USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘fasting’
Customs

Fasting for Blessings

“So, In India, there’s this common ritual for married couples.  So, one day of the year, they fast in honor of their significant other so the gods bless them.  My parents did it until they were in their 40’s but then they just gave up on it.  For the most orthodox families they do it even if their ill and need to eat, but since my family isn’t like that it’s not that serious.  And it’s on a specific day of the year, but I don’t remember which one.”

ANALYSIS:

I find it interesting that different families take this custom to different degrees of seriousness.  It’s a very clear and straightforward ritual, that if you fast you will be blessed by the gods, but still some families take it more seriously than others.  It makes me wonder what percent of families take it seriously compared to the percent that don’t, and if there are any other factors that might help indicate which families will take it seriously and which won’t.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

From Ash Wednesday to Easter Colombian rituals

Another document collected from my great Aunt Nora about Holiday rituals, is what happens from Ash Wednesday to Saturday before Easter. Every Friday is observed by not eating any meat (beef, pork, chicken) only eggs and seafood can be consumed on also Good Friday and Virgin Saturday (day before Easter) are considered especially sacred. On Easter there is usually a feast with all the meats including those foods that were giving up for Lent. During Lent, a favorite food like chocolate is given up as an act of sacrifice to give remembrance to Jesus’s 40 days fast in the desert before the crucifixion. Any pagan ritual like coloring eggs, going on an easter egg hunts, making Easter baskets for the kids is also followed along side the holiday/religious rituals as long as they do not conflict, like eating a chocolate bunny before Easter would be a bad thing if chocolate is what you gave up on lent but on Easter, perfectly ok.

Analysis: I was shocked how many of my USC fellow classmates actually gave up their favorite food for Lent.  I find it amusing that no matter how religious my family member claim to be, they have no problem observing pagan ritual because they interpret it as American Holiday rituals not pagan. Although, everyone seemed confused why rabbits lays eggs in America? I tried to explain, but gave up quickly because food came out.

Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Navratri

My informant M is my 49-year-old mother. She follows many Hindu traditions 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 explains to me (AK) a Hindu tradition called Navratri. She also goes into detail about how this tradition has adapted over time into the form that she practices today.

M: So most North Indians fast for the first seven days of the Navratri…. Every night, jagrans take place, where devotees gather to sing religious songs. On the Ashtami or the Navami, fasts are broken by inviting nine young girls from the neighborhood, who are honored with gifts including money, food, etc. These girls, known as ‘kanjak’, are considered to be representations of the nine different avatars (forms) of Maa Durga.

AK: So this definitely isn’t the way you celebrate Navratri now right?

M: (Laughs) Oh no… this was the original tradition. Now you practice it by being vegetarian for the day. I actually fast for the day.

AK: Oh yeah.. I remember, I’m glad I understand where this tradition came from though!

For some reason, I had never really asked my mom where this tradition came from and just blindly practiced it my whole life. I distinctly remember my mom telling me to be vegetarian for the day but never questioned why. It was really nice to hear of this tradition, and I sure am glad we do not practice it as it was originally outlined!

Customs
Foodways
Holidays

A Pakistani Iftar Staple: Fruit Chaat

Context: Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Healthy adult Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset for thirty days, and it is a time of greater spirituality, awareness, charity, and family. The informant is a Pakistani Muslim who grew up in Saudi Arabia, England, and Pakistan, and married and settled in Southern California. Here she relates a recipe for a staple of the Iftar (fast-breaking meal) table in her household, fruit chaat.

“It’s…well, ‘chaat‘, the word ‘chaat‘, it just means like a…like a little snack, and there are all sorts of chaat, so like you can have spicy chaat or dahi [yogurt] chaat…so anyway, in our house, that was the one thing we always had to have. Like it was dates, scunj’veen [homemade limeade], pakore [spicy batter-fried potatoes], and fruit chaat. Sometimes my dad would try to introduce new things into the mix, like samose…and they were always left at the end of it, like orphans. Somehow over those thirty days we never got tired off the same menu. And we still don’t.

The best fruit chaat has to have pomegranate seeds in it and amrood [guava]. ”

Though the end product may vary considerably depending on what fruits are available/in season, a person’s personal preferences, etc., the basic recipe is as follows:

1 large apple, 2 bananas, 1 large pear, 1 large peach/nectarine, 1/2 cup guava, all sliced; 1 cup red grapes, halved; 1/2 cup pomegranate; enough orange juice to “make the fruit float”; and sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Combine in a bowl. Serve chilled.

Analysis: The informant says the main reason this dish was/is such a favorite is because it is “refreshing”; after a a long, sometimes hot day, the sugar in the fruit would  boost a fasting person’s blood sugar and put them in a sweeter mood. The informant says her family almost never ate dinner, just iftaar, so having a good variety of healthy food at the table was important since they would eat so little the whole day.

The informant further relates that because certain fruits, like pomegranates and guavas, are seasonal. expensive, or both, she has taken to incorporating other fruit occasionally: strawberries, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, etc., depending on availability. I think this shows the adaptability of this simple dish: it started out as a bare-bones dish with the most basic, most common and inexpensive  fruit included, and then as she found that her native fruits were harder to come by, she incorporated more “Western” fruit that certainly would not have been available in her native Pakistan at the time she was growing up. And yet it still serves the same purpose: to lighten one’s mood and restore “sugar” levels in the body after a long day without food or water. And the informant insists that she never makes or serves it outside the holy month of Ramadan, even though, since the Islamic calendar is lunar, the time of the month changes every year and what fruits are available each year also changes.

Customs
Earth cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ramadan in Sudan

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Sudan and they are Muslim.  Both he and his twin brother were educated in international schools.  He speaks Arabic and English.

 

Context: I was talking with the informant about traditions and rituals his family has.

 

Item: “Yeah so basically for once a year for one month, all of Sudan is fasting for 30 days.  We fast from sun up to sun down.  You’re not allowed to drink water, no food, can’t have any sexual intercourse.  Some people say you’re supposed to stay away from certain pleasures, but that stuff’s impossible.  So some people are like, you should never curse during Ramadan as that breaks your fast.  I don’t really subscribe to that notion, but some people definitely take it a lot more strict than others.

 

The point of Ramadan is that you be in solidarity with unfortunate people around the world who go through not eating on a daily basis so we get a better idea of their pain and their suffering.  We’re supposed to also develop better appreciation for the stuff we have, so you appreciate the fact that you can come home every day and there’s a meal waiting for you.  In a place like Sudan, you take that really seriously during Ramadan.

 

At the end of Ramadan you have a very large feast, on Eid.  You go and meet up with pretty much your entire family and have a large feast and pretty much eat whatever you want.  We also sacrifice a sheep, so you kill a sheep and then eat it.  And, uh, growing up I watched the killing of the sheep at my grandma’s house and it’s really gruesome by the way.  So they throw it up there and slit it’s throat and there’s a ton of blood and they’re just tearing apart the insides.  I’ve seen so many sheep stomachs just laying outside of homes, it’s ridiculous.  There’s no like recycle process in Africa.  So you eat lamb; there is a Qa’ranic basis for that, but I don’t know what it is.  There’s some story of a guy that sacrifices a sheep instead of his son and it might even be in the Bible but I’m not really sure.

 

Typically, the kids got a lot of money from relatives, which was dope, or got presents, but I usually got a lot of money.  This is a great time, there’s lots of family reunions and a week of from school.  So Ramadan goes back 11 days every year.  The next, like, six to eight years are going to be the toughest for Ramadan since it falls in the summer and is moving earlier.  The days are longer and they’re super hot and it’s really tough.  Anyways, one other thing is you’re kind of obligated to eat at sundown.  It’s considered a sin if you don’t eat immediately, you can’t wait to finish up your video game, you gotta eat right away”.

 

Analysis: The informant, although away from home for the past three years, still continues to embrace the Muslim period of Ramadan and all the sacrifices with it.  Although it is undoubtedly a struggle for them while in the U.S., the importance of religion to their lives outweighs all other concerns.  Especially in Sudan, with the extremely high unemployment and poverty levels, Ramadan is a serious time where exceptions are not accepted.

 

The fast does not extend only to food, like in some other religions (lent in Catholicism).  It also applies to other aspects of the body and spirit.  In this way, it tests self-control to a much greater extent to bring about greater self-awareness and control for the practitioners.

 

With regards to the sacrifice of the sheep, the informant is referring to the story involving Abraham and Ishmael, in which Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son to God.  God spares Ishmael and a sheep is sacrificed instead.  The sacrifice of the sheep seems to occur in many instances in Islamic countries (at graduations and other large and meaningful events).

Customs
Festival
Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Starting Ramadan

My informant describes how he learned to begin the religious fast of Ramadan, according to his Islamic faith:

    “So, every day, before you begin your fast at Ramadan, you have to start, um, traditionally with a sugar date and then a glass of milk, because that’s supposedly what the prophet Mohammed ate, because it gives you enough filling  and enough strength, for the smallest amount of food. And so you begin with that and no other, so to sum up, then you fast the day.”

My informant observes the Islamic fast of Ramadan, which is observed in accordance with the teachings of Mohammed. He described how he and his family have always observed it in this way, and how it carries a special religious significance for him.

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