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

Breaking Eggs (Persian Rituals)

Okay so like, if people get like a knee injury, a really big thing is to, they’ll take raw eggs and they’ll crack the eggs and rub it on someone’s knee, for pain, and then they’ll wrap it for like two days. And apparently it really works.

 

Do you break the egg on their knee?

 

I think they just break it in a bowl, and then they put it on their knee and then they’ll wrap it. That’s a big one that I’ve seen a lot.

 

So is this for any injury?

 

No it’s not just like for any injury, I know it’s like your knee, maybe your elbow, and they’ll wrap it, I guess it’s for like a joint, just for joints.

 

Isn’t there also a ritual with eggs when someone gets a new car?

 

Oh yeah, okay so if you get a new car, I don’t know if it’s Persian or if it’s just a Jewish thing, I don’t know, it might be Persian… Okay so there’s two things, one of them is they’ll put like, eggs under each wheel, and you have to drive over the eggs, that’s like maybe to keep bad eyes away or something like that. And then another one is like, so when I got my car my mom would like, when I was gonna drive away for the first time they would pour water. Okay wait that’s what they do when they’re going on vacation, like a really big trip. Like when I was leaving for Italy, before I left, my mom or somebody would have to like, once you drive away, pour a glass of water behind you. I don’t know what it means, I think it’s just for safety and to have good luck or something like that, to have a good trip.

 

What do you think driving over the eggs is about? Like breaking new ground or something?

 

I don’t know, that would make sense, yeah like a new beginning or something like that, and it could also just be like having a positive entrance, like keeping bad eyes away. They’re really big on the evil eye.

 

ANALYSIS:

These are rituals enforced by superstitions, mainly surrounding keeping bad luck and evil forces away from you. There is symbolism with breaking the egg, although the informant is not quite clear on what that is. It could be speculated that the inside of an egg resembles the evil eye; or it could be as simple as the fact that eggs break easily; or could have something to do with eggs being a fetus or a new thing in development, like a new car bursting into the world like a chick would burst out of an egg. These are protection rituals and good luck rituals.

Customs
Gestures
Holidays

Leaving Wine for Elijah at Passover

The informant is a 66-year old mother, step-mother, former poverty-lawyer, property manager/owner, and is involved in many organizations and non profits. She was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was four years old. She grew up in California, where she also attended college and law school. She lived in the suburbs of Chicago for a short while with her husband and family, and now they live in Pacific Palisades, California.

 

Informant: “Back when I was a kid, with your Opa [the word for “Grandpa” in Dutch] every Passover, we would leave a glass of wine—in our most ornate wine glass—for Elijah, like we do now, but we would also all go around the table after the meal and have to tell a little anecdote about Elijah.

 

Interviewer: “Can you explain who Elijah is?”

Informant: “Elijah is a Jewish prophet. It’s tradition to leave a spot for him at the table at Passover so that if he passes through he will stop at your house and give you good luck and health. So we would go around and all have to tell a short made-up story about him. And it was silly that we did this—I don’t know anyone else who did this, but I know that my dad always said that he had done it with his family at their seders growing up.”

 

Thoughts:

I’ve participated in the Elijah ritual myself, so I can speak from a first-person perspective as well as commenting on my informant’s information. In my opinion, leaving a glass for Elijah symbolizes hope, for the future and for the Jewish people—a people historically oppressed and systematically pushed down. Leaving a glass and/or opening a door for the prophet, Elijah, to come is a way of leaving the door open to positive things to come. As it is a prophet that the glass of wine is left for, this custom can also be seen as a seeking of knowledge or insight.

Foodways
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Margaritas at La Barca

My informant is a USC student of Armenian and Caucasian origin, born and raised in California and regularly exercises through distance running. She is also a human biology major with an emphasis in human performance.

“So during a long day of a run—Melissa and I would hate it—and really count down our ten miles until we could go eat at La Barca. And finally when we were done we were rewarded with two-three margaritas, chips and salsa, and a grande colossal burrito and surprisingly we would wake up and run ten times faster. A couple times we averaged a 6:33 mile for 8 miles consecutively so, every time before we had a hard workout the next day we would prep at La Barca before…and it worked pretty well this past summer! And so I guess its just tradition now kind of, with me and her and the other girls who run with us sometimes.”

 

Analysis: This example of acquired folklore demonstrates how superstition and repetition can create a ritual. My informant believed that there was an undeniable tie between her performance while running and the consumption of several margaritas and Mexican food at La Barca restaurant prior to her hard workouts the next day. The initial improvement of her mile time gave her “proof” that her ritual/ceremony before her rough workouts was successful which prompted her repeating the ritual and spreading what she had learned with her other running buddies until it became a tradition within their group to partake in drinks and Mexican food before workouts. This piece of folklore also serves a social purpose and a means of bringing people together and strengthening bonds between friends, as well as marking a distinct trait or practice within this specific running group.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pinning Ceremony

My informant is a USC student and member of a sorority at the University. She is bi-racial of black and Caucasian ancestry.

 

“Usually towards the end of the school year there are these things called pinnings, and it happens when a senior guy in a fraternity and a senior girl in a sorority have a ceremony of the guy “pinning” the girl—with a pin—which signifies their love being bigger than his brotherhood with his fraternity, as he sticks his pin on her chest over her heart.”

 

Analysis: This ceremony is one that only takes place within Greek life, and as such the tradition is passed down verbally and visually within the Greek community. My informant wasn’t aware of the ceremony until she joined a sorority and witnessed it happen to one of her friends. The pinning ceremony is one that reflects a declaration of love and devotion for a boy for a girl, which is incredibly significant within male greek life as a guy’s fraternal “brothers” are (up until that point) the most important people in his life. A more Freudian explanation for the ceremony may be a means of the boy making it known to everyone that he is engaging in sexual intercourse with the girl of his choice, by sticking his “pin” onto her.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Monday Night Dinner

My informant is a USC student and member of a sorority at the University. She is bi-racial of black and Caucasian ancestry.

 

“In my sorority we have Monday night dinners every Monday night and all the girls are required to go, and then afterwards we have these sorority meetings to talk about things we need to do that week or what’s up for the next week, stuff like that. A persona chef comes and cooks and everyone is required to be there. You just don’t miss. You don’t.”

 

Analysis: The prevalence of Monday night dinner within sorority culture signifies a collective bond between the girls in the sorority to one another and to their house. I think that its interesting that there is an unspoken law that everyone has to be at Monday night dinner. When I asked if someone could miss she just replied that you “just don’t”. Although there isn’t a spoken reason for it, all of the girls know and accept that it is unacceptable to simply “miss” Monday night dinner. The rituals within sorority houses on occasion are reminiscent of cult behavior, where many people follow a doctrine or a ritual not because there is a justified reasoning behind it, but because everyone else is doing it, or the leader has said that it needs to be done, which can seem slightly off putting for people who are not immersed in of familiar with sorority culture or values.

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Pilgrimage

“Senior Pilgrimage is a tradition at my high school. We would walk from our high school for 14 miles down to Mission San Juan Capistrano and even though the walk was long, it was fun to miss a day of class and have all my friends there with me. It was a highly encouraged event to go to, but students had to meet certain prerequisite requirements like turning in all books to the library, paying library fines, finishing detentions, and stuff to go. And if you didn’t want to go, you would have to have a form signed. They would give us out shirts that said “Senior Pilgrimage” and the year then have us start the walk to the mission at 8:00am on the last day of classes for the school.

The informant is a friend of mine from elementary school, though in high school we went to different schools. I ended up going to Tesoro High School while she went to Santa Margarita. She told me that the school liked having everyone participate in traditions such as the one above because it helped bring the students together and gave them a stronger sense of community. She told me more about this tradition when she was at my house last week and we were recalling things we had to do in high school. She enjoyed participating in the event besides having her feet hurt, and felt that she grew with many of the people she talked to along the journey to the mission. She feels it served as a capstone marking the end of her high school journey.

My friend recalls the school engaging in this tradition since its opening in 1987. Since then, every faculty member has ensured that the walk has happened in the same fashion each year, with everyone receiving the shirts marking the year of the pilgrimage. I wish that I too had something like this at my high school. Though strenuous, it would have helped round out my high school experience and mark my transition from high school to college.

Customs
general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fraternity Fountain Sticker Tradition

“Every semester, the pledges always have the job of making sure a sticker with our fraternitys letters are stuck onto the side of the Finger Fountain. Its almost a game, and if actives see the stickers theyre supposed to take them off the fountain,  and then a pledge is supposed to immediately replace it. If no stickers are found on the fountain then the pledges get in trouble.” 

When talking with my friend about whether his fraternity hazes or not, the informant told me about this tradition first, which I found rather humorous. Helearned about it in his pledge semester and older brothers in the house say that it’s been done since the finger fountain was first built. The informant didn’t really understand the purpose of constantly applying stickers but I came to the conclusion that it’s a way of the house making its mark on the school and identifying with it. Furthermore, it could be seen as a way of having the pledge make his mark on the fraternity. It’s a task meant to test those who are dedicated and really want to join, as those who don’t replace the stickers display a less serious and caring attitude about pledging the fraternity chapter.

Customs
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Swedish Ritual of Saint Lucia

When I was younger I would dress up in a white dress and a crown with candles in celebration of Saint Lucia at my school. I would give out candy and sing to my friends and classmates because that was the tradition back in Sweden. This ritual is usually done at around Christmas time and usually done as a family. My grandma first taught me about Santa Lucia and bought me my white dress at 7 and I partook in the ritual of handing out candy until I was 12.

Both of the informants parents, though American born, are very Swedish with native born Swedish parents. My friend grew up just outside of Oklahoma City and she recalls her grandma always wanting to teach her about Swedish culture when she visited from Stockholm. Her grandma really emphasized the event, which I understand due to the fact that it often coincides with the winter solstice. I’ve learned from class that Scandinavians and other northern peoples in Ireland and Scotland all celebrate such events due to the fact that these yearly events greatly influence their lives due to the short appearance of the sun.

The informant later explained to me that though girls usually partook in the traditional ritual of dressing up and handing out goodies that men would sometimes hand out treats as well. Her grandma carefully explained to her that following the ritual each year would help one survive the long winter days without enough light. For my friend, she was always self-conscious about partaking in the ritual because she was always the only one to dress up in school. She recalls her parents forcing her the first couple years to celebrate it because they said it was part of their heritage. She is now happy that they did so because now feels closer to her Swedish relatives and it gives them something to talk about.

I learned about this ritual from the informant after asking her if she ever partook in events when she visited her Swedish relatives over spring break. It was enjoyable to hear more about her Swedish family and their traditions because my family, due to how many generations they’ve lived in America, doesn’t have such European rituals.

Folk Beliefs
general
Gestures
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kiss the Lollipop

The ritual: “My high school’s cross-country team…our sectionals which was like the last meet of the year, cause we always lose sectionals…it’s always at the same place, it’s at this elementary school in Noblesville. And we would go there and there’s like this random path into the woods, and all the guys on the team would go there together, and we would take one lollipop and everyone had to kiss the lollipop and it was super weird.”

The informant carried out this ritual for his high school cross-country team. He said that one guy on the team never did it because he thought it was too weird, probably because he thought it was too close to kissing other guys. This ritual was probably more ironic than for good luck, since the informant himself said that the team lost sectionals every year. Going in knowing that they’ll lose, the ritual for “good luck” was probably just a parody, since the ritual itself is kind of weird to begin with.

Folk Dance
general
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Soul Train Line

The tradition: “At wedding receptions, the guests form 2 lines facing each other, men on one side and women on the other. The 2 at the front of the line dance down the aisle together and go to their sides when they reach the end. Then the next 2 dance all the way down and so on. It’s comes from the 70s and 80s dance show, Soul Train. It’s called the Soul Train Line.”

The informant (my mom) is a black American woman who grew up in Tennessee. Soul Train aired in 1971, and was the first all-black show on national television when it moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. So my mom (and dad) basically grew up watching Soul Train almost everyday after school, learning the dances and watching the various R&B performers through the 70s and 80s, when they were children and teens. The Soul Train line became famous from the TV show, and now it’s a popular practice at African-American weddings; it’s almost a staple. My mom says it happens at basically every black wedding she goes to, in addition to “lots of line dancing: wobble, Cupid Shuffle, 2 stomps…” in her words. Improvisation and line dancing are huge parts of black folk dance in America. The Soul Train line combines both, and emulates the practices done on the show itself. People go down the line in pairs, improvising and feeding off of one another. Every move is choreographed in the moment, feeding off the energy of the crowd. I think the emergence of Soul Train in the 70s was very important for young black children in America, to see their community represented onscreen. It made them excited, and want to imitate the dance practices they saw on TV. That generation (my mom’s generation) is the generation that mostly practices, or starts, these Soul Train lines. I was at my cousin’s wedding last summer, who is in her thirties, and it was the older adults who began chanting to start a Soul Train line. They’re fun and energetic, and a good way to interact with people you may not even know well through dance.

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