USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘holiday’
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.

Festival
Folk Dance
Holidays

May Day

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: There’s this festival that we have in England called May Day, and it’s the first of May. I don’t really know where it came from. We always have a holiday on the day so I always get a day off school. We do it to welcome spring, in a way. I’ve also heard that it’s to celebrate workers. But it’s not a workers’ day, per say. And I have seen people doing the Maypole dancing.

Collector: Pole dancing?

Informant: It’s not pole dancing as in pole dancing, like kids do it. I learned it at school, it’s taught at schools. At least it was when I was in primary school. Basically, it’s like a big wooden stick and it has like ribbons attached to it and people like dance around it.

Collector: Have you ever experienced that?

Informant: Yeah at like fairs I guess, on May day. There’s always a pole. I don’t really know the purpose of circling a pole to celebrate spring, but people do it. It’s very common. And there’s good food at the fairs too. Oh, and we crown a May Queen. That’s like a girl who does a bunch of things for May Day. Like she’s part of the parades and stuff. I’m not really involved in it, but I’ve heard about it. I also heard this story that in the past they used to kill the May Queen at the end, but like, I don’t know if that’s true or not.

The first thing I thought about this particular piece of folklore was how funny it was that a big tradition in England was called May Pole Dancing, but then my friend explained that it wasn’t really pole dancing, and that it is meant to celebrate spring. I think that’s really interesting, because it reminds me of my Swedish friend’s Midsummer ritual. I think it’s really cool how in both of the festivals there are wooden sticks (a cross in the Swedish culture and a pole in English culture) that little kids dance around to celebrate the arrival of a new season. It make some wonder what the origin of these traditions are, and if they all come from the same place.

Holidays

Dia de los Muertos

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: So there is the day of the dead in Mexico. In Spanish, it’s called the dia de los muertos. Basically, it’s a day where you worship… well not exactly worship… it’s a day dedicated to remembering all of the people who passed away and celebrate their life.

Collector: I’ve heard it’s like Halloween. Is this true?

Informant: No, its not like Halloween. On this day, normally you go to the person’s tomb with their favorite food and you place it there like you’re offering them your favorite food. And you also eat it, not theirs but you have a plate of their own.

Collector: Do you eat the food with them?

Informant: Yes you eat it with them on their tomb, and then you decorate their tomb with a bunch of flowers, and everyone dresses up like skull candy, like skeletons but in a fancy way, and then you also save them their favorite alcohol, and you have to drink like your drinking with them, and you play their favorite music, and its like you’re having a party with the tomb.

Collector: Do you pour the alcohol on their grave or do you just leave it there?

Informant: You just leave the cup there with their favorite food. There not actually supposed to be eating it, it’s a more symbolic thing, just to honor them.

Collector: Have you done this before?

Informant: I’ve done it before both in Mexico and in Brazil. But since all of my family is buried in Mexico, I don’t go to the graveyard in Brazil. Instead, I do kind of an alter, like you build an alter for them in the house if you don’t go visit their tombstone, and you can put their favorite food there, and there’s a special bread that you do for that celebration that’s basically a sweet bread. It’s called Pan de Muerto. Bread of the dead.

Everyone kinda gets together during this holiday and it doesn’t really matter who are are, cuz youre celebrating the dead. Who you are and where you come from doesn’t really matter.

Collector: Who have you celebrated?

Informant: I celebrated my grandfathers and Frida Kahlo. It’s not just for family members, you can celebrate whoever you want if their dead.

Collector: Why do you like it?

Informant: I like it because it’s a big party and you don’t mourn them you kind of celebrate them. You look at death with more of a positive attitude. My mother would do it at home when I was young, she would decorate the house and she would celebrate my grandparents. I think its good to remember the people who pass away because sometimes we forget them.

I found it fascinating how in Mexican culture, they have an entire day to celebrate the dead. Generally, when people think of dead people, the thought tends to be accompanied with feelings of mourning. The Mexican culture turns the tables on this feeling, and takes one day out of the year to celebrate the dead and interact with them as if they were living. I also found it interesting that you don’t necessarily celebrate only family members. I would think that when mourning or celebrating the dead, it would be people that you knew rather than strangers, but I think it’s interesting how they really embrace the whole celebration of the dead thing.

Holidays

Reveillon

Informant was a 45 year old female who was born in Brazil and currently lives in Brazil. I talked to her over Skype.

Informant: This holiday is New Year’s or Reveillon, in Portuguese. Ever since I can remember we always used to celebrate it. It is a very fun holiday. We always wear like white clothes, and everybody is happy to say goodbye to the old year, and to welcome the new year, and we see a lot of fireworks at night, and theres party, and everybody throws flowers into the sea, and we have a big supper with lots of food. It’s a lot of fun.

Collector: Do you know why you wear white?

Informant: I think we wear white because it’s to bring you peace, and it’s a custom that we do and everybody does, but nobody really explains why, we just assume that it’s to bring peace.

Collector: Do you know why people through flowers into the sea?

Informant: It’s like an offer to the goddess of the sea called Iemanja to bring good things for the new year. It’s an African thing, it’s a custom that we usually do. We have a lot of African influence in our culture.

Collector: What if people aren’t be the sea on New Year’s?

Informant: Most of the people go to the beach for New Year’s, but even if they’re not, most people wear white or eat grapes usually foods with seeds inside. I don’t know why, but they have to eat certain things to bring good luck. We usually have to eat grapes and lentils sometimes we eat also. They usually serve turkey and everybody like has a turkey or something made of pork and panetonne, which is something from Italy. But everybody have panetonne in their house, which is a mix of bread and cake. People think that eating these things will bring you good luck. Everything you do on new years is to bring you good luck.

We also jump the seven waves. It is a tradition also, we jump it to bring good luck. I don’t know the reason, I just know that we usually do that. There is a superstition of making the wishes as soon as it turns the year. We go to the beach, and jump the seven waves and for each wave we need to make a wish, it’s a link to Umbanda which is an African thing, its purpose is to honor Iemanja, it’s a gift, because 7 is like a number that is considered spiritual. And when you jump the 7 waves you call the power of Iemanja to open new paths for the next year. It’s like the Brazilian version of a New Year’s resolution but spiritual.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: Because it’s something that is a lot of fun, we are always with family and friends. We are surrounded by love we are partying and happy and theres lots of food, and it’s nice. It’s summer in Brazil at this time of year so it’s a holiday and it’s a lot of fun. I was born in rio, and it’s really big in Rio. It’s famous for the very big party in Copacabana, a lot of people go there because it’s right next to the beach.

I am actually Brazilian, and have celebrated Reveillon multiple times. However, I never really thought about why we do the things that we do, such as wear white and throw flowers into the ocean and eat certain foods. I found it really interesting to learn about the reasons behind what we do, and that it has a deep-rooted history in our culture and the formation of Brazil and it’s people. I also think it’s funny that most of the things we do are meant to bring luck for the New Year. Nothing really is dedicated to love, or friendship, or health, it’s all for luck, which I find really interesting.

Festival
Holidays

Carnaval

Informant was a 45 year old female who was born in Brazil and currently lives in Brazil. I talked to her over Skype.

Informant: Carnaval is a big festival in brazil, usually happens in the first two or three months of the year, it is basically a whole week. Everybody uses costumes, and when we are a kid ,we just go to little parties and plays and watch samba, which is a kind of music that we have here, there are other typical musics of carnaval. Everybody dances. We have this big party which has a parade, in the main cities of Brazil and in the northeast it’s also big. We usually stay the whole month partying for carnival, a lot of people drink, a lot of people have fun, but I actually don’t like very much. Because I don’t like samba, and I don’t like to samba. But I like the holiday, I like having days off. A lot of people also drink, and I don’t like, there’s a lot of drunk people.

Collector: Do you know where this festival came from?

Informant: It’s a Christian celebration, the date is never the same, its not a specific date, it’s a Christian festive season that occurs before the Christian season of lent, it’s calculated a specific amount of days before. The term carnival is usually used in areas with large catholic presence. I think it’s funny because a lot of things happen that are not very Christian. Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval is considered the world’s largest party with 2 million people per day.

Collector: Are there big parties outside of Rio as well?

Informant: Yes, there are a lot of street carnaval parties. I never participated in this street carnaval. It’s called bloco de carnaval, people go in the streets and also dress up in costumes and mask and play this type of music of carnaval and dance and drink and a lot of people have a lot of fun. So in these blocos there are like trucks or busses or something that come and play music, and people gather around it and party. But in Rio there is a special place called Sambodromo where they have special schools of Samba like Santa Isabel and Portella, and each school goes through the whole street and they need to be dancing all the time and at the end, they receive a grade for the parade that they did. So the judges they look at the richness of the costumes, if everyone was dancing and singing, and they give a grade for each one of these schools, and at the end of the three days parade they have a winner. I saw it in person, but I hated it because I don’t like samba and it was three days the whole night. But lots of people go they love it and love to participate, I just don’t like to drink and I don’t like samba, so for me it’s not the right party.

Collecter: Did you ever like Carnaval?

I used to like the small parties when we were kids because we used to dress up. I dressed up as an indian and the other time I dressed as police and it was fun. We used to throw confetti, and make a lot of noise. I used to like it, it was much lighter. When you’re a kid, you don’t see the naked women and the lots of drinks. It’s just small little parties that my family used to take me, and we used to dance and I used to like to dance in costumes

When I lived in Brazil, I would often see the huge celebrations during Carnaval. However, I never really experienced any of it. Carnaval, for me, was always just a break off of school, when I would go and spend a week at the beach. It’s really cool to hear about Carnaval from my mother who has had a lot more experience with the actual festival and the festivities. I didn’t know that Carnaval was a Christian holiday, and like my mother, I would never have imagined it because there’s nothing about Carnaval that really emulates the Christian spirit.

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Guy Fawkes’ Day

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: So in 1605, this dude called Guy Fawkes was arrested trying to blow up the house of parliament in London, and it was likeI’m pretty sure the king and all of the important people were there, and he was trying to kill them, but he got caught and that was on the 5th of November. So every year, on the 5th of November, like schools and families and like clubs and stuff in England make a huge bonfire, and then they make like a doll, like a human sized figure of Guy Fawkes, and then they burn him on the bonfire, and there’s like fireworks and like a barbecue and stuff, every year.

Collector: So you celebrate him or him not blowing up the parliament?

Informant: Well, we burn him every year, so we definitely don’t celebrate him. It’s like a celebration of I guess his failure. It’s a very chill day though, we eat burgers and hot dogs and hang around by the bonfire. Like we don’t have a meal with our family. It’s more like the whole community gets together and there’s like fireworks and stuff. There’s a song too.

Collector: A song? What is it?

Informant: It goes like this

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder Treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Would ever be forgot

It’s not that big of a deal though, like we don’t sing it around the campfire or anything. It’s just something that people know.

I thought this was particularly interesting because it’s a holiday that revolves around an attempter murder. Albeit the burning of the figure of this murder, but a murder none the less. I think it’s cool how even until today, people remember it, and I think that this might be because the monarchy in England is still in power. I believe that this is not only a fun way for people to celebrate with their family and friends, but also a way to honor their monarchy. It makes me wonder if the holiday began as a way for the monarchy to keep its citizens in line, so that nobody would try to recreate Guy Fawkes’ murder attempts.

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