Tag Archives: festivals

The Prep-work Behind The Elderflower Festival

Interviewer: So how did it get started in your home town?

Informant: My parents started off just making a couple of gallons with a couple of friends, I’m not sure exactly who they picked it up from. And I think they may have done that in the house before the Bury. Or right around that time, anyway. Probably around 60 years ago (2020). There have been more Elderflower Festivals than my parents have been present for.  There was one in 1967? My parents went on sabbatical to America and their friends broke in and made Elderflower anyway. There was another one when they sailed one of their boats down to the south of France and my brother and me hosted it on our own. I’m pretty sure my brother has been at every Elderflower Festival.

Interviewer: Does it only happen one time a year?

Informant: It has to take place when the flowers are in bloom, usually in the first or second week of June. It cannot be delayed, the flowers do not stay out for very long. It is an event driven entirely by natural forces and the need for alcohol.

Interviewer: What typically goes into the festival preparation wise?

Informant: Well the deal is something around 40 guests are invited and they’re asked to pick Elderflowers so when they arrive they can deliver their flowers. We spread the tarpaulin on the backyard and lay the flowers on it to dry and be shredded. And in return for their labor, the guests are fed a huge buffet lunch. There are a number of elements of that lunch that are obligatory. Coronation Chicken, Roast Beef, Deviled Eggs, Roast Turkey, Potato Salad, and Garlic Bread and there’s always a rice of some sort. There’s a late morning snack of sausages done on a barbecue because we have a late lunch, because we don’t have lunch until we reach a quota of flowers. After lunch, the afternoon is devoted to games, ‘gassing’ (talking), and drinking wine. Because my parents were teachers a lot of the guests were faculty or students. It’s just a thing a lot of Cambridge educators do.

Interviewer: Is there a recipe then that one has to follow to make Elderflower wine?

Informant: There is a certain amount of citrus fruit that needs to be peeled and squeezed and that is combined with boiling water poured through the flowers in a muslin shiv. With a large amount of sugar to feed the yeasts. My father used to be the viter but now my brother does it. Fermentations takes place in large Demi-johns and it takes about 3 months to the point where the wine can be decanted and bottled. Elderflower wine has an unusual ‘nose’ which takes some getting used to, but the taste is very pleasant.

Background: This festival takes place either the first of second week of June, it is a time sensitive celebration that must occur during that time or not at all. Luckily it is also during the summer break for most British educators, so it is an excuse to see each other outside of work and get drunk together.

Context: My informant and I were discussing whether or not there would be an Elderflower Festival this year due to the Corona Virus. This would be the first time since it’s conception that the Elderflower Festival would not be held, but my informant believed it would be for the best since a majority of attendees are rather old and would be at risk.

My Thoughts: I’ve attended the Elderflower Festivals before and they are a riot! There’s a lot a family and friends who attend and at the end, people are gifted a bottle of last year’s batch. The festival has grown over the time I have attended from just 30 people to closer to 60 or 70. People keep bringing friends to come celebrate, which means a lot more time is put into prepping the meals and getting a supply of flowers to shred.

While not directly a festival celebrating life cycles, the festival is based entirely on the production of turning blooming flowers into wine, so there may be some form of symbolism there.

American Halloween Parties: A Festival

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my mother/informant (ET). 

ET: I went to Catholic school growing up, and we always had All Saints Day off, which is the day after Halloween, so we’d always have big sleepovers on Halloween. You know, since no one was going to school the next day. I’ve always loved Halloween because of that, and of course my birthday is then… and it’s just a sweet holiday. Oh, and the costumes… that’s one of the best parts… But that’s how I really got started throwing Halloween parties. Then of course, I grew up and had kids- holidays are always better with kids… I loved that our house was the hub for all the neighborhood kids and their parents when everyone was done Trick-Or-Treating. I love cooking lots of food, so everyone has something real to eat that’s not candy (laughs). Even now that you guys are older… I think I’ll always throw Halloween parties. I’ve got them down to a science, you know. Like what decorations are the best… and oh! You have to carve the pumpkins the day before so they don’t go bad, but you’re not too busy the day of. 

Background:

My informant is my mother who mainly grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. Her birthday is Halloween, and she used to always tell me she “had special witch powers” because of it. To her, Halloween is the most important holiday. Every year, she begins elaborately decorating our house weeks in advance for her annual costume party that takes place Halloween Night. She doesn’t even mail invitations anymore because everyone in our community knows it’s happening. 

Context: 

I am currently in quarantine at my informant/mother’s house, and this piece was collected while we were eating dinner at the kitchen table.

Thoughts: 

I believe Halloween parties are such big celebrations in America because the holiday is simple, fun, and nostalgic. Having grown up in a home where my parents practiced different religions, I always loved that Halloween was secular, so both my parents would get really excited about it. It’s not religious, it’s American. There’s no moral to Halloween in common practice (unlike All Hallow’s Eve- the pagan holiday that Halloween was based on, which celebrates the rising of the dead). On Halloween, people are just supposed to get dressed up, have fun, and eat lots of candy (or drink lots of booze, depending on your age). The point of any party, but especially a Halloween party, is that it’s unifying. All are invited to have a shared experience. Furthermore, the fact that it is a costume party highlights this idea by letting people be anyone they want to be. You can dress in a way that’s unacceptable any other day of the year, potentially channeling your childhood dreams or wonder that you haven’t expressed in years. 

Carnival: South America’s Pre-Lent Festival

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (JZ). 

JZ: Carnival happens for a reason, but it’s not for me, really. Honestly, no one knows, or no one cares… But it is religious related. I did look it up once, though… It always happens before Ash Wednesday, which starts lent.

LT: So it’s kind of like Mardis Gras? 

JZ: Yes. But it’s for everyone, even people like me, who are Jewish. Everybody just takes time off, and enjoys… There’s a saying… “the year doesn’t start until after Carnival ends,” and it’s true! Like it really doesn’t start. It’s not a joke. Everyone is waiting insanely for Carnival. Everyone travels Friday night, and it goes alllll the way until Wednesday. So everyone travels, and goes to these crazy crazy parties, and sometimes, when you get older, you don’t even need to go to the big festivals, you just go to the parties. And the parties have… temas?

LT: Themes.

JZ: Yes, so they’re all these different parties with different themes… They’re like… the neighborhood parties. 

LT: Block parties? 

JZ: But not really, they’re much much bigger. They’re like parades, and you stop and drink in the street. But you dress up in costumes and then go from party to party… But just so you understand, I’ve been to where Carnival actually happens only once in my entire life. No one cares, just gringos go there. We just party in the streets. It’s the greatest party you’ve ever gone to in your life. 

Background: 

My informant is my sister-in-law who is from São Paulo, Brazil. She grew up travelling to Rio de Janeiro every year for Carnival, and cannot remember her first one: “It has always been a tradition.” She is Jewish, so she does not partake in the religious aspect of Carnival, and her favorite part is “having fun with friends and family, and even strangers, just drinking and celebrating life.” 

Context: 

I Facetime by brother and sister-in-law often, and this piece was collected during one of our regular calls. 

Thoughts: 

To me, Carnival speaks to how Brazilians value enjoying life and celebration. In America, it sounds crazy to take almost a full week off of work to go party and drink. However, in Brazil, it’s not crazy, it’s normal. Generally speaking, it seems as though Americans are often much more serious and plan for the future, whereas Brazilians are more laid-back and live in the moment. I love the way my sister-in-law talked about how people of all backgrounds, from all different places, come together to celebrate Carnival, even the ones who don’t know its original religious significance. Although I’ve never been, I think of Carnival as being a welcoming, lighthearted, and colorful way for people to join together and just have fun. 

For further reading on Carnival’s origin and history:

Brown, Sarah. “How Did Brazil’s Carnival Start?” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 4 Jan. 2018. 

Russian Holiday: Ivan Kupala

Иван Купала

Transliteration: Ivan Kupala

Description: This is a traditional slavic holiday. It is the celebration of the summer solstice when nights are the shortest (around June-July) although, every year is different. It is an incorporation of a number of pagan rituals. On the eve of Ivan kupala there are ceremonies conducted which symbolize elements such as fire, grass, and water. They jump over fire, circle dances around fire, swim in rivers, use grass to weave wreaths, and fortune telling. They believe that on the eve of Ivan Kupala, by swimming in the river the water will have some healing properties. On the night of Ivan Kupala people shouldn’t sleep because the evil spirits are awakened.

Background Information: A Slavic festival celebrated in parts of Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

Context: The informant told me about this festival through a video call. She told me this after I asked her about Russian festivals/holidays.

Thoughts: I believe this holiday was made a long time ago as a way to make sure that there was no evil spirits and that the rest of the year would be prosperous and fruitful. I think now it is celebrated as a way to respect old traditions and ways of living and to never forget your culture.

For another version see:

Tuite, Kevin. “Lightning, Sacrifice, and Possession in the Traditional Religions of the Caucasus” in Anthropos, 481-497. Bd. 99, H. 2, 2004.

Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40466394

The Day of the Dead

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between informant and interviewer. 

Informant: The day of the dead for example. This one is very popular throughout Latin America too. And it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor… everyone celebrates November 1st and 2nd. There are festivals in the streets and everyone buys those skulls that your mom has as decorations. Some make them and paint them. And they’re very colorful. You can paint them any color you want and add a bunch to it so it looks nice. 

Interviewer: Do you make them or buy them? Or how do you celebrate it? 

Informant: We set pictures of them. We prepare their favorite foods and drinks. We get openwork paper and we adorn with sugar skulls and tequila… every family sets at least one bottle. Umm. bread too. Candles and wine and there. And that’s set before the 1st. And it’s there the 1st and 2nd. And on the 3rd day you don’t throw it.

Interviewer: Do you eat it? 

Informant: Yes, it basically means that your dead are sharing their food with you so you can eat. 

Background: My grandpa was my informant. He was born and raised in Guadalajara and did not travel to the U.S. until a couple years ago. He has lived in Mexico for about 70 years so he knows of a lot of Mexican traditions. He has been celebrating this one every year from as far as he can remember and that it’s a special day for him because he is able to feel the presence of his dead. 

Context: This conversation was held on the patio. I was playing basketball and I came to sit down and rest and my grandpa had been watching me and I asked him about a big tradition he does. I’m really close to him so it was easy to ask him for more information about a tradition or festival he celebrates for part of my collection project. He was very happy to help. 

Thoughts: I personally haven’t celebrated it but I know it’s a big tradition across hispanic cultures. Even in my family my grandparents are big on it and my mom to a lesser extent too. They make very good food and drinks and have a very nice and colorful set up these two days. They never talk to the spirits but it’s a way for them to remember their dead and welcome them for a family dinner again. Some people might think it’s spooky but it’s not. The dead are not mourned but actually celebrated. 

Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

Transcribed from my friend telling me about an event from his childhood memories. 

There is a festival that happens in Vietnam in the autumn, or mid-fall. It goes according to the lunar calendar, it is on the 15th day of the 8th month, which is usually somewhere between september and october according to the western gregorian calendar. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty lit. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, it has the mooncakes and the fun red lanterns. It seems to mean something different for many people, but what i have always gleaned from it and what my family and surrounding area focused on was the simplicity of it. A lot of people are poor, so these lanterns are made out of paper and it is just a fun thing for kids to run around and play with. It was never a super fancy thing, but the moon cakes are great. As kids we would literally just run around with our friends and our lanterns. Sometimes you could use this as an opportunity to flex on the people around you by bringing a cooler or more complex lantern than your friends. People could make lanterns there. There was this giant dragon that people would get inside of and dance in. It was just a really lovely time to be a kid and hang out and families were all cool with each other for the most part then and outside things didn’t matter, just the quality time with the people around you. 

Background:

The informant grew up in south Vietnam. While he hasn’t been back to Vietnam since he moved here for school nine years ago, he still has found memories of moments like this. He really appreciates the more family-focused and genuine interactions the culture there can promote versus the often isolationist  and heavily commercialized culture he experiences in the states. 

Context: 

I asked my friend about his favorite memories growing up at home. We were just eating dinner before quarantine was in place in Los Angeles and reminiscing about our childhood and simpler times in the world. 

My thoughts: 

Growing up in Southern California in the U.S. I often feel I did not necessarily get wholesome family experiences as they are not as attainable in the culture here. The closest thing I can think of would be going to Disneyland with my family, but that was more or less a financial burden on my parents for my sibling and I to have fun. Nothing ever really joy filled for us all to come together and just vibe, outside of maybe 4th of July. 

Rave kandies and the process of trading them at festivals

Main Piece 

Informant: The motto and the handshake of the community, and the code we live by is PLUR. It stands for Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. It means you’re peaceful, and not there to start shit. We gotta spread love, we gotta spread unity because we are all vibing together. Then there is respect, because you have to respect everyone there and the land where the concert is because we don’t want to leave trash around. 

One of the things that ravers do to express themselves are Kandies. They are bracelets made of elastic string and beads, they are really easy to make and people usually make them themselves, and then some people get really advanced. You can trade kandi with people, when you meet them usually you trade kandies when you are about to leave and there is a whole handshake for the trade. 

Interviewer: What is the handshake like?

Informant: First it is peace so you hold out a peace sign and touch both fingertips. And then you do love, so you make half of a heart with your hand and join it to theirs. So when they’re together they make one big heart. And then you do unity where you grab each other’s hands, like interlocking fingers. And then on respect, you trade the kandies and transfer it from your wrist to theirs while your hand is still interlocked. 

Interviewer: What are kandies usually made out of?

Informant: The kandies are usually handmade, they are made of beads. sometimes they spell out different artists, different DJs, different sayings. It is kinda like the pins at Disneyland, people are always looking to trade kandies with each other to collect memories of different times. 

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

One day while we were at our house I noticed that he had on a whole sleeve full of what looked like friendship bracelets, and when I asked him what they were for he explained that they were kandies for a rave he was attending that night. After he was willing to interview, I asked him about the bracelets and the customs of raves. 

Analysis

I think these folk objects are a very inexpensive and easy way to make and a great way for ravers to identify with one another when they are in crowds at large festivals. I think the practice of trading kandies and the handshake that goes along with it symbolize folk greetings at these festivals, and provide a sense of unity and togetherness. As the informant mentioned, it is also a way for people to remember certain festivals or raves that they attend. 

Kandi in the Rave Community

The following is a retelling of a performative event experienced by the informant: 

Informant: 

“ In the rave culture, that is the community and happenings surrounding EDM (electronic dance music) there are a lot of things that everyone in the community partakes in together as acts to show unity and respect. Actually, there is a term P.L.U.R., this stands for Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. There are these bead bracelets that are worn called “Kandi” and people make all kinds of kandi, some are really simply and just a single strand of beads and some are very intricate and are even 3-D. Ravers have these kandi to trade with people at shows that they have moments with – like they dance together for a song or a set and have fun, one person lends someone something etc and then at the end of a moment they will exchange these bracelets with a handshake that emulates “P.L.U.R.” . For Peace they both make a peace sign, like a “v” with their index and middle finger, touch the finger tips together and from that they keep their hands pressed against each other and make the shape of a heart for “love” with each person making one side of the heart. For unity they move their hands so they are flat against each other’s, palm to palm like a prayer position, then they interlock their fingers on respect and while their hands are interlocked one of them pulls a bracelet from their wrist over their interlocked hands and then to the other person’s wrist and the other person with reciprocate. It’s a fun way to remember wholesome moments with strangers, and a lot of times people will keep their favorite Kandis and only trade them with people who mean a lot to them.” 

Background: 

The informant refers to himself as a raver and has partook in the giving and receiving of kandi. He says it is sometimes a really lovely moment and is one of his favorite things about going to EDM festivals. He says he often makes Kandi for people he is going to raves with, and then if he is with that friend at a set for a Dj they both love, he will trade the person a specialized kandi and it is always a really special moment for both of them as the other person has often also made a special kandi for the moment. 

Context: 

The informant is a friend of mine and I was asking him questions about why he likes raving so much. He then brought me a kandi and he taught me the handshake.

My thoughts: 

I think this is a really wholesome way to share and remember events with strangers. Not only is it a performative moment that can serve as an initiation into the in-group since it’s a big deal to receive your first kandi. 

Jumping Three Times at Midnight on New Years

Piece

AM: If you jump three times at midnight [on New Years] you’ll get taller. That’s what my grandparents tell me when I was little. 

Interviewer: Did you do it?

AM: Yeah, but did I get taller. No! I’m 5’2 still. It was just on New Years when it hits 12:00am.

Interviewer: Is this a cultural thing?

AM: Um, I think it is because that is what a lot of like old Filipinos would say when I was little 

Context

AM is a childhood friend of mine and we were having a causal chat on Facetime when I asked her if she had any folklore to share with the database. She is a 20 year old student at Cal Poly Pomona. Her family is from the Philippines, but she has lived in Southern California all her life. She comes from a Catholic household and went to a private catholic school for elementary and middle school.  

Analysis: 

Rituals done on New Year’s Day often represent our desires and hopes for the coming year. Midnight on New Years’s is the most liminal time of year where you might be able to break the natural rules and use that to your advantage and change something about yourself in a way that would not be possible any other time of the year. 

Also, three is a sacred number in Christianity, which is likely why it was chosen for the number of spins as many people in the Philippines and members of AM’s family are Catholic. The role of belief also plays a major part in the transmission of the custom. It was the older generation that enforced the practice and believed in it to a greater extent. AM was only following what was told to her by her grandparents. However, she did not continue the practice and will likely not encourage her children to take part in it as she does not believe in it.  

Ghost Parties in Thailand

Informant: So, like, my family is kinda, like, the official designated ghost family in my village. And my family is from this very small, um, place, kinda outside of Chiang Mai, like 30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Um. And so my mom, even though she was adopted– so she doesn’t have this official designation, but it’s my family, they basically take care of all the ghosts in the village. And the ghosts are like the ancestors of all of the families that live there and each generation, they have a special woman that they picked out, that’s like part of the bloodline, and.. it can’t be a man, it has to be a woman, and she’s like the keeper of the ghosts. Um, and so it used to be my grandma, and now it’s, um, its fallen to, like, one of my aunties, and now it’s with my cousin who– lemme tell you about my cousin, her name is {name}, and she has like a very severe, like.. learning disability.. So she’s the new keeper of the ghosts. And its, its, kind of interesting because, like, she can’t work, she can’t have a job, she can’t marry.. She’s very, very frail and very thin, but.. It’s kinda nice, cuz now she’s the one that has this responsibility. 

Collector: Right, right, she doesn’t need to… Does she makes money off this?

Informant: No, no, it’s not– it’s more of like a communal village position. But the village is like one big extended family. Y’know. And all of our ancestors are everyone else’s ancestors. And we have one little temple in the very center, y’know, we go to like, mass– it’s like Buddhist mass, basically, on Sundays. Um, so.. But anyways, every eight years there’s what we call like a ghost party. I missed the last couple cuz I was in school, um, but basically every eight years it’s like throwing a big party for all of the ghosts. Like, all of the ancestors, and you get, like, all the food gets spread out.. Spirits in Thai culture are very hungry.. They’re basically like, the ultimate hedonists, they just wanna consume everything. And so you give them, like, entire spreads of like chicken, and food, and like carnations, flowers, they love cigarettes, you get them a lot of cigarettes, they really like, um, whiskey, so you give them a lot of whiskey. Um, and it’s like, everyone gets drunk and gets together, and the process of getting drunk with your family members and your village, its like the spirits come, and they’re getting drunk, and they’re eating with you. 

Collector: This is all so interesting.. When, when you say taking care of the ghosts, you mean like giving them offerings, and keeping the altars clean? 

Informant: Yeah, so it’s kinda like that, it’s also kinda like, part of the spirit lore is like, they’re ghosts, so its like human ancestors, and another part of it is like, like, a lot of high-elf fantasy stuff, like, kind of speaks true to Thai culture, where like before the humans came, there were spirits in the forest. And these spirits are very old, and they had been there for like millennia. And they owned the forest, that’s their domain, and like, in Thailand, you know, we cut down the forest, we lived there and we farmed, and so we need to like, give back to the spirits. 

Context: The informant is a close friend of mine, and is a Thai-American young woman. She lived in Thailand for several years with her mother, before they both moved to Southern California.

Analysis: This is possibly my most exciting collection, seeing how I have a friend who has thrown a ghost party before. This experience is obviously personal to not only my informant, for also for the entire village. They do not differentiate their own ancestors from the village ancestors, which ties the entire village together, even after death. It is interesting that Thai spirits are considered to be hungry, as I have seen previous examples of hungry ghosts in Korea and Japan, all of which stem from Buddhism. I also find it interesting that only woman can serve the ghosts, as previously mentioned.