USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘meat’
Rituals, festivals, holidays

No meat on Christmas Eve

“We didn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is fine, but not on Christmas Eve. So we’d eat, like, baccala, which is salted cod. And calamari and other fish and seafood.”


My informant is an Italian Catholic. Refraining from meat on Christmas Eve is one of many cultural traditions practiced by this group. There are certain traditional fish dishes prepared, including baccala. My informant told me that she doesn’t particularly like baccala, and neither does the rest of her family. However, they make and eat it every year because it is traditional to do so.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech

If you eat raw meat, hair will grow on your chest. – Superstition

“If you eat raw meat, hair will grow on your chest.”


David first heard this urban legend from his grandmother who is originally from Mexico.  When he was seven, he was very impatient when it came to supper time that he would take a slab of meat before his grandmother was finished cooking it.  She warned him that if he ate raw meat, hair will grow on his chest like a werewolf.  After hearing that, he became afraid so he stopped picking at the uncooked meat.  Contrarily in high school, David had a friend who desired chest hair badly.  His friend had heard that urban legend, too, so he always ate raw meat as safely as possible.

I believe that this urban legend came about because devouring meat and chest hair are both signs of masculinity.  Hundreds of years ago, men were arduous game hunters.  Even now many of the restaurant ads that target men display huge platters of meat.  Hairiness is also a masculine quality, especially chest hair.  Many young teenage boys are zealous upon spotting their first chest hair because that would signify manliness.  Therefore I can see how some people may link eating raw meat to chest hair.