USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘party’
Adulthood
Customs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Quinceanera

I interviewed my informant, a young lady of Mexican descent, in the study lounge of the band office. Because of her upbringing in Mexican culture, she was able and eager to share a lot of folklore and folk traditions. At the top of her list was her experience with the tradition of Quinceaneras, which she learned from her family members. She watched her older cousins performing the event when she was younger, and she had one herself when she turned fifteen. The following is the information she shared with me during the interview:

 

According to my informant, a Quinceanera is a celebration of a young girl’s fifteenth birthday.

 

In the past, they were to show the village/town that this person is now ready to be wed/ now ready to meet suiters. Now it’s more of a celebration of coming into womanhood, and presenting her as such to family and friends

 

Girls wear bridal-like dresses. In modern Quinceaneras, girls wear colors that match the theme color of their party. My informant informed me that she wore a white dress because that was the main color of her party.

 

Quinceaneras also have a Court. The court is made up of seven couple with one main escort to dance with the Quinceanera [here the word is being used to describe the girl herself rather than the entire celebration].

 

At her party, when she enters the room, a waltz is performed with her court. And then she dances with the father/male figures in her family. Her father performs changing of the shoe, which is usually changing a ballet flat to a heal.

 

This is followed by the presentation of the doll. There is a doll that looks like the Quinceanera. She has to present it to a younger female figure (a cousin, or sister). My informant gave her doll to her younger sister at her Quinceanera.

 

My informant also told me that a more recent Quinceanera tradition is the surprise dance. The girl being celebrated will choreograph a modern dance of some sort to entertain guests.

 

It is also expected that the Quinceanera greet every guest and thank them for coming to their party.

 

My information added that Quinceaneras are traditionally for catholic people. There is usually a mass beforehand where they honor the Virgin Mary because she’s the pinnacle of womanhood.

 

I asked my informant for the context of a Quinceanera. She admitted that most of what she shared is based on the American tradition. In the Mexican culture, the whole town would be invited, not just family and friends. The party is usually held anywhere people fit: a ranch, in a dance hall, etc. The entire party also functions as a display of wealth for the family.

 

Analysis

I have ever experienced a Quinceanera party, but I have a great idea of what it’s like based on my informants description. She obviously is well informed about the complexities of the tradition, and was able to explain it to me in a way that was easy to document. I feel that if I ever go to a Quinceanera in the future, I will be knowledgeable of what is happening and why it’s significant.

 

For more information on Quinceaneras (including who celebrates it, and rituals that are part of it), go to https://www.quinceanera-boutique.com/quinceaneratradition.htm

 

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Posadas

I interviewed my informant, Brianna, in the study lounge of the band office. Because of her upbringing in Mexican culture, she was able and eager to share a lot of folklore and folk traditions. One thing she wanted me to document was Posadas, which she learned about from her grandmother and her mother. The following is the information she shared with me during the interview:

 

Posadas are special events leading up to Christmas. It’s a movement of the community or church that happened once a week a few weeks leading up Christmas day. The community members follow someone dressed as Mary and Joseph to someone’s home. The home welcomes them in, and they have a big party.

 

My informant made sure to note that in her mother’s village, they put the woman portraying Mary on a live donkey for added effect.

 

She used to do it in her neighborhood back home (San Siro, San Luis Potosi). Everyone was invited for food and a party. A portion of the people were invited early for food, usually close friends and family. Then the whole town is invited after the dinner for the party and music.

 

This all leads up to Christmas day. On Christmas, everyone celebrates at home — which is where everyone celebrates the birth of Jesus. A certain ritual also involves putting a doll figure of baby Jesus in a manger. My informant noted that her grandmothers was 10X bigger than the other dolls because it’s the most important thing in the display.

 

I asked my informant if she had any other thoughts, to which she responded: “The first time I did it, I was in Mexico, so it was pretty wild.”

 

Analysis

I have never heard of such extravagant pageantry to celebrate the Christmas season. This festival in particular is very important because it brings the community together and affirms their identity. It’s unclear whether everyone partakes in the celebration because they are Christian, or just because they are part of the community. Regardless, Posadas is obviously a very important annual event that encourages synthesis through performance.

 

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Polterabend

The following is a conversation between myself and my parents about a German Jewish wedding tradition called a Polterabend. My dad, Arthur, is of German Jewish descent and grew up in a secular household in Cincinnati, while my mother, Margaret, is from a secular Episcopalian background. They are referred to by their first initials in this conversation; “L” is my first initial.

M: This is actually uh, Dad’s but I was gonna say that in Cincinnati they have um–among reform Jews in Cincinnati–they have a custom called the Polterabend. which is a-
A: It’s a German custom.
M: It’s a german custom, but isn’t- I think it was celebrated by the German Jews?
A: Yeah.
M: Um and we had one of them before our wedding and the idea was um, the night before, you have like a- a kind of a wild party of some kind to celebrate. But “polter” is y’know from “poltergeist” so it’s like, y’know, goblins or-
A: And you’re supposed to break something.
L: You always do it before your wedding or…?
M: Yeah, the evening before your wedding um, y’know you uh, you break stuff, you make a lot of noise to sort of celebrate the marrying couple and chase away the bad spirits.
L: And like, did your parents do that, Dad?
A: Yeah.
L: And like, all the reform Jews in Cincinnati?
A: Yeah.
M: And when they had a party for us, the evening before our wedding here [in San Francisco]-
A: They called it a Polterabend.
M: They called it a Polterabend, although it was just a party.

My dad’s family, like most German Jewish families in Cincinnati, were not at all religiously observant; in fact, they had a Christmas tree most years growing up. Still, most reform Jews in Cincinnati, my dad’s family included, participated in cultural practices like the Polterabend in order to connect to their culture. Although neither of my parents are especially religious, traditions like this one connect our family to our cultural-religious background. My parents were married by a Rabbi in a Jewish ceremony, and had a “Polterabend” before their wedding; though my mom is not Jewish, their wedding celebrated Jewish culture’s place in their newly formed family.

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Luau Themed Party

Main Piece: Luau Themed Party

My aunt would host a luau themed party once a year. It was a Hawaiian themed event that we used to see the family. The entire house would be decorated in Hawaiian things like flowers and torches. Oh, and Hawaiian bread rolls: they have a sweeter taste than regular bread. Another dish is purple mashed potatoes. She, my aunt, gets them at the “special market” near her house. We really enjoy going to these events and seeing all the family members and eating all the good food. We aren’t Hawaiian and don’t really have any connection to Hawaii, but the theme is really fun.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This is a traditional festival that her family has every year.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

At the luau party every year.

  • What does it mean to them?

It is a chance for her to enjoy time with her family at a fun and non-religious setting.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At her aunt’s house

  • When?

During the summer.

  • Why?

To get all the family members together.

 

Personal Thoughts:

I think it is very interesting that even though they have no connection to Hawaii, they still have a luau themed party each year. Since her entire family is Jewish, and usually only get together for religious celebrations, it must be nice to have a party that is unrelated to a religious holiday.

Foodways

Ecuadorian Parties in Chicago

Main Piece:

Participant marked with CM below. I am noted as LJ.

LJ: What was it like growing up in Chicago as an Ecuadorian?

CM: We had a lot of parties where you pay $20 at the door. We have a lot of Ecuadorian artists that um donate their time. And we have, um, a lot of people who make food for us. Oh, and we all dance from like 7 to 2am.

LJ: What else happens at these parties?

CM: We don’t really like to spend money on outside people. The community supports eachother…we’re a small community so we’re really family based.

 

Context:

I asked the participant to tell me about what it was like to grow up Ecuadorian in Chicago. She touched on parties and food–above is the party aspect of it.

Background:

The participant is a first generation Ecuadorian-American in Chicago. She is currently a first year at the University of Southern California.

Analysis:

The Ecuadorian community in Chicago seems very close knit by the way that the parties seem to operate. The participant spoke about feeling a great support within the community. It is evident in how she mentions that, for their parties they reach out to other people within their neighborhood. Music, food, and fun serves to help the keep the group together.

The participant later went on to tell me that she feels that these parties help maintain the traditions of Ecuador–that they are especially important to those who have never been or can not go back to Ecuador.

 

Customs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

100 Day Party for South Korean Babies

The informant, my friend, is a 20-year-old college student. All of the informant’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from South Korea, but both of her parents have lived in the United States their whole lives.

While we were in line to order at a local Chipotle restaurant, I asked the informant if any specific traditions or customs related to her South Korean heritage have stood out to her the most throughout her life. She hesitated for a moment, and at first failed to answer my question. A few minutes later, she began to describe a coming-of-age ceremony that was held for her as a baby.

“Traditionally in South Korea, when a baby makes it to 100 days it means that they’re going to live a long life. So at 100 days the baby’s family holds a ‘100 Day Party.’ The babies wear a traditional South Korean outfit and there is a whole feast for the family. During the ceremony there are a lot of different bowls, and each one contains something different like a dollar bill, different types of food, some thread, or a pencil. The baby is set in front of the bowls and whichever ones it puts its hands in are supposed to represent what type of life it will have. So if you choose the pencil you’re supposed to be intelligent, the dollar means you’ll be rich, and the thread means you’ll have a long life.”

This ceremony marks the point at which a South Korean family truly celebrates the life of their new child without hesitation or worries of health complications leading to a premature death. It seems to be a remnant of the lack of healthcare and prevalence of childhood mortality that existed across the globe several centuries ago, since in recent years child mortality rates in developed nations like South Korea and the United States have fallen drastically as a result of increasing knowledge in the health sciences as well as greater availability of medicine and healthcare services. I asked the informant if she remembered what was in the bowl that she picked on her 100 Day Party, but she did not. For the informant’s family, then, the party served more as a celebratory event than a true predictor of their child’s life trajectory, since her lack of knowledge with regards to the object that she picked had no bearing on the personal and career choices she has been allowed to make throughout her life. I also asked the informant if she plans to hold a 100 Day Party for her children, if she has any, and she responded that she does. It is realistic to say that this folk tradition will continue to exist for future generations, as it is a fun and exciting event that many would have no moral hesitation holding for their child.

Game

“Rage Cage” – Drinking Game

Informant: I learned Rage Cage from [older sorority sister], actually! Yeah, she taught it to me at [fraternity]. We were over there one night, and she was like, “[informant], why aren’t you drunk yet? You gotta get on my level!” So she got some of the guys in a circle around the table—the beer pong table—and put a bunch of red cups in the middle of the table, and we filled them all with a little bit of beer. And then she took two empty cups and uh, gave them to two of the guys. And they each had one ping pong ball, and they had to bounce the ping pong balls into their cup. And when the guy on the left of the other guy got his in, he’d pass the cup and the ball clockwise. If the guy on the right got his ball into the cup before the other guy, he got to stack his cup in the other guy’s cup, and then he’d pass the stacked cups to the next person in the circle. The guy who lost—who didn’t get his ball in and got another cup stacked in his—has to drink one of the cups of beer in the middle of the table. Then he can use that empty cup and try to bounce the ping pong ball into that. He passes the cup clockwise when he gets it in.

Me: So you just keep passing the cups clockwise in the circle?

Informant: Yeah. Well, unless someone gets the ball into the “chasing” cup—the cup that isn’t stacked—on their first try. Then they can pass it to whoever they want.

Me: Is there, like, someone you want to pass to in particular?

Informant: You want to pass it to the person to the right of whoever has the stacked cups. It’s easier to get them, then.

Me: How does the game end?

Informant: When all the cups are stacked. But [older sorority sister] plays it so, like, the last person to lose—to get a cup stacked in theirs—has to chug a whole drink.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a member of a sorority, and was born and raised in Chicago, IL.

The informant told me she has played Rage Cage at numerous fraternity parties since learning it during her sophomore year at USC. The game is usually played in mixed-gender groups of five or more players (up to as many as can fit around the table, although a group larger than twelve may have trouble keeping the attention of players stuck on the opposite side of the circle from the action) and takes place at fraternity houses or otherwise private location where those who are not yet of the legal drinking age can participate.

This drinking game is typically played early in the evening as a way for men and women to loosen up around one another. Since fraternity party culture at USC revolves around partygoers being intoxicated, Rage Cage is often used as a comfortable and fun way for participants to ease into drinking for the night. The competitive “stacking” element of the game also allows for participants to gang up on certain members of the group who they believe should drink more.

Folk Dance
general
Kinesthetic
Musical

SWEET CAROLINE

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a senior graduating this semester from USC. He is a biomedical engineer, and is the oldest son of two immigrants from China.

EXAMPLE:

Interviewee: Whenever we have parties or go to parties it is basically a requirement that we sing the Neil, what’s his name?, song – “Sweet Caroline.”

Interviewer: Neil Diamond?

Interviewee: Yeah, I think. So we have to sing that song. But it’s not just a song, it’s like everyone sings it in a circle. And then like after the “Sweet Caroline” part in the chorus, we all have to say “Ba, ba, ba” and throw are fists in the air. It matches like the horns.

And then for the “good times never felt so good,” we all yell “So good, so good, so good,” with the same fist bumping.

Interviewer: Is that it?

Interviewee: Well that’s like the basics. But then for those in the know when he says “reaching out,” you gotta reach out to the rest of the group. “Touching me,” you put your hand on you. “Touching you,” touch someone else next to you.

And then if you really know it, the “warm touching warm” part you rub your hands together like they are cold.

BACKGROUND

“This started because, at least I think it started because of him, but one of our friends is from Boston. And he is like really into Boston. And he’s a Red Sox fan. And I guess the Red Sox fans do this during baseball games at Fenway Park. It’s like their anthem. So he gets really into it during the singing. But really it’s become just like a big group thing. Singing it with everyone. It pretty much will just stop the party.”

ANALYSIS:

This song/dance has is an example of folklore traveling from location to location, event to event. What started as Neil Diamond writing a song for Caroline Kennedy has somehow gotten turned into a theme song for the Red Sox, which has then been used as a party song at USC. Probably for the person that came from Boston, who is “really into Boston,” used it as a way to show the people at USC his culture, but now the song has a whole USC culture to it. Especially at the point where it is practically guaranteed for any parties that this group of people throw or go to. It has now turned into a form of identity for this friend group at USC. Which is funny because it is derived from a form of identity for Red Sox fans and Bostonians.

“Sweet Caroline” can be heard in the film Fever Pitch about an obsessed Red Sox fan, and this is an article in The Boston Globe all about how this writer hates the tradition to sing it at the games.

 

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kentucky Derby Party

This informant is an old classmate of mine, who has know moved on to working in Los Angeles.  I started off asking this informant if he had any folk stories or family traditions that were interesting and he told me about the annual Kentucky Derby Party that his Grandpa throws.  At first I was hesitant that it really qualified as a custom or holiday/festival but it turned out to be deeply rooted in his family’s history.

Informant: I have to first start by telling you about Papa [this is what he called his grandpa.]  His family grew up in Kentucky but moved to Arcadia when he was born. His father was a horse trainer, and Papa spent a large portion of his childhood at Santa Anita Park.  So fast-forward to when Papa was applying to college.  He was training alongside his dad at this point and won a huge race that ultimately gave him the means to attend USC and the ROTC program.  So the horse races have been super important in his life and many generations before him.  Now every single year he takes all his grandkids to opening day at Santa Anita and every single Kentucky Derby he has a big bash at his house that has been an annual thing since before I was born.

Me: Sounds cool, tell me more about the actual party.

Informant: The party is super traditional to Kentucky, like its set up like Churchill Downs.  Mint Juleps are always served at the door, which is like this minty whiskey drink that Papa takes a lot of pride in even though the ingredients are really simple.  Everyone dresses really nice and there is always someone taking bets.

Me: What about when the actual race goes on?

Informant: Its weird that the big race is only like two minutes, but the party goes on all day.  Everyone just stands around the TV and cheers, most people don’t know anything about the horses but Papa always has some very strong opinions, based on tips from his trainer friends.

Me: Haha ya, never got the hype behind horse racing because of how short the races are.  Would you say this family tradition has rubbed off on you in any way?

Informant: Oh 100%.  I used to take our yearly trips to the races for granted but now I love them.  It gives me some quality time with Papa and I have grown to love the sport, especially picking winning horses when the walk around the paddock before the race.

The horse races, and more specifically the Kentucky Derby, have clearly become very meaningful for my informant and his family.  What probably started as a way to earn a living or a hobby generations ago has now materialized into an annual gathering of friends and family.  The family custom, not only displays their love for horses and competition, but also their dedication to family.  The informant said most attendants had no idea which horse to root for or bet on but still came because it gave them a chance to honor something important to their elder and reconnect with family members.

Customs
Game
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Schlaugen

This informant is a member of a USC fraternity and I asked him to share some of their traditions or stories he might have.  Among others, here is a year-end senior tradition he shared with me. It’s called Senior Schlaugen and here is our dialogue.

Me: Tell about this Senior Schlaugen, and what does the name mean?

Informant: Haha, I have no idea where the name came from but since the game is all about drinking and –schlaugen sounds German, maybe that’s why?  Anyways it’s a tradition the seniors do every year, where we try to drink as much as possible for the last month of school.  So for this year it goes from April 15th to Graduation on May 15th.  Basically we form teams of three and you get points every night someone on your team goes out, also there are weekly team challenges, like finish a 30 rack in a library.  Its really fucking with me right now, I have been out six nights in a row, I gotta fuckin win.

Me: Is there a prize?

Informant: Uh, ya winning team gets little gimmick trophies, but its more about the pride.

Me: So this competition means a lot to you?

Informant: Well ya, nothing I do in school now is gonna change what I do post grad as long as I don’t fail any classes.  Couldn’t really give less of a shit about my classes right now.

Me: Well, you’re about a week in do you think you’ll burn out before graduation?  Any surprises after just a week?

Informant: Haha, no way ill burn out I fuckin live for this.  But ya even though this game is all about getting fucked up and partying, it really does serve a purpose that I am just now realizing.

Me: What’s that?

Informant: Well its just brought me closer to all the guys that I may or may not ever see again, and really forced us to make the best out of the last month.  You get extra points if your whole team drinks together in one night so we are all always in the same place.

For starters, this tradition at the informant’s fraternity is a blaring example of the drinking culture at USC, and the Greek community more specifically.  However, although it seemed completely centered around partying on the surface, what my informant said at the end really shed light on why the tradition has stayed around for years.  The game brought all the seniors closer, students who may never see each other again and definitely will never all in the same room again.  Some people say fraternities are all about partying, but by looking further into their traditions, you can see the important role brotherhood plays as well.

[geolocation]