Tag Archives: school girls

Celebration of Springfest at an All-Female High School

Main Piece:

The informant explained to me that there was a tradition of celebrating Springfest at their all-girls high school. Each year the juniors would all wear white dresses and the seniors would wear dresses of any color. The whole school from grades 5-12 would go sit in the chapel, while the juniors and seniors would be a part of the ceremony. The organist would always play a sort of calming, “water” music on the organ. After the music had been playing for a bit, the ceremony would start. A senior and junior would walk towards one another. Then the senior would hand off an orchid to the junior and they would cross their paths, making them intertwine. The informant explained it was supposed to symbolize handing down the leadership of the school to the juniors. 

In addition to the ceremony, each year there was a Springfest Princess and a Springfest Queen. The Queen was always a junior and the Princess was a fifth grader. The whole school would vote for the Queen and as the informant explained “everyone would vote for the nicest person in the junior class”. The Queen had to wear a floor length, white dress that looked like a wedding dress, provided by the school. She had two flower girls and they would walk in front of her when she walked down the aisle. The Princess went before the Queen and would get a bouquet of flowers. Then the Queen from last year would be wearing a crown and standing at the end of the aisle waiting for her. After the Princess walked, the next Queen would walk and kneel down in front of the old Queen. She would place the crown on the new Queen’s head.

Background:

The informant attended an all-girls, Episcopalian school in the southern United States. This tradition has occurred since before the informant’s Mother went to the same high school. The school mostly consists of girls from white, affluent families.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience. This festival would always occur in April near the end of the school year, in the midst of spring.

My Thoughts:

Springfest aligns closely with other spring celebrations such as the Swedish Midsummer festival, as it celebrates the springtime with an emphasis on young women. Given that this is an all-girls school, the presentation of girls in all white feels closely to Vaz da Silva’s analysis of white in his article discussing “Chromatic Symbolism in Womanhood in Fairy Tales”. He states “white stands for luminosity and untainted sheen, thus for luminous heaven as much as for purity” (245). These girls are dressed in white to appear as the pure maidens, ready for entering a new stage of their lives. This festival mimics a wedding as the girls are walked down the aisle in all white, being presented to the school as the new leaders. Instead of meeting a husband at the end of the aisle, they are meeting new responsibilities. This moves them one step closer to adulthood.

Citation:

Vaz da Silva, Francisco. 2007 “Red as Blood, White as Snow, Black as Crow: Chromatic Symbolism of Womanhood in Fairy Tales”. Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies. 21: 240-252.



Gray Thursday and Black Friday

Main Piece:

Within the private schools in the greater Memphis, Tennessee area the informant explained to me there is a tradition of Black Friday and Gray Thursday. This description is the informant’s personal experience with Black Friday. 

Black Friday was the day before the seniors were going to graduate. Before Black Friday the informant said they would have Gray Thursday where the seniors would stay overnight in the school. A few teachers were there to chaperone but as the informant describes it, “the whole thing was a shit-show”. The students would stay up all night writing notes to lower classmen and setting up pranks. The notes would be tapped to the lockers of girls and the next day it was like a popularity contest to see who got the most letters. The pranks were equally a big part. The informant said “one year they tapped all the phones to the ceiling, one year the seniors printed out every college rejection letter they ever got and hung it in the junior’s hallway”.

On Black Friday, after being in school the whole night, the seniors would come to class wearing all black and crazy makeup. Then they would interrupt chapel by saying the senior class had an announcement to make. The whole senior class would go up to the altar and sing songs. At the informant’s school, they would always sing “Tonight” by Fun! and “Wonderwall”. By the end of it, all of them would be crying in a big celebration of their graduation. After their ceremony ended, the seniors would all leave. The informant then said “juniors would then take off their sweatshirts revealing a class shirt they had designed and they would move up to the senior section of pews in the chapel”.

Background:

This occurred at the informant’s all-girls, private, Episcopalian high school in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an ongoing tradition that girls looked forward to every year.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience.

Thoughts:

This tradition takes place at a liminal moment in these girl’s lives. The Friday before graduation they do not have the responsibilities of a student but they are not technically a graduate. This allows for a tradition to be created, such as Gray Thursday and Black Friday, similar to jokes made at weddings and other liminal moments in people’s lives. The creation of this tradition allows the girls to be cathartic and find some sort of “closure” on this chapter of their lives. Also this example of Black Friday took place at a school that was for grades 5-12, so these girls had been with each other for a majority of their lives. This might explain the commitment these girls felt to saying goodbye in an exaggerated way.

Derby Day

Main Piece:

The informant described to me a tradition at her all-girls, private high school known as Derby Day. It is a day at the very beginning of the year, reserved for just the high school aged girls because the school is for grades 5-12. The high school girls would not go to class in the morning and instead play games and have cheer contests. 

In the afternoon, each grade was required to bring a different product. Freshman always had to bring ice cream. Sophomores had to bring oreos and jell-o. Juniors had to bring chocolate syrup. Seniors had to bring whipped cream. After the morning activities, the student council would “dump all of these things into kiddie pools on the field. When the set-up was complete, the freshman and sophomores had to sit in big circles” said the informant. Then the seniors would dump all of the jell-o, oreos, ice cream, etc. on the freshman and the juniors would do the same to the sophomores. The informant explained it was sort of an affectionate thing, “if you were a freshman and had a senior friend you would just get disgusting but it was out of love”.

After all of the dumping was complete, there was a water slide the informant’s school would rent. This was the only way to get cleaned off but it was an unspoken rule that the seniors could skip anyone in line and the juniors could skip anyone but seniors. So the freshman would wait in line to get cleaned off but never could.

Background:

This occurred at the informant’s all-girls, private, Episcopalian high school in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an ongoing tradition that girls looked forward to every year.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience.

Thoughts:

This tradition acts as a way for the high school aged girls to feel as though they have really grown up at the start of the year. It is common for students to go through types of hazing as underclassmen and then transition into being the hazers. Being able to dump chocolate syrup on someone’s head is looked at like a rite of passage at this high school. As the informant explained it to me, she held the day in such reverence it clearly is an important memory to her. She included the feelings of being an underclassman and upperclassman, participating in this. This tradition emphasizes the changes to the high school classes, as newfound juniors those students can establish themselves as upperclassmen by getting the opportunity to dump oreos on the heads of their peers. It is a funny, but important way to demonstrate the girls have grown over the past year.

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is a Pakistani-American 11-year-old girl and a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant

To buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread

She asked me what my name was

And this is what i said, said, said

My name is

L-I-L-I, Pickle-eye pickle-eye

pom-pom beauty, sleeping beauty

Then she told me to freeze freeze freeze

And whoever moves, loses.”

The word “freeze” may be said either once or three times, and at that moment the players must both freeze. The informant also showed me the two kinds of clapping sequence that are used for the two parts of the game, one for the first four lines, and the other for lines 6-8.

Analysis: At first glance, the rhyme seems like complete nonsense; but upon further examination, the rhyme could conceal casual racism. “Li” could be an East Asian name. Rhyming it with “pickle-eye” (which itself could be referring to culturally unfamiliar food which is automatically dismissed as unnatural or revolting–for instance recall the urban legend where neighborhood cats/dogs were disappearing after immigrants from [insert Asian country here] moved in), which is essentially a nonsense word, could be meant to show disrespect towards all people with similarly “Asian” names. Then referring to oneself as a “pom-pom beauty” (perhaps referring to a cheerleader’s pom-poms) and “sleeping beauty” (the classic western fairy tale) as a contrast to the “Li” lady is like proclaiming, I am an all-American girl, like a cheerleader or Sleeping Beauty, and you are not.

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is an 11 year old girl of Pakistani descent. She is a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  Her social groups include friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

Lemonade,

iced tea

Coca-cola,

Pepsi

Lemonade, iced tea, Coca-cola, Pepsi,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

Another version from the same informant begins with the same line:

Lemonade,

crunchy ice

Beat it once,

beat it twice,

Lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

In the last line of both versions, the players may perform the actions sung: they turn in a circle, drop to a crouch to touch the ground, and may even stand up and make a kicking motion. At the word “freeze,” both players must stop moving, and the first to move loses.

Analysis: I learned a version of this game, similar to the second version recorded, from cousins who went to the same school district as the informant. Instead of the words “beat it,” however, the words “pour it” were used, and the last line was completely omitted. The rhyme ended with the players crying “Statue!” and the first person to move, lost. Somehow, however, a player was allowed to tickle the other person to get them to move, even though tickling would seemingly count as moving. 

The incorporation of Coca-cola and Pepsi, both globally-recognizable drink names, into the rhyme is evidence of how popular the drink is worldwide and how it has been incorporated into “American” or “Southern California” culture, that children are mentioning it in their songs along with the ever-popular summer drink of lemonade.

The last line “Turn around, touch the ground” seems to be echoing some long-dead magic ritual, especially when followed by a mention of the singer’s boyfriend (keeping in mind that 11 years old, the majority of children likely have nothing close to a romantic partner yet). Also, the pouring of the drink–once, then twice–would seem to recall the adult practice of pouring drinks for oneself and one’s partner after a long day or at a party. This shows this age-group’s (perhaps unconscious) desire to  mimic the adult relationships they see with their own peers.

May Day in Kentucky

Informant Bio: Informant is my mother.  She was born in West Virginia and spent her childhood moving around the country, eventually settling in Massachusetts.  She was exposed to many different traditions as she moved around the country as a child and still carries some with her to this day.

 

Context: I was interviewing my mother about traditions, stories and rituals she remembers from her childhood.

 

Item: “As a young child I enjoyed our May Day celebrations.  The flagpole in front of the county court house was “dressed” up with brightly colored ribbons.  The girls would each hold one ribbon and run around the pole.  The younger girls succeed in making a big mess of the ribbons; but, as the girls got older, the movements improved and the spectacle was really beautiful and choreographed by a teacher at the elementary school”.

 

Analysis: This May Day celebration centered around the Maypole, and was directed by an elementary school teacher.  It was a community wide event, much like May Day celebrations throughout history.  The above account, with brightly colored ribbons, seems to celebrate the arrival of summer but does not have the sexual influences of European versions.

 

Historically, May Day has been a very political issue in the United States, with the first one on May 1, 1886 that had workers garnering support for lighter working hours.  After World War II and in the wake of the Cold War, May Day was strongly associated with Marxists and the USSR and was thus white-washed from American culture and history.  This may be why there is no major prevalence of May Day celebrations in the U.S. unlike many other major holidays.  Recently, the Occupy movement has revitalized May Day in an effort to raise awareness and support for worker’s rights.  This is in contrast to many parts of the world in which May Day has a strong and consistent history of celebration.