USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Rituals’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fruits of the New Year

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (CS) and I (ZM).

ZM: Okay so, when I was at your house, you have grapes? over the…

CS: Mhm

ZM: What are those about?

CS: So um, it’s like a, I think it’s an Asian thing, it might just be a Filipino thing, but it’s like um…At the beginning of every year, fruits are like symbols of like Mother Mary and her bearing the fruit of Jesus. So, it’s sort of to bring good luck. So, you always have like before the new year comes in, in every, like, living space, you have to have a bowl of twelve fruits. So, in the kitchen, in the living room, you have to have a big bowl of twelve fruits. Twelve different fruits.

ZM: Why twelve?

CS: Each month of the year.

ZM: Okay.

CS: And then above each entry into a room you have to do twelve grapes to symbolize like the same thing. So like, it’s supposed to bring you like good wealth and good luck into the new year and it’s like a symbol of Mother Mary and like how she was blessed because she was gifted with like the fruit of the womb of Jesus or whatever.

ZM: That’s cool.

CS: Yeah. So my mom always has to go out and buy like twelve different fruits. It’s a struggle.

ZM: Yeah, how do you get twelve different fruits.

CS: We have grapefruits in the backyard, lemons in the backyard. Sometimes if she can’t find more, she cheats and she gets avocados. (laughs) It’s always like melons, like she’ll get a watermelon, a cantaloupe, and a honeydew. And then like, apples, peaches, and then the ones in our backyard, and then like, if she’s really tryin’ it she’ll like get a lime and a lemon.

ZM: Do you leave the fruit up all year?

CS: Yes! And it gets DIsgusting. Absolutely gross. Like one time, the grapes started falling on the one over, like going outside to the patio thing, like, the atrium, back there. We have one over there, and I was like “The grapes are falling. Like, you need to fix it.” My mom grabbed saran wrap, and then she like (laughs) she like made a saran wrap bag and then pinned it there and then when I was taking them down towards like… You usually change everything towards like, Thanksgiving/Christmas. So you don’t do it like right before the new year. You like start preparing for the new year around like, after Thanksgiving, like before Christmas. As we were changing them, I took down the bag and it’s like MOLDY, cause like usually they’re just out in the air. So it’s like, they just turn into raisins, but like this one had a bag because she was keeping all of the ones that fell and it was literally wet and moldy and it was like green and white mold, and I almost vomited, and I was like “This needs to never happen again.” Yeah you keep it the WHOLE year. If it falls down you HAVE to keep it up there somehow.

 

Context:Over the weekend I visited CS at her home and noticed fruit hanging from the doorways. A few days later I asked her about them and this conversation was recorded then.

 

Background: The performer is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She is first generation American and her parents came from the Philippines. They are Roman Catholic.

 

Analysis:I thought this was a very interesting tradition. I have heard of fruit being a sign of fertility, but mostly in spring, but this tradition takes place around the new year.

 

 

Customs
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Ethiopian Apologies

Context & Analysis

The subject and I exchanged stories of our family’s traditions while sitting in a class discussion. She mentioned that she and her family were from Ethiopia, so I asked her if she knew of any unique Ethiopian traditions that westerners might not be familiar with. She described to me a traditional form of apology used by Ethiopians to express deep regret. The gesture is interesting because despite having ancient roots, a member of the younger generation is still intimately familiar with the practice.

Main Piece

“Basically, when you’re sorry or when your parent wants you to apologize to them, you have to kiss their knees. You just like bend down and kiss their knees. It goes all the way up to adulthood—it’s kind of more ritualistic when it’s an adult, like when you’re sorry you, like, kiss your parent’s knees. Or if you wronged your friend or something and you’re really, really sorry and you want to express, like, the deepest, deepest regret and like apologeticness? I don’t know if that’s a word, but yea.”

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Holiday tradition

The following was recorded from a conversation I had on the phone with my mother, marked JS. She described to me a few holiday traditions as well as rituals she did throughout her childhood. Below is one of the rituals.

 

JS: “We always used to leave our shoe outside on St. Nicholas Day which falls on December 6th. The idea is that he will come by and fill the shoe with treats. Sounds kinda weird, I know…but it always got the family in the Christmas spirit pretty early.”

CS: “Interesting, and you did this every year?”

JS: “Yeah, every year. My mom was way more into it than us kids were.”

CS: “Is there a reason you didn’t continue this tradition with me?”

JS: “I guess I decided it wasn’t as practical as just waiting till the 25th. Gave me more work to do too. I don’t know, by then the tradition was less thought of.”

 

Context:

A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing rituals she did throughout her childhood around the time of the holidays.

Background:

JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.

 

Analysis:

I find this ritual interesting because it reflects the values my grandmother set for her family when it came to Christmas time. It is interesting that she decided to take a more unique path and doing a special ritual instead of the traditional and common Christmas traditions. What’s even more interesting is that this ritual didn’t continue into my mom’s adulthood and raising me. Instead, we do the very common Christmas and activities, and in fact, this was the first I had ever heard of this ritual. It is an interesting component of folklore to see how some of it sticks and is viewed with such importance in one’s life while others are simply forgotten over time.

Customs
folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Good Old Grandpa

Over the past few years, I’ve heard snippets of this friend’s crazy grandpa. Many nights, we’d eat together and share stories of our nutty families, as we both share lineage with what many would call ‘eccentrics’. Self purportedly from a family comprised of 50% white trash and 50% religious explorers, he grew up around a variety of funny saying and stories.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“He had a lot of sayings for like the weather. ‘It’s colder than a witch’s tit’. Or, ‘it’s darker than a snake’s asshole.’ There were a lot of asshole things too. ‘Colder than a well-digger’s ass’. ‘I’d rather have acid poured down the crack of my ass than…’ ‘I’m so hungry I could eat the ass out of a dead gorilla’. ‘You talk like you have a paper hat’. ‘You talk like your ass is made of paper’. ‘Wish in one hand, shit in the other. See which one fills up first’. ‘Tough titties said the kitty’. He said that one a lot. ‘As useless as tits on a hoe-handle’. ‘Nervous as a whore in church’. ‘Nervous as a pregnant nun’. If something doesn’t go over well, he’d be like, ‘oh, that went over like a turd in a punch bowl’. He also had a lot of superstitions or tics I guess. He’d always get wine with ice in it – my mom’s family is 100% pure white trash. And so, he would order wine with ice in it, and then he would get it, stir it with his pinky, then suck on his finger, and wipe it on the left side of his shirt. Every single time. He’d like dry it off with the corner of his shirt. So all of his shirts had little things sticking off from him pulling on it to dry off his fingers. He’d stir his wine like it was a mixed drink or something.”

These weird little sayings always crack me up. They range from somewhat clever and somewhat useful to totally nonsensical and just plain silly. I especially love the strange ritual my friend’s grandpa performs every time he drinks a glass of wine. He seemed to do things just for the hell of it. What a way to live.

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Nowruz – Jumping over Fire

The following informant is a 22-year-old Persian-American women from Southern California. In this account she is describing a tradition that is done before Persian New Year (Nowruz). This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: For Persian New Year, what you do like the Wednesday before, is you jump over fire. The point is to basically like ward off the bad vibes of the past, and like my parents told me that if I ever don’t jump over the fire then, like you don’t actually go into the New Year with bad vibes, but like the bad vibes are going to be more prominent. So, I will always try to go to whoever’s house to jump over fire, because you know, bad vibes.

K: So do you normally go to your family’s house?

S: Yeah or like, this year I jumped over a candle with my friend, still works

K: Do all Persians partake in this tradition, or is it a specific to Persian-Americans

S: Yeah, all Persians do it, or like 70… 80… like 90%

K: Do you have to do it in a group or can you do it by yourself?

S: No, you can do it by yourself, but it’s just more fun to do it with your family. So that you can jump with someone else, so you are both leaving bad vibes in the past, that is like what typically happens.

K: What does it mean to you, to partake in the tradition?

 

S: Um, I don’t really believe that you actually leave bad vibes back in that sense, like you don’t have to jump over fire to get rid of the bad vibes of the past year. But I think it is a fun way of keeping a tradition, a cultural tradition alive. So, to me it’s just a fun cultural activity, and even though a lot of Persians don’t live in Iran, they still do it.

Context:

This conversation took place at a café one evening. I was visiting the informant at USD, and after providing a different collection of folklore, she continued on to talk about this tradition. The conversation was recorded and transcribed

Thoughts:

I think it is a wonderful tradition. As the informant describes you don’t actually have to believe in its ability to ward off, as she says, “bad vibes” in order to participate. Any Persian can participate anywhere in the world, but still feel connected to one another.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Persian New Year

Folklore:

Persian New Year is an important holiday in Persian culture. Unlike American New Years which happens always on January 1st Persian New Years takes place in mid March. A tradition during Persian New Years is jumping over a bonfire. Jumping over the bonfire is a symbolic ritual. By jumping over the bonfire you are giving away bad vibes from the previous year to the fire, while the fire is giving you good vibes to start off the New Year.

Background & Context:

My informant is Persian-American and she has grown in Southern California. She is currently a senior at USC. I collected this piece of folklore in a casual setting one evening. She takes part in Persian New Years occasionally, she says that while the ritual of jumping over the bonfire holds symbolic meaning many including herself do the ritual for fun and reminicines from their childhood.

Final Thoughts:

I have slightly more information on this tradition as I have taken part in it before with a different Persian-American friend although I am not Persian. When I took part in this ritual I did not hear about any of the symbolic meaning and only found out collecting this ritual from my informant. This New Years tradition is similar to other traditions as New Years in other cultures based on having a new start and leaving behind negative aspects of the past year. Fire is also something that is prominent in other cultures in getting rid of negative energy. Overall this ritual is similar to other traditions around the world.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Persian Superstition: Rue

Folklore:

This is a Persian superstition that involves rue also known as espada the spice. When people start staying too many positive things about one person they will burn rue to not jinx the person they are complimenting. Someone will burn the rue and circle it around the person’s head. An example my informant gave me of this folklore is herself at a family reunion. At the reunion her family talks about how well she is doing during college and to not jinx her they’ll circle burning rue around her head.

Background & Context:

My informant is Persian-American and she has grown in Southern California. She is currently a senior at USC. I collected this piece of folklore in a casual setting one evening. For her this tradition is not something she uses in her daily life as she does not keep rue in her apartment at USC and nor is it something she necessary believes in nor disbelieves in. However when she is with more traditional family members, like her grandparents they will use rue as they believe in this superstition.  

Final Thoughts:

My final thoughts on this piece of folklore is that it is interesting and similar to other traditions. The similarities it has to other traditions is burning herbs or spices to ward off evil spirits or bad vibes. I also believe it is interesting how the mixing of two cultures affected the informant’s belief on traditional cultures that others in her family strongly believe in.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Flight Ritual/ Superstition

In a conversation about upcoming travel plans, Lida brought up a ritual of her own:

“Before I get on a plane I touch the outside of the plane with a flat palm and if can, I touch the first window with a flat palm. I also walk on only with my right foot.”

 

I asked, when did you start doing that?

“I am really not sure when I started. I must have seen someone do it and then that was it. I did it every time and now I can’t fly unless I do it. I’m not sure if it’s a superstition but it’s kinda like a comfort thing. It’s a habit or like a routine that makes it seem like everything is gonna be like it always is when I’m flying.”

 

Background: Lida is a twenty-year old born and raised in Boston, MA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA attending USC as a sophomore. Her parents are divorced and she has two sisters.

Context: Lida brought up her ritual when we were talking about the upcoming trip she had the following weekend to fly home from school.

Analysis: This story totally resonated with me because I feel like I do many things that have become a “routine” simply for the sake of comfort and safety. I’ve always been an okay flyer, but my mom on the other hand, is a really nervous flyer. If I am on a plane with my mom she will always hold my hand for the entirety of the take-off and then again for the landing, but will be totally fine while we’re in the air. She has done this since I was a little girl, so now it has become instinct whenever I fly with her, and definitely a gesture of comfort. It is interesting to analyze how a gesture that will realistically not change any outcome of future events can create peace of mind and a calm disposition. I think the concept of folkloric “habits” in regard to beliefs or superstitions is an intriguing concept of study as they dramatically vary person to person and can be very uncommon or seem weird to others.

Game
general

Bud, Rose, Thorn

Bud, Rose, Thorn

This is a tradition that my family always does at dinner time when we have a large group of people over. One of our favorite times to do this is when we have dinner party is and sometimes we even do it on holidays. It is called Bud, Rose, Thorn, where you talk about different aspects of life. For the bow do you talk about something that you’re looking forward to in life, and this can be anything from trying this meal to a new job to meeting someone new. Next we do the Rose which is something that you have experienced recently that was a gray and you enjoyed it. Lastly the thorn Represents the adversity that you overcame her had to deal with a hide shit. It’s a way to get to know people, and also as an icebreaker if it’s a new oil intimidating group of people. Originally my brother heard this from my grandmother who had heard it from some of her friends. It also was a way to pass time and get to know people better. Things like these are especially interesting to analyze because of the unknown things that you can find out about people that you otherwise would not know.

 

Adulthood
Customs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ethiopian Wedding Traditions

Context & Analysis

The subject and I exchanged stories of our family’s traditions while sitting in a class discussion. She mentioned that she and her family were from Ethiopia, so I asked her if she knew of any unique Ethiopian traditions that westerners might not be familiar with. She provided me with an overview of traditional Ethiopian weddings gathered from the ones she and her family attend on a (mostly) yearly basis. She emphasized how many of the ritualistic parts of the wedding preparation are altered or substituted depending on each family’s preferences or personal ties to the country. The transcription is a little disjointed at times because the subject attempted to recount a variety of wedding traditions encapsulated in the ceremony. It was quite interesting to hear a younger woman’s take on these traditional ceremonies.

Main Piece

“So…for Ethiopian weddings…it’s like a, um, a couple days long process—actually it can take up to a month usually. I have 8 aunts on my mom’s side so—and I’ve been alive and I’ve missed three weddings—so every single summer someone is getting married. So like the whole summer we go back to Ethiopia or we travel back to where they are and so actually…there’s a process you do when you have your weddings. So first there’s the, uh, bride’s family celebration and they wash the bride’s feet in honey and milk and, um, they do all her makeup and beauty and stuff and they’ll like play this game there where the groom tries to break in [to the room the bride is in] and they’ll be like “No you can’t be in there!” [laughs], and that’s pretty cool. And these things are mostly ritualistic, like you’re not actually pouring milk on the bride’s feet but some people do. I’ve been to a couple of weddings where people have, um, and that is traditionally the night before the wedding. And the day of the wedding it’s—with my family it’s a lot of pictures and posing. I know with traditions they have the husband—the groom—has to kill a bull, or like a goat, and they cook it for dinner, like the wedding dinner. Like in most American ideas of [a traditional Ethiopian] wedding this happens but it’s like miming, which is like kind of a new tradition, um, but yea. There’s a huge selection of Ethiopian foods and a huge section of raw meat, that’s a thing that people eat a lot, and afterward you have a big dinner the day after which is the bride and groom’s first big party together, hosting like their friends and family. And it’s basically everyone goes over during the day—it’s not like a nighttime celebration—um, and then after that (I cannot remember the name of it). It’s just the bride and groom’s parents and they serve them dinner for the first time, like as a couple, um, in their own house. There’s a lot of ritual of, like, respecting your elders and stuff.”

[geolocation]