USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘holiday’
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Festival of Lights

Context & Analysis

The subject is from Ashland, Oregon—a relatively small town in Oregon that is an extremely tight-knit community. She expressed to me that Ashland has a rich tradition of festivals— the subject has a lot of pride for her town and it’s traditions and it’s interesting that this is a tradition that involved the entire town. I asked her to elaborate on a few of the festivals and she mentioned that her favorite is the Festival of Lights. The Festival of Lights takes the weekend following Thanksgiving which signifies the entry into the winter, or the ‘holiday season’. Despite not necessarily being a religious celebration, I find it interesting that the festival chooses to feature figures traditionally associated with Christmas (i.e. Santa, Mrs. Clause, etc.). Additionally, the fact that the subject can name the precise restaurants where the appearances take place underscores the small town’s community and the importance of the event to her.

Main Piece

“The Festival of Lights takes place at, like, night at, like, usually 7 or something like that—maybe not quite that late, yeah. Um, but there’s a parade and you go downtown and it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving every year, um, and, like, Santa comes down to the plaza and he goes up into the balcony of one of the restaurants called…I think it’s the Bookroom? Or maybe it’s Granite Tap House. I think it’s the book room [nods]. It’s gotta be the book room. Um, and he comes out on the balcony so does Mrs. Clause and one of the reindeer—‘cuz you know they’ve been, like, coming down the street—and they turn off all the lights in the town. And then they count down from ten…[she pauses for dramatic effect] and every single Christmas light lights up and my town becomes a winter wonderland [she smiles broadly]. Um, and then you can get hot chocolate afterwards and there’s caroling—people who like stand and sing carols and it is—ugh, it’s so much fun and so quintessential small town.”

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Armenian Christmas – El Día de Los Reyes Magos

I interviewed my informant, Vanessa, in the band office lounge. She is of Armenian descent on her mother’s side and Spanish descent on her father’s side. Because of this, she was able to provide me with a shared Armenian-Spanish Christmas tradition.

 

She called it ‘Armenian Christmas,’ but also acknowledged that it is also celebrated in Spanish cultures in which they call it ‘El Día de Los Reyes Magos’ (Day of the Three Kings).

 

This tradition is celebrated on January 6th (twelve days after Christmas). It symbolises the day the three kings arrived to deliver the frankincense, myrrh, and gold to baby Jesus.

 

My informant celebrates this day by putting out her shoes near an entryway — usually an inside door. The shoes are then filled with candy and small gifts Her family then usually gets together and has a dinner celebration.

 

She also noted that schools in her area also tend to get the day off so the families can celebrate this holiday.

 

Analysis

I’m aware of a similar German tradition of putting out the shoes for gifts, but I didn’t know about the Armenian or Spanish Version. It’s interesting because Spain and Germany are somewhat close together, but Armenia is part of the Middle East. I’m unsure how this tradition could have traveled across cultures. Nevertheless, this is another fun way for children to receive gifts and candy. I’m sure many children, my informant included, have fond memories of this folk tradition.  

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.”

Customs
Folk speech
Game
Holidays
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Thanksgiving game

I asked, do you do anything specific with your family for holidays?:

Response:

“I have a really big family so Thanksgiving dinner is always 20 people or so. Every year at Thanksgiving dinner we each write down one “-ing” verb and one noun and put them all in two separate hats. Everyone picks one of each out of the hats and the combination of the two is your ‘Thanksgiving name’ with my grandfather acting as the chief.

When you pick your name you say it our loud and everyone else responds: ‘And the crowd says “ahhhhh”’

For example:

Person 1: I am… whispering three toed sloth

Family response: and the crowd says Ahhhh“

 

Background: Mae is a 19 year old girl raised in Westwood, CA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents are originally from Chicago and Little Rock, and she lived in Princeton, NJ briefly as a young girl.

Context: Mae shared this story with me when she came to my house to celebrate Easter.

Analysis: Holiday traditions are incredibly personal to each family, and even people who celebrate the same holidays can have an entirely different way of doing so. My family, for example, doesn’t play any particular games like this at Thanksgiving, and our Thanksgiving dinner is usually one of our more formal holiday celebrations though it is always light-hearted and fun. Our Christmas dinner, as a matter of fact, is always extremely casual and we typically order Chinese food or have left overs, which you would think would be a more formal holiday. This further exemplifies how much variation there is in celebrations depending on specific family traditions. Similarly, however, my family always has Thanksgiving-themed hats that everyone receives on their place settings. It is really cool to hear what the unique ways that my friends celebrate different holidays with their families.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Family Meals Age Ritual

A conversation with a family friend is listed below:

Me: “My dad is going to say a short message tomorrow… he always does because we can never get everyone we want to to go to Easter service together.”

Response: “Yah I know I remember his thing from last year. I kinda like it though…haha..wouldn’t be the same without it. I was literally just telling someone about my holiday dinner family thing and that’s what it reminds me of.”

Me: “I have no idea what thing you’re talking about.”

Response: “Oh haha…I thought you heard me earlier. At holiday dinners my grandpa would always cut and carve the turkey, but when he no longer could because of being too old it’s a job for the next oldest son in his family. Think it’ll just keep going down the line of sons for every holiday.”

 

Background: He is 23 year old male raised in Simi Valley, CA and currently residing in Brentwood, CA as a post-graduate from USC.

Context: This conversation occurred while he was eating dinner at my house the night before Easter.

Analysis: This story was very interesting to me for multiple reasons. The first being that rituals stemming from family connections I think are a very telling way of learning more about a person you may already think you know well; this happened for me after engaging in the conversation above. Additionally, in this particular circumstance, their family ritual is completely male dominant. He didn’t mention anything that daughters do at their family gatherings, only males. I started to think about this concept in relation to my own family traditions, which I found very compelling to analyze. I think family rituals are extremely dynamic and engaging to explore.

Holidays
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Predictions

The source of this folklore describes a tradition her family does every year: writing down predictions for the next year at Christmas. It’s something the source’s mom did with her own mother as a child and passed down.

We write down predictions on a piece of paper at Christmas. We don’t read them until the next year. And usually you forget what you wrote. One year we all predicted if we’d be living in the same house in a year. I predicted we would and my brother predicted we wouldn’t. He was right.

Are they are predictions about the whole family or are some of them personal?

Some are personal. You write personal ones on one side of the paper and on the other side it’s usually a question we all ask each other and try to guess–like about the house.

Do you share the personal ones with the other people?

Umm… I don’t. You don’t have to. My mom definitely doesn’t either. Actually we all keep the personal ones to ourselves.

What’s the feeling you have when reading them?

I usually think my handwriting looks really weird. Like how much it’s hanged in a year. [laughs] I guess that’s not a feeling.

Well… sometimes things turn out better than you predicted or something really good happens that you would have never predicted, and you’re happy.

But sometimes things don’t go as well… you know… What’s the feeling? That’s hard to answer…

Of course. But it’s not an insignificant thing?

No, no. Right it feels very significant. Yeah for sure. It’s always felt very significant to me.

 

Childhood
Customs
Festival
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival)

Aubrey is a Japanese-American currently attending ELAC. She plans to transfer to UCSD to pursue a bachelor’s in Marine Biology because she intends to protect the marine environment with her university education. She enjoys drawing, watching anime, attending sports games with her dad, and playing with her dogs.

Original Script

When I was small, every year on March 3rd, we celebrate this holiday called Hinamatsuri, which is Girls’ Day. And you set up these dolls called hina-ningyō on these 5- to 7-tiered stands called hina-dan and the dolls are supposed to protect the family from evil spirits. And you’re supposed to leave the dolls up for a few days after the holiday because putting them away quickly will be bad luck.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first performed this ritual during her trip to Japan on New Year’s Day in elementary school. She enjoyed Hinamatsuri because it was a memorable family bonding event and it was fun handling the dolls.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

Hinamatsuri, also known as Doll Festival or Girls’ Day, is celebrated every year on March 3rd in Japan. On this day, the parents pray for their daughters’ happiness, health, and growth. This festival originated from a thousand years ago in the Heian Period. It is a tradition to display ceremonial dolls, dressed in the attire of the people of the traditional court, on tiered shelves.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I find it endearing that there is a festival purely dedicated to ensuring a daughter’s happiness and wellbeing in Japan. Over time, it seems that the festival’s promotion of one’s health and good luck has also spread to other members of one’s family. However, the placement of the dolls, decreasing in status as one moves down the platforms, remains generally the same. The festival connects the past to the present by having the ancient court from the Heian Period watch over and protect families of today.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Şeker Bayramı

Turkish: Şeker Bayramı (literally, Sugar Holiday, a.k.a. Eid Al-Fitr, following Ramadan)

“Turks deem Eid Al-Fitr as a holiday meant for the distribution of sweets and delights (so do Arabs, but Turks generally take it to larger extents). I’ve experienced 2 days of Şeker Bayramı in İstanbul following a month of fasting for Ramazan/Ramadan. What I remember the most about it was the sheer amount of cotton candy everywhere on Cevdet Paşa street nearby the bosphorus in Istanbul’s Bebek neighborhood. It was a good time to indulge in sweets following the best Ramadan I have ever experienced (so far!).”

Context: The informant told me this in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: I have been to many (Arab) Eid celebrations, but the only type of sweets they generally had were dates, chocolate, and Jordan almonds (pastel color coated almonds). It is interesting to see that cotton candy is a big part of the celebration in Turkey, as it is not exactly something I would expect to be a part of Eid, considering that it is not Middle Eastern/Muslim in origin. It is intriguing to see the different desserts of the world they take in to complement the event – a part of globalization, perhaps?

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Africa Day

Main piece:

Africa Day is the day is meant for people in Africa to celebrate and thank Africa. The holiday takes place in all of Africa.

On this day, they eat traditional staple food called sadza that’s made of corn and looks like rice cake. You eat it with your hands and eat it with gravy, chicken, chicken liver and maguru. They also eat salad called muriwo, which is greens, spinach, and peanut butter.

On Africa Day week, there’s an african dress day called “civvii”. Usually the students have a uniform but this day is an exception when everyone can wear african clothing.

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant found out about Africa Day through living in Zimbabwe. It’s on the calendar so she figured out it was a holiday but it was also taught in school.

The informant said that to her as a foreigner it is a fun day where everyone can really be african. She didn’t think of the liberation as much, but she thinks the day is a part of liberation.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It’s on May 25th and happens every year. It’s a holiday. Students still have school but they dress differently to celebrate.

Personal Analysis:

I didn’t know that Africa Day existed before, but I’m not surprised about it. There were many foods I’ve never heard of that they eat. It’s good that the holiday lets foreigners participate and feel like a part of the community even though they are of another nationality. It seems like a very exciting day for the African people, seeing that it’s not just the one day but a week long festivity held in school.


For another version of this proverb, see https://www.africa.com/how-to-celebrate-africa-day/

general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

An Indian Christmas

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is 20 years old and originally from India. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor.

The informant tells me(AK) about how his Indian family celebrates Christmas and the winter time as a whole. He is very happy to share this and it seems as though talking about the Christmas time reminds him of very fond memories.

SM: I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional religious manner. It’s all about the gift exchange and just spending time with family for us.

AK: Do you have you any other traditions that are related to Christmas?

SM: We always put out stockings and because we have a younger cousin, we always put out milk and cookies to kind of show the fact that Santa may be real.

AK: Do you think the way you celebrate Christmas is very similar to the way other Indian people celebrate it?

SM: To some extent yes, but I know of a lot of Indian families that don’t even exchange gifts. Of course there are some Christian Indian families who definitely celebrate Christmas much more religiously than we do. But I think Christmas is just all about spending time with family and being around family. Everyone has Christmas off, so no matter how you celebrate, it’s the time of year where you can just be around family. I think that’s the biggest thing about Christmas, and everyone regardless of how they celebrate can take solace in the fact that they can be around their family. This is really important to me also because now that I’m in college, I’m not able to see my family as much as I used to.

AK: Yeah, I totally agree. Thanks for sharing with me man.

I found the informant’s experience with Christmas to be very similar to my own. Although my family does not always explicitly exchange gifts or put up stockings, we always celebrate the festivities together. For example, we have gone on day trips together to nearby beaches or unexplored cities. Other times we simply spend time together during the day, then watch a movie we all have not seen at night. I will say that as a child, my family definitely celebrated Christmas more traditionally. We would purchase a tree and put gifts under the tree.

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