USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘romance’
Customs
Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tsatsapipianu (Grain Harvest Festival)

Sophie is an international student from Taiwan. She is pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. She hopes to find a career in computer security and plans to stay in the United States, specifically Los Angeles, to work. She enjoys watching anime and learning; from USC-sponsored workshops, she has learned how to code and create chatbots.

Original Script

So, in Taiwan in this Aborigine tribe, we have this—no, not we—the Aborigines have this tradition that, uh, they create this giant swing. And then, um, so the princesses will be princess-carried into the swing. And then a guy will swing her up into the air and the higher she swings, it means the more possible she’s going to get married. And when she goes down the swing, a guy has to carry her and go around the swing for one round so her feet doesn’t touch the ground before going around the swing.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

One of the informant’s friends belongs to the Rukai tribe of Taiwan. In high school, the informant attended the Tsatsapipianu, or the Grain Harvest Festival, with her friend. She witnessed the Rukai perform this tradition around a large swing, called talaisi, and found the practice romantic.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

One of Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples, the Rukai, view swings as representations of love, similar to that of a red rose. During the Rukai’s Grain Harvest Festival, a giant swing is used to present an opportunity for young single people to get to know one another. Due to its size, the talaisi requires two men to operate the swing, allowing the young maiden sitting on the swing to meet the men who wish to court her. Swings, known in the Rukai’s language as tiyuma, function as an effective method of communication for romance and possible marriage.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I thought this tradition of the Rukai is quite romantic. Marriage is a holy ceremony found in most, if not all, cultures around the world. It is a symbolic representation of commitment that binds two partners together as a family. In the culture of the Rukai people, this universal rite is seen as a time for friends and relatives from both partners’ families to unite as one large, extended family. Therefore, the talaisi, as a representation of romance, is surrounded by the village chief and all members of the tribe, who observe young men push the woman they wish to court on the swing. I admire how this practice does not involve merely two people; it encompasses everyone and brings them together as a community.

Customs
Humor

Top Place to Go On a Date in Shrewsbury

“Okay, so, umm, the guy who created the pill, um, invented it in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. And there, the first factory where, um, they started, like, getting manufactured or whatever is in Shrewsbury. Umm, and now it’s like a thing, I guess, where you like take your significant other on a date to the factory where the pill was first made. So, that’s a thing people do in Shrewsbury. Or, like, not my generation but like, people who are, like, slightly older, that’s what they do.”

 

It’s an interesting and funny story. You can understand the connection between dates and the pill factory, I guess? It seems odd, but the way I see it, dates lead to love which lead to sex which leads to a need for the pill. Perhaps whoever first started this trend was hoping to have a happy, birth-free relationship. It’s cutely ironic and sounds like something that was meant to be a joke, but perhaps became mainstream after one couple did it.

What’s also interesting, though, is what the source says about this not being part of her generation. It’s something that occurred among an older generation and then died before her generation go to following in their footsteps. Perhaps it’s because the factory was still in use during this older generation’s childhood. They may have seen and known of the factory, probably even heard about it once a week, what with what they were manufacturing. So when it shut down, it was more relevant for that generation to sneak in and see what was going on and, eventually, start going on dates there.

The source’s generation, however, would’ve grown up never knowing about the factory. Had they not researched it or heard about it, they might never have known what was made there. If they don’t know what the factory was for, then it loses the attraction as being a “hot date” spot. The irony and comedy of it is lost.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority and Fraternity Pinning

My informant shared with me how her sorority celebrates one of its members getting pinned by her senior boyfriend in a fraternity. First, the fraternity shares with the president of the sorority that a member of their fraternity is intended to pin a sister in the house. When a date for the pinning is set, the sorority informs the house that a sister is getting pinned, but the girls do not get to know who. Any girl in the sorority who has a senior boyfriend is asked to come to the ceremony wearing a red dress and to send the president the names of her two closest friends in the sorority. Then, on the day of the pinning, all members of the sorority are required to wear black dresses except for the girls who are eligible to be pinned. These girls will be in red. The girls in black gather in the sorority house with the lights dimmed and stand in a huge circle. A ritual song is sung while the girls in red join the circle and stand in-between their two closest friends. A candle is passed to the right, starting from the ritual chairwoman, around to every girl in the circle once. On its second time around, after it passes the girl wearing red who is getting pinned, her best friend standing to her right will make to pass it to the next girl, but then actually pass it back to the sister getting pinned. The two closest friends then blow the candle out together. That signifies that it’s that girl, and this is when she first finds out she is getting pinned. After the candle is passed around, all the sisters line up outside of the house where the fraternity and the sister’s boyfriend are waiting. The boyfriend and his best friend as well as the girlfriend and her two closest friends stay standing on the porch so everyone can see them. The sorority president introduces everyone and officially announces that the sister is getting pinned. All of the close friends give toasts to congratulate the couple and the boyfriend talks about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then the fraternity presents him with his pin and he pins it on his girlfriend.

 

These ceremonies are very fun and exciting for both the fraternity and the sorority as pinning is comparable to a pre-engagement promise. The fraternity brother is giving up his active pin and is essentially reduced to pledge status within the house. It’s a little bit old fashioned, but the girls appreciate this public acknowledgement of their relationship. My informant was just involved in a pinning ceremony at her sorority at the University of Southern California, as her best friend was recently pinned.

Adulthood
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
Initiations
Life cycle

「青春」– Japanese Folk Speech

The Japanese word 青春 does not apply itself to an exact translation in English. The first letter of the word, 「青」literally means “green,” and in this word is used in the context of a green bud or fruit perhaps, just about to ripen. The second letter, 「春」literally means “spring,” or “blooming.” At first glance this may seem like a word meant to indicate a time in the harvest, but it is, in fact, actually a very colloquial word used to describe a romanticized vision of the teenage years of one’s life.

My informant was a teenager in the city of Naha, Okinawa, Japan, in the seventies. The word has been so long engrained in Japanese society that when I asked her about it, she looked perplexed, asking, “What do American people use to describe those feelings then?” Those feelings, as she described them to me: the first time she realized she had strong feelings for a boy, the first time a boy had asked her out, “that feeling you get when you finally get your first kiss,” the moment when she’d realized she wanted to touch the opposite sex, and not just to hit them, either.

“It’s not all this romantic for everybody. [Laughing] I mean, 青春 can be used to describe things like your first summer job, your first summer away from your parents at camp or something, but I keep coming back to this one time, after this guy I liked gave me my first kiss in front of my house, and he left, and I just sat there on the front steps of my house in the dark, just sat there thinking and thinking, that just happened, not wanting to go inside because that would kind of ruin the magic. That kind of… teenage frailty? And vulnerability, how important everything is when you’re that old–that’s what 青春 has always been for me.”

However, I found it interesting that most teenagers themselves do not use the word 青春 to describe their current state. The word is primarily used by older people who have advanced well beyond their teenage years, to look back on a time when everything was fresher, new, and exciting–in fact, it is a word that exists mostly for the purpose of invoking nostalgia. For instance, my informant remembers, when she had finally gone inside the house after sitting on the steps for a while, she had been caught by her mother in the kitchen. Her mother had said, smiling, “Anything happen then?” When my informant shook her head, she couldn’t help but stay grinning like maniac, and of course her mother knew, and said, “Kiss?” My informant nodded, and her mother sighed romantically, saying, 「ああ良いよね〜、青春」which translates to, “There’s nothing like 青春, is there?” Even in this case, it is the mother looking back on her teenage years, perhaps her first kiss, and feeling nostalgia for the time that has passed–sad, perhaps, that that time will never come back to her, but happy for her daughter, who has yet to experience so much. My informant would never have said, for example, “Oh, this is 青春,” for it is in itself a word tinged with nostalgia. Her mother saying “There’s nothing like 青春,” I thought, is the equivalent of an American mother saying, “Oh, I remember my first date,” except in Japan there is a word for it, and it comes pre-packaged with nostalgia.

When my informant asked me whether there was an equivalent word in English, I was surprised. “Puberty,” didn’t really do it–the connotations were too sexual and bodily in nature, and there was not as much of the vulnerability and freshness that colors 青春. A significant part of the meaning inherent in 青春 comes, I believe, from the fact that they do not reference the changing nature of the body; though, of course, it is apparent indirectly in the budding feelings between the opposite sexes, the word focuses more on the emotions and the intense, painful nature of love at that age. Sexual encounters in 青春 are thought of as always awkward, and always romantic, stemming from love and innocent desire more than anything else. Under the umbrella of the word 青春, everything becomes noticeably more innocent, more okay.

Perhaps this word works and is so widespread in Japan because of its extremely homogeneous society; 青春 as a word probably means very similar things to many people across the country, if only because the culture has been so standardized by television and by the homogeneity of the people themselves. There are countless movies, dramas, mangas, and animes devoted to the theme of 青春, and indeed novels concerning this period in life often make the top of the best-seller lists in Japan.

Unlike in America, teenagedom is something the Japanese look back to, then, with a certain fondness. Often, I hear people in America saying that they never want to go back to high school again, that they wouldn’t survive a single day in middle school now–in Japan, although of course some people must feel the same way, the general feeling is one of an almost maternal fondness. Remember this? Remember that? They say, as they watch a new generation of young adults going through the 青春 that they themselves had experienced perhaps long ago. “Lucky them,” my informant said. “If I could stay one age all my life, I think I’d just stay in that period of 青春, it must have been the most fun I ever had.”

 

 

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