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

Modern Passover dinner

I asked a fellow classmate if he partook in any traditions regarding a specific holiday, and the conversation was led to the topic of food:

“Every year at Passover dinner my family and I eat the same food. There will always be a traditional Seder plate which will have around 5 or 6 items on it like bitter herbs, egg, and some sort of vegetable. My Nana will also always make her homemade brisket which is what her and her parents did for Passover in Romania where she’s from. And we always have Matzah Ball soup too.”

I then asked how long this tradition has been in his life and where it started in his family:

“I have had this meal on Passover since the first Passover I can remember. And my Nana is the one who brought it to our family.“

 

Background Information: Matthew is a 19-year old male born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Both of his parents are Jewish.

Context: Matthew shared this story with me in a conversation about holiday traditions with our families over coffee.

Analysis: Growing up in a Christian home, it was very interesting to gain an understanding of a cultural tradition, that for me, is unfamiliar and never personally experienced. It led me to think about my own traditions with reference to food and the meals my family will consistently have year after year for specific holidays or events. Attached is a picture the actual Seder plate Matthew’s family provided at Passover dinner this year (2018).

 

The seder plate at Passover dinner this year (2018)

The seder plate at Passover dinner this year (2018)

For more information of a traditional Seder plate served at Passover : https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/1998/jewish/The-Seder-Plate.htm

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.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas Eve Soup

I asked my friend if she had any holiday traditions. She told me that on Christmas Eve, her mom prepares soup:

Me: Why soup?

Lindsey: My mom’s side of the family is Irish, so I think it’s tradition in Irish culture to have soup on Christmas. Maybe the warmth of the soup is comforting in wintertime? Also, I think soup is an easy meal to have on Christmas when people would rather be focused on their family than on cooking.

Me: What type of soup does she traditionally make?

Lindsey: It’s just a stew of different vegetables and beef. Really light. Really simple.

 

Analysis: Having soup on Christmas Eve is not a tradition I had ever heard of. I think the idea of spending time with one’s loved ones instead of cooking in the kitchen makes sense. It is more important to have Christmas with family and invest in quality time, than having an extravagant meal.

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?

Customs
Foodways
Holidays

Japanese New Year’s Ozoni

KM is a third-generation Japanese-American from Los Angeles, CA. She now lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband and 18-year-old son.

KM described to me some of the basic traditions her family has for New Years Day, especially the cooking of “ozoni”:

“Ozoni is just a soup made with chicken broth, green onion, shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, chicken and mochi. My Auntie Kazuko would make it for us every year when we were growing up, and it’s always the first course of a New Year’s Day meal. All of [my mom's] siblings and my cousins would get together at [Auntie Kazuko's] house and while most of the day would be, you know, just a family gathering, we would all sit down together to eat the ozoni. It’s only cooked on New Year’s and you have to go to special Japanese markets to find the ingredients.

“Now with my siblings and kids and nieces and nephews, we get together at my sister’s place – she’s married to a Japanese man, and his mother makes the ozoni. The holiday is pretty similar to how it was for me, where everyone just gathers at someone’s house to watch football and eat food, but the making of the soup and eating it together is like one concrete tradition we do every year. I’m not sure who will keep making it after [my sister's mother-in-law] passes away though…”

My analysis:

The most interesting part of this food tradition for me is the shared background of the family members who actively carry it out – KH told me her Auntie Kazuko was most connected to their Japanese heritage, which is why she insisted on making the soup every year. Similarly, her sister’s mother-in-law is from Japan, and she is the one who facilitates the tradition. It really reveals how certain customs make it overseas when families would move to America, but also how fragile they are. KH isn’t sure anyone else in her family is motivated enough by their Japanese traditions to continue the laborious process of making this particular food. Traditional holidays tend to become more Americanized (in this case) over the years they’re observed away from their roots, and unless enough people are committed to certain customs, they can easily die out.

For more information about ozoni, see:

“Ozoni (Zoni) Recipe.” Japanese Cooking 101. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.japanesecooking101.com/ozoni-zoni-recipe/.
Earth cycle
Festival
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas for New Year’s

This is a New Year’s tradition practiced by my informant and her family every year.

“If you have collard greens on January first then you’ll make a lot of money, maybe because they’re both green. Similarly, if you have black eyed peas, then you’ll have luck throughout the rest of the year. And it has to be on January first. And then you just have meat, that’s not symbolic but you need something to go with collard greens and the black eyed peas. My grandmother told me that, and so she cooks for us for every new year.”

The tradition of eating black eyed peas for luck is also a Jewish tradition, and goes back for many centuries. It’s popular in the American south, probably brought there by the Jews and adopted by the society at large. As the informant says, collard greens are also a common New Year’s food thought to bring wealth in the coming year, as they resemble American bills. Both foods are exceptionally common in the American south (thus allowing most people to partake in the tradition without causing undue budgetary stress), which is where my informant’s family lives. The emphasis on it being January 1st also reflects the notion of its importance as the beginning of a new unit of time, in a liminal period where anything could happen and one could presumably set the tone for the next stage in life (ie, the new year).

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