Informant AB is a 23-year-old male who is from the East Bay in Northern California. He is a student at the University of Southern California in his third year as a civil engineer major. Informant AB also plays club baseball at USC:
AB: “I play baseball and it is my favorite sport to play. I have been playing since I was 5 or 6 years old and I am still playing on the club team at USC.”
Do you have any particular rituals or customs you perform prior to a game?
AB: “Yes I have two main rituals that I do in baseball. So I play “infield” and when you’re in the infield you are always taking your one-two step to get ready for the ground ball before the pitcher hits so that you are ready to field it, which is pretty common for everybody, but one thing I do just kind of on top of that before every pitch is that I take my glove and I kind of almost tap it on my left hip ever so slightly to just shift the glove in my hand so it feels better in my hand. It’s just something that makes me more comfortable, maybe more confident in feeling grounders and being ready for the potential play coming my way. I also wear the same pair of baseball sliders that I never wash. I’ve had them for years and years and I wear them at all my practices and games. They make me feel more positive about each game or practice because of all of the great wins and experiences I’ve had while wearing them.”
Who did you learn these rituals from?
AB: “My dad actually played baseball for most of his life and when I was little I would watch him play. I would see that he would do the same gesture I do today. I remember asking him one day why he would tap his hip with his glove and he said it would help him to focus and center himself during the games. When I started playing in little league, that’s when I started doing the same gesture my dad did. I guess watching him as a little kid, I picked up on some of the things he did while he played. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
What do these rituals mean to you?
AB: “Well, growing up watching my dad play and learning my ritual from him holds a special place in my heart. I really looked up to him when I was little. I just think it is something special. It brought us closer together.”
Informant AB’s baseball rituals were passed down by someone he looked up to as a young child and is something that he continues to do as an adult. As America’s favorite past time, there are countless folk beliefs in baseball that surround good and bad luck such as rituals being practiced during the seventh inning stretch, to verbal lore being performed during the game. I think it is interesting how as a young child the informant noticed the rituals his father would perform while out on the field and how much of an impact his father had made on him growing up. Their passion for baseball and their father-son dynamic depicts how rituals can be passed down to the next generation through a strong familial bond.
Informant: “I don’t know if you have this in the States, but we get school cones. Do you know what that is? Well, you know how a cone is where you put ice cream inside? And we get massive ones on our first day of school, but filled with gifts.”
Interviewer: “And what is in these cones?”
Informant: “Mostly presents of any type. It can be sweets, it can be stuff for school, it can basically be pretty much everything.”
Interviewer: “And are these presents supposed to make students feel better about having to go back to school?”
Informant: “No, no. This is only on the very first day, when everyone is super excited anyways. And it’s just to make the start even more special. And then it’s usually grandparents and everybody coming to the school and we have a big ceremony where the classes are announced and who is in which class, with which teacher and stuff. Yeah, it’s actually sweet. And in my family we went out for lunch later, and we just ate. So that is what I did.”
Interviewer: “What are they called, the cone things in German?”
Informant: “School cone, schultüte.”
Schultüte translates into English as ‘school bag’, even though the object is in a cone shape. A Schultüte is a cone shaped cardboard cup filled with things such as chocolates, small gifts, and practical gifts for school like pencils or crayons. These are given to children in Germany and Austria by parents and grandparents on their first day of school, especially upon entering kindergarden. This tradition appears to only be for younger children. The tradition first appeared in the early 19th century in Germany. It first began in the bigger cities, but the tradition soon spread to the rural areas of Germany and is now a common custom in Germany and Austria today. When the tradition first began, the school cones were not directly given to the children as they are today. Children’s names were written on the cones, and then were hung from a metal Schultüten-Baum or ‘school cone tree’. The children had to then pick the school cones off the trees without breaking them. There is a story connected to this that says adults would say to the children that if the school cone tree was ripe with school cones, than it was time to start school.
I am not sure what the connection to fruit growing on trees is for the school cones, but the cones represent an initiation for children to start the new year of school. In my research I found that my first response to the reason why school cones are given, which is to make the children less nervous about going back to school, was just as reasonable as my informant’s reasoning that it was just part of making that day even more special. The first day of school is full of all kinds of anxieties that come from starting a new school year with a new teacher and new courses. School cones are given to the children to help create an atmosphere of celebration, which makes the anxieties of change more bearable to children because the gifts make the day more exciting. I don’t know why this tradition has not spread to other countries, perhaps because it is a relatively new tradition compared to other traditions we see in folklore. I like the idea of turning the first day of school into a celebration because it makes education special in the minds of the children due to this kind of positive association with the start of school and gifts. This is not to say that in America we think of education differently than than they do in German culture, but the first day of school can bring about anxiety to children because things are unfamiliar to them. Therefore creating a happy atmosphere would be a great way to dispel any feelings of nervousness that the children feel.
My informant was born in 1992 Hamburg, Germany. She studied at USC from 2010-2011 before moving to Brussels, Belgium to study international policy planning for her undergraduate degree. She lives part time in Brussels, Belgium and part time in her hometown Hamburg, Germany.
Informant: “So the infamous family get together… so every year at the time of the fourth of July, the Forward family would hold a reunion back up at our cabin that is near Lassen in Manton, California. And that is an area that was homesteaded by our great-great-grandfather, who actually was at West Point when the Civil War broke out. And he decided that he couldn’t choose between the North and the South, so he packed up the wagon and headed out to California to avoid the whole Civil War. Any event, they settled in Oregon originally, and then they moved down to Northern California where Manton now is. And they eventually built a lumber company there, a saw mill. So uh, in any event that is where the family homestead is and we would go back every July 4th to the family homestead, and my grandfather and his brother, my uncle, would hold a big barbecue. And the way they would barbecue was that the meal was typically on Sunday, or whatever, but the day before you would dig a big pit and you would buy tri-tip and you would put it in burlap sacks. You would season the meat, put it in burlap sacks and wet it, and you built this pit. And the day before you would get some firewood, it had to be oak to get the right coals, and you would fill that pit with the coals and then would dig out the coals, throw in the meat that is in the wet burlap sacks and wrapped in the pit, and then you would throw dirt over those, and then throw the coals over that. So it is kind of like the Hawaiian pig roasts, they way they burry the pig. And then that cooks all night long and through the next morning. So part of the fun was digging the pit and keeping the fire going. And the men would stay up all night, until usually 1:00 in the morning when they would put the meat in. And they would drinking whiskey and tell stories. There were no women allowed, this was just a guys thing. So then, we would dig up the meat the next day that had been cooking for 8 hours and we had this beautiful tri-tip that had slow cooked for 8 hours in the earth. And then we would add some more seasoning, and that was the main meal for our big family reunion party every year. And the family reunion was always done at the cabin near the lower pond. We actually had built a little picnic area just for that one party, every year. The other fun thing we used to do is there is no refrigeration but there is a creek that runs right by the picnic area, so instead of having to bring ice or anything, the creek was cold enough with the water coming off Mt. Lassen. We put all the food that had to be cooled in the creek, so the kids would have to build a little rock dam, a little pool so that the stuff wouldn’t wash down the stream. And we put watermelon in there, and put all the beer and pop bottles there, all the stuff the water wouldn’t hurt. And that was their kind of fun thing that was the kid’s responsibility every year.”
“The Pig Roast” as it is called serves as a way for the family to reunite every year. The 4th of July was chosen for the reunion date for two reasons. One, getting to celebrate Independence day with family is a fun way for the family to reflect proudly on their American heritage. Another reason why the date was chosen was because it is a time of year that is easier for family members to travel back to Manton, because the children are out of school for the summer and July is not a busy month for farmers, and ranchers, which is the occupation of many family members. The pig roast is always held on Sunday of the 4th of July weekend, because Sunday is traditionally a day of rest and family time.
The special method of how the pig is cooked is also part of the reunion’s ritual. The pig is generally slaughtered from the family’s farm, and then it is prepared in a special method that has been repeated since the first Manton pig roast. The fact that only the men in the family are allowed to prepare the pig represents a strong patriarchal value in the family, which still holds true today. When a boy in the family is finally allowed to stay up late with the men and drink whiskey and share stories, this important event represents that the family has accepted the boy as a man. This initiation into adulthood is also the men’s way of saying to the boy that they are ready to give him more responsibilities as an adult.
The fact that every group in the family, the men, children, and women, all have a specific responsibilities for the preparation for the pig roast is tied to the family’s history of being primarily farmers and ranchers. Working on a farm or ranch requires a lot of hard work and responsibility so everyone has to do there part, including the children.
The Manton pig roast represents American traditions and values in that there is a strong emphasis on family, hard work, and independence, which is reflected in the origin story of the family homestead. This is because the idea that their great-great grandfather was a pioneer in the West represents the idea that in America if you work hard and have the determination to do so you can accomplish great things. This story is often used to inspire these ideas of success and independence in the family today.
My informant was born in 1957 Arcata, California to a high school basketball coach and his wife. After earning his undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of California, Davis, he moved to southern California to obtain his MBA in business from the University of Southern California. He now a partner at Ernst & Young. He lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with his wife and has two children.