how important road trips are to her, and how she wants to find a way to make road trips a family tradition in the future.

Childhood
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Cremer Family’s Passover Hazelnut Game

Background:  I had approached Hannah about telling me about her family Passover tradition that she had fleetingly mentioned at Shabbat Dinner at Hillel at the University of Southern California. She had talked about a hazelnut game for children during Passover that is unique to her family. Hannah goes to her grandparent’s house for the first night of Passover and celebrates the second night at her great-aunts house. She is from Illinois.

Context: I interviewed Hannah in the dining room of our sorority house, Delta Delta Delta. It was right after dinnertime so the dining room was full of people with coffee or tea chatting in the background of our conversation.

“Basically it’s kind of like marbles but we play with hazelnuts and my great-grandfather came up with it. We play with shelled hazelnuts. Everyone sits in a circle and you have your own little pile of hazelnuts which are like the ammo and in the center they spread them out, like a dozen or whatever, and then the kids all go around and take a turn throwing one of their hazelnuts from their personal pile at the ones in the center. If you hit one in the center then you get a quarter. Then as the game progresses there are stacks of quarters with a hazelnut on top that are in the center which are the jackpot pieces. When you hit the hazelnut off the stack of quarters, then you get the hazelnut plus the whole stack. So it’s pretty fun, I don’t know. You play it until you’re at bar or bat mitzvah age and then my grandpa is always the one that runs it all. His grandfather was the one that came up with the game. So we’ve been playing it for a really long time with the exact same hazelnuts. I don’t know how they’ve lasted this long, they’re 60 years old. It’s so gross. I was the only granddaughter until I was 12 so I always got some extra quarters tossed my way. It was always a fun game. When you’re a little kid, the Passover seder is so long to sit through. We would play the game right before dessert. So after the seder and dinner- it was something to look forward to. We always played on the basement floor of my grandparents house. It’s really bizarre. My great grandparents were born in Odessa, Russia. My grandparents were born here. My grandpa learned it from his father. I think it’s important to my grandpa that we keep playing this game. All the hazelnuts are the original hazelnuts, we don’t replace them with any new ones. My dad’s whole side of the family is Eastern-European and came to the US around the early 1900s. I didn’t know that other people didn’t play this game until I was pretty old. I truly had no idea, I thought everyone played this.”

Reflection: I am Jewish and grew up in Los Angeles going to Jewish day school. I have never heard of a tradition like this one, from my friends or family.

Childhood
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Cremer Family’s Passover Afikomen Tradition

Background: I had approached Hannah about telling me about her family Passover tradition that she had fleetingly mentioned at Shabbat Dinner at Hillel at the University of Southern California. She had talked about a hazelnut game for children during Passover that is unique to her family. Hannah goes to her grandparent’s house for the first night of Passover and celebrates the second night at her great-aunt’s house. She is from Illinois.

Context: I interviewed Hannah in the dining room of our sorority house, Delta Delta Delta. It was right after dinner so the dining room was full of people with coffee or tea chatting in the background of our conversation. After Hannah shared her family tradition of the hazelnut game (published under the title “The Cremer Family’s Passover Hazelnut Game”) I asked her if her family has any other family traditions for Passover. She then shared the tradition of individual afikomen.

“We all have our own afikomen. I don’t know when it… as long as I can remember there is always an afikomen for everyone to find. So like all the grandchildren have their own. Currently there are 9 different afikomen hidden with our names on them. They’re wrapped and we always get a $2 bill. That’s our gift for finding the afikomen. It’s wrapped in a napkin that has your name on it. My grandpa gives us $2 bills as the prize. I’m not sure who started this tradition. I doubt that it comes from my great grandfather. My grandparents hide the afikomen for us to find before we all come to dinner. If you find someone else’s you’re expected to put it back where you found it or pretend like you didn’t see it.”

Foodways
general
Holidays

Hanish Family Gefilte Fish Tradition

Background: Lila is my best friend from high school. She has a tradition with her dad, Jon, and her younger sister, Sydney, to hand make apple pies for Thanksgiving together. They also have a tradition of making gefilte fish together for Passover in the springtime.

 

Context: I called Lila over FaceTime because she attends Drexel University in Philadelphia. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it below. She described this gefilte fish tradition in succession to her family’s pie tradition, published under the title “Hanish Family Pie Tradition”.

 

“So I feel like it’s pretty similar to our apple pie thing for our family. Every year my family hosts the Passover seder. We do all the cooking. It’s been a tradition for as long as I can remember that we make the gefilte fish with my dad. I feel like my dad really values having these little traditions with us that he can count on even as we get older. The apple pies and the gefilte fish. It’s honestly super disgusting and I hate it, but it’s just something we do every year so I’ve learned to deal with it. This one we have friends over for less, because friends don’t often want to rub their different fishes together with their bare hands, you know? There is something satisfying about it in a certain way.. that makes me sound so weird and creepy wow.”

 

I then asked Lila if she could elaborate on what gefilte fish is. This was her response.


“It’s like a traditional Passover, Jewish food. It’s Ashkenazi, I think. It looks like a matzah ball but it tastes like fishy fish. When we first started I think my dad got the different types of fish. But now he goes to a butcher that gives him the combination of the fish. We only make it for passover. We would NEVER make it any other time of year. That’s just gross and weird. My mom will do most of the other cooking for the seder, but this is the thing that the three of us take care of. It’s always on the first night, never second night, always first night. This tradition originated with my dad, I know he didn’t do this with his family growing up.”

 

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.

Game

Family Tradition: Guess the Number of Previews at Each Movie

“My family has a game we play when we go to movie theaters.  When we go see a movie, we always guessed the amount of commercials or previews there are going to be and then how many of this video’s we actually want to go watch. So, before the movie starts off, I’ll be like, ‘4:2’, and my mom would be like, ‘6:3’ and that’s like the number of previews you think are going to happen before the show and then the amount of those previews that happened that we would actually go see.”

Background Information and Context:

“I have no idea why we do that or when it started, but as far as I know we’ve done it as long as we’ve gone to see movies. I just know that my family does it, and that Reed [my boyfriend] and I do it. It’s a tradition, and it’s fun, and it’s really dumb.”

Collector’s Notes:

This is a great example of how sharing traditions help continue the tradition and improve one’s connections with others. The game that the informant plays with her family before each movie is fun and has positive associations, but by sharing the game with her boyfriend, she is not only continuing the tradition away from home but also allowing someone else to become a part of a well-loved tradition. More than simply telling someone about a tradition, allowing someone to engage in a personal tradition is a sign of trust and closeness, a sign that you deem them worthy of being a part of something that means a lot to you.

Customs

Chinese philosophy told by my grandfather

The informant talks about her grandfather teaching her a well-known philosophical passage and somewhat like an idiom

Informant: Then he would tell ma another story about being ambitious, or living out to your full capacity from Zhuangzi again. “If you are a bird, you should be the biggest bird in the sky, 大鵬鳥. They are so big that when they spread out their wings, the occupy half of the sky.” I would challenge him “It doesn’t make sense. Then there would be only 2 birds in the sky because 2 would cover the whole sky!” Then he would tell me that “If you are a fish, then you should be the biggest fish in the sea. The big one that’s called the whale.” I would tell him, “No, sorry grandpa, whale is not a fish, it is a mammal!”

But then when I went back to Penghu, where my grandpa lived for 10 years of his life since he came to Taiwan with his father when he was 11, I finally realized how come he was so strict and serious all the times. We got off the bus at the community center where they were offering the elderly a luncheon that day. All elders sat up straight listening to the head of the village talking, no one was walking around, no one was talking, they all sat up straight listening. Then we went to a small park. The decoration at the park was red lantern with 三字經, another didactic passage telling us how to behave well, to be loyal to your emperor and filial to you parents and stuff. They got a grant to refurbish a section of the village where no one lived there many more. They made ceramic plates on the house, again with all didactic passages like honor your words, work hard, don’t be lazy, be polite and kind to others…

Growing up in Taiwan, I knew the phrase 慎終追遠, which means to know your ancestors. I probably used it hundreds of time writing essays and stuff, but I never really felt what it meant. This is the sad part of the modern day education, we learn many things as a knowledge, the meaning of those words literally, but not really felt it. You would have to really spend the time to talk with, live with, go back to the environment he grew up, then you would really understand how and why he was the way he was. I thought I knew my grandfather, but I always hope he would not be so dead serious. But it only took me 10 minutes setting foot in the village he grew up with, then I understood why he was so serious, then I really understood the meaning of 慎終追遠.

 

This is a very important part of the chinese culture, displays of filial piety is incredibly deep-rooted in our culture and it is something that is taught to toddlers in the east still practiced today. This is something that is quite lacking in the west, except for Hispanic culture as I am told. That aside, growing up in America, I rarely see filial piety being practiced. After hearing this story it really is interesting that coming from a Taiwanese family as well, although my parents do not feel that I must be obligated to be filial to them unlike they have been taught all their lives, it is something that is very eye-opening to me.

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