USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘fast’
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Karva Chauth

My informant M is my 49-year-old mother. She follows many Hindu traditions and religious holidays even though she lives in America. She has found a community of friends who also celebrate many of the same traditions as well.

In this piece, my informant goes into great detail about the history of a one-day festival called Karva Chauth. She also explains her extensive experience celebrating the tradition with it to me (AK).

M: (Reading this from a website) Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in many countries in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. … The festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon.

M: Well this is correct, I just fast until I can see the moon.

AK: Do you remember how long ago you started doing this?

M: I have done it ever since I was married because this tradition is for married women and done for their husbands.

AK: Can you tell me anything about how this tradition started or was created?

M: Sorry I don’t know the story that well. I can try though. It’s about a woman named Karva who was devoted to her husband. The husband was killed by a crocodile and after the wife threatened Yama, the God of Death … I think he sent the crocodile to hell and brought the husband back to life. That’s all if I remember it correctly.

AK: Wow, that’s a really great story.

I distinctly remember this tradition because I remember as a child I would love to help my mom look for the moon. Some years, if the sky was especially cloudy, it would be very difficult to locate the moon, and I remember feeling like it was my duty to seek out and find the moon.

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Rituals, festivals, holidays

No meat on Christmas Eve

“We didn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is fine, but not on Christmas Eve. So we’d eat, like, baccala, which is salted cod. And calamari and other fish and seafood.”

 

My informant is an Italian Catholic. Refraining from meat on Christmas Eve is one of many cultural traditions practiced by this group. There are certain traditional fish dishes prepared, including baccala. My informant told me that she doesn’t particularly like baccala, and neither does the rest of her family. However, they make and eat it every year because it is traditional to do so.

Customs
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Maslenitsa

“Maslenitsa is basically like a pre-fast to Lent, where you just…you give up meat that week, dairy…so it’s meant to work you off of it. Blini are sweet, so you’re not so depressed, uh…that’s…that’s my take on it. Then you just don’t eat meat or fish or dairy for forty days. Not just Wednesday, Friday–every day.”

Most Christian cultures have their own version of the famous Brazilian Carnival, the blowing off of steam before the fasting that comes with Lent. In Russian Orthodox culture, it is called Maslenitsa. During the week-long holiday, the faithful partake in a pre-fast, as noted by my informant. They give up meat and dairy in preparation for the intense fasting of Lent. In addition, the celebration of Maslenitsa originated in Slavic mythology and was a celebration of the end of winter. Because it still persists to this day, we can see how pagan rituals have been absorbed into Christian holidays. Obviously, this is common across cultures; however, it is especially obvious in this Russian holiday because of the pagan folk elements such as bonfires and the burning of effigies.

Blini, essentially the Russian version of crepes, are the most popular food during this time. They are a traditional Russian dish and are wildly popular; as my informant notes, the fact that blini are everywhere during the week leading up to the Lenten fast makes it easier on everyone.

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