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

Month-Long Vacations for Argentines

“In Argentina, when people go on vacation, they take a whole month of vacation. When people say they are going on vacation, they’re gone a whole month. A lot of people will come to the states to Miami. A lot of them will go to Brazil. That’s a popular place to vacation. Some will go to Europe, like Spain. They don’t joke around with vacation in Argentina. They have the right idea, and I think we need more of that here. Most people have their own businesses, so it’s not uncommon to pick a month, usually in the summer, and take a vacation. It’s impossible to get anything done in the summer in Argentine. It’s a completely different way of life in Argentina that you wouldn’t understand if you haven’t lived there.”

Background Information and Context:

This topic came up when the informant told me that the lifestyle in Argentina is completely different from life in America, and I asked her to explain. She knows this from experience because she was born in Argentina, and she still has family that lives there.

Collector’s Notes:

As the informant said, this different approach to vacations, and the fact that most Argentine’s own small businesses shows a marked difference between the way of life there and that at of Americans. A month-long vacation in America is often thought to be reserved for those who do not care about money, especially those who are already rich. Living in a deeply capitalist society, most Americans do not think to take so much time off work, nor would their places of employment allow it. America is a place where large companies flourish, and financial growth, security, and what it means to have a successful life are often the same.

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

National Cherry Festival- Traverse City

I collected this piece of folklore from my brother, who went to school in Michigan. Traverse City has a Cherry Festival every summer, and this is his experience of it:

Skye: “Along the northern shores of Lake Michigan sits Traverse City.  The city is along Grand Traverse Bay and sits at the lower end of a fertile peninsula.  For decades, the area has been the self-designated Cherry Capitol of the world because of its good farmland.”

Me: How long has the festival been around?

Skye: I’m pretty sure it started at the turn of the century. The farmers would have an annual “blessing of the blossoms” in the spring–much like a blessing of the fleet in fishing communities. There is also a Cherry Blossom Queen, and a parade. The single day observance grew to be several days long.  And now, the contemporary festival is 8 days long.”

Me: What does the festival consist of?

Skye:”There is a professional mascot named Super Cherry.  Merchants set up stands and sell everything imaginable that is Cherry related.  Main stage entertainers come from all over the world.  There are baking and craft contests. Local restaurants and hotels are full and menus feature Cherry sauce, Cherry pie, Cherry mustard, Cherry wine, Cherry syrup, Cherry horseradish and Cherry ice cream.”

Analysis: Other communities in the US have food related festivals and observances– for instance Gilroy Garlic Days in California and the world famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Food festivals such as these are a reminder of how America became such a prosperous country, abounding with fertile soil. Many people nowadays do not farm as their main way of making money. But Americans who have multiple generations from the U.S. likely have ancestors who farmed. Celebrating the cherry is celebrating hard work, abundance, our history as an agricultural society, and our ability to innovate with simple foods.

For the official website, see here: http://www.cherryfestival.org/

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Taiwanese Summer Tradition

Text

During Summer, which is usually August, there’s this thing, which is.. Um.. we believe that the doors between Ying and Yang, which is between heaven and..um….. Earth and hell will open, so all the three, um…. worlds will open together and become one on Earth. So it’s like, it’s kind of the concept of purgatory opening on Earth.. It’s kind of weird. But then, at this time, usually ancestors will come back, ghosts will come back, and especially those who has no relatives or those who does not have people…. to respect them after their death. So, those are ghosts with bad intentions, and people do fear them and respect them at the same time. So, during this whole month, usually people go to temples. They pray for them. They pray that one day they can leave purgatory and go up to heaven. And they’ll bring food and, um, basically.. pray for them. So, that’s what we do during the whole summer and, at the end of August, the door will close again and we hope that those that we prayed for, and we gave food for, will go up to heaven.

Background

The informant said that she learned Taiwanese traditions from her grandparents, or it was talked about at her school (there would be stories in their textbooks about them). She emphasized that it is very important to her that she learns these traditions and keeps them up, even though some of them conflict with her own religious beliefs, because they are part of her cultural heritage. She said that it makes her sad when she sees Taiwanese-Americans who do not know or practice any Taiwanese traditions, because they are missing out on something that is a part of who they are and helps to define them.

Thoughts

Outside of simply being widely practiced in Taiwan, this tradition seemed deeply rooted in Chinese and Taiwanese beliefs about ancestors and respect. It makes sense, then, why this tradition is so important to the informant, who is from Taiwan, but is currently going to school in the U.S. and plans to live in the U.S. in the future. Carrying on this tradition seems to be a way for her to keep her connection to her Taiwanese identity, even though she now lives outside of that country.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

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.

Earth cycle
Folk speech
Holidays

Indiana Corn Folklore

“Knee High by the 4th of July”

In Indiana, and especially in the source’s hometown near Indianapolis, cornfields surround most of the neighborhoods, and this is where all of the neighborhood kids play during the summer. In fact, when the source moved to Los Angeles, he said he was surprised to find that no one else knew how tall corn was supposed be during different parts of the year. He understood “Knee High by the 4th of July” to be common knowledge all over the country.

People in Indiana mark time, especially in the summertime, by how tall the corn is. It is accepted there that if a corn crop is doing well, it will be “Knee high by the 4th of July”. The height of the corn is also indicative of how hot the summer has been, or how much rain has fallen. He said that people use the cornfields in Indiana to gauge the weather conditions, much like people in Malibu watch the ocean for seasonal changes and weather patterns.

The source explained that the saying is used often, mostly in cars as people pass various cornfields and discuss how the crop is coming along that summer.

Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Dance
Holidays
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eve of St. John’s Fires

On the midsummer solstice, or the Eve of St. John, fires are lit and maidens wear wreaths in their hair to celebrate the longest day of the year.

 

My informant first attended this festival with her family as a little girl, and mostly remembered the beautiful wreaths all of the girls would wear in their hair.  She was also able to recall the many fires that were lit and that the men in attendance would jump across them.  Also, those in attendance would stay out all day without sleeping to celebrate the length of the day and to appreciate the sunshine.  At the end of the festival, all of the girls will throw their wreaths into the fires.

One of the most interesting aspects of this festival is that the different flowers worn in a girl’s wreath have different meanings.  My informant remembers wearing white roses, which she remembers symbolized simplicity and purity.  Perhaps the most significant flowers worn in the wreaths were lavender and myrtle, and they both represent love.  If a girl wears one of these flowers in her wreath, throws her wreath into the fire and the burning wreath is thrown into the river and recovered by a single man, the girl would be said to be engaged to that man, by tradition. Symbolically, this union represents the birth of a new relationship, and the longer days are conducive to this birth.

This festival is uniquely Polish and has been celebrated for more than a thousand years.  While mostly celebrative in the native Poland, my informant knows several Poles in other countries that also celebrate the Eve of St. John’s and she believes it’s, “because it’s romantic to look back on one’s culture.”

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