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

Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve

JH is a senior at an all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.

JH talked to me about some of the traditions and rituals that surround New Year’s and New Year’s Eve in his hometown:

“New Years is probably the biggest event in Pasadena…first of all there’s the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game…for the Rose Parade you always know it’s coming because in like, late November they start putting up the grandstands down Orange Grove [a major boulevard], and I live right above the Rose Bowl so they start setting up for events around then too in the neighborhood. They put up these giant white tents down there where they start building some of the floats, and you can go down and help decorate them with flowers – I’ve never gone, but I know some people or their families go every year. The floats are really cool.

There’s also the Rose Court and they’re a big part of the Rose Parade. My sister tried out a few years ago. I think in like September, or really early in the school year, all the girls who are seniors can try out, and they go to this really big mansion called the Tournament House and have a bunch of rounds of interviews. Obviously like, not all the girls are really interested in being on the Court, but it’s just a tradition they all do together. Everyone who participates I know also gets two tickets to this ‘Royal Ball,’ which is basically just a huge dance they have. That’s why a lot of girls do it I guess, just to get the tickets. But I don’t know, maybe it’s also just fun for them to participate. And then they eventually pick like six or seven girls, and one of them is the Queen, and they spend the rest of the year doing charity work and being like, the representatives of Pasadena, and then on New Years they have their own float and they kind of “preside” over the Rose Bowl game later that day.

A lot of my friends don’t really go to the actual parade though…it’s the kind of thing you go to a few times when you’re little and your parents want to take you and it’s exciting – they have free donuts under the grandstands, and hot chocolate – but once you’re like, 10 everyone’s pretty over it. And then when you’re older, the best part about New Years is New Years Eve. The night before, everyone usually gets dressed up, not fancy or anything but girls wear dresses and heels sometimes, and even though it’s freezing outside, like less than 50 degrees at night, everyone goes to parties near the Parade Route. They bring some of the floats onto the street the night before and block it off to cars, to everyone’s just walking up and down Orange Grove looking at floats and hanging out with their friends, there’s some people camped out for the parade on the side, and kids are going back and forth between other people’s parties. It’s really funny because everyone is drinking too. Besides the kids, you see a lot of cops and a lot of people’s parents just really really drunk on the street, and everyone’s just having a good time…if you lived off of Orange Grove you would feel kind of obligated to have a party or open your house up. And then everyone would obviously like count down to midnight together and all that, and then you’d usually crash at someone’s house and wake up the next morning and watch the parade on TV, if you wanted to, or just walk up to the parade route and see it from there. But after awhile no one really got tickets to see the parade. But if you were really lucky, you got tickets to the Rose Bowl game, which was always a big deal. My friends and I really like football, and usually someone’s dad knows someone who can get us tickets, so we try to go whenever we can.”

I asked JH if he thought his experience with this festival was unique, as someone who lived in the community and had people coming from all over to vacation in his hometown:

“Yeah, it was definitely different. Growing up with this happening every year, a lot of it just got kind of annoying, especially living right next to the Rose Bowl and having streets blocked off and so much traffic that entire week before New Years. There’d be a lot of football fans from the Midwest of whatever Big-10 school that was playing, or Stanford people coming down from the Bay for the week, and there’d be just a bunch of people and a bunch of cars all over Pasadena during the end of winter break, a lot of people who didn’t know where they were going. I guess Pasadena isn’t usually a tourist destination until New Years, so it’s weird all of a sudden having a bunch of strangers in your hometown…like Pasadena isn’t small, it doesn’t feel like a small town where everyone knows each other, but you can clearly tell if someone is visiting or someone lives here. And yeah, the Rose Parade gets old after awhile, but I think everyone who lives here would still say it’s one of their favorite holidays.”

My analysis:

Its very different to visit a festival annually and to live in a community where an annual festival takes place – after awhile, the nostalgia and excitement is buffered by some of the logistical nightmares and fatigue that JH describes above. Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve definitely has similar traditions as other places, like counting down to midnight and getting together with friends and family. The Rose Parade also has elements of other festivals, like floats and a “court” of young women. JH gets to see community involvement a tourist doesn’t, like the selection of Rose Princesses or the decoration of floats that requires residents’ participation and support. This ritual is a great example of welcoming the new year by bringing a community together, while continuing customs that now have come to define Pasadena.

For more information about this festival, see:

“About the Rose Parade.” Tournament of Roses. Tournament of Roses, 18 Feb. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.tournamentofroses.com/rose-parade.
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Re-birthday

TO told me about an unusual holiday her family celebrates:

“When I was maybe ten, I used to go rock-climbing at a YMCA in San Antonio with my family, and one day when I was on one of the walls, I realized all the people below me were rushing around and that something had happened. When I was finally able to get down, I saw my dad on the ground, and he was performing CPR on another man. He ended up saving his life, and so every year since our families have gotten together on January 18th to celebrate “re-birthday.” It was kind of weird the first couple years, but now are families have gotten really close, and even when we moved to Carmel both of our families have travelled back and forth for the holiday. Their family has three kids that are the same age as my sister and I, and we’re all really good friends.”

I asked TO if she thinks the tradition will taper off over time, especially as she and the other kids get older:

“I don’t know…so far we’re going strong though. When something like that happens, it can make people really close really quickly, and that’s definitely what happened to us. They’re like, practically family now.”

My analysis:

While this is a relatively new tradition for TO’s family, I think it has the potential to be a holiday – and piece of folklore – she shares for a long time. Her father, a cardiac surgeon at Stanford University, has inspired her to pursue her own career in medicine, and at a young age watching him save someone’s life clearly had an impact on her. Every tradition started somewhere, and “re-birthday” may become a story or full-fledged holiday TO, her sister, and this other family share or celebrate for generations to come. At the very least, TO can pinpoint it as a meaningful experience that influenced her to become a cardiac surgeon herself, and a story she passes down to her kids about the heroism of her father.

It’s also an example of a tradition threatened by geography, and while the families are now in other parts of the country, they still make an effort to come together.

Adulthood
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Forget it, it’s Chinatown

JH is a senior at a all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.

JH sat down to talk with me about a ritual he and his friends began practicing as early as middle school – taking the train to Chinatown in downtown LA after school.

“Some of my friends started going in eighth grade…our middle school was really close to a Metro station, and we could just say we were walking to my friend N’s house and just go there instead. Tickets were only like $1.50 each way and it only takes like, 15 minutes to get there. I only went once though I think…and we just walked around and looked at stuff, they had those little turtles and firecrackers and shit, I don’t even know if anyone bought anything.

“I went more with friends in high school though, like freshman and sophomore year a bit. We could still take the Metro after school and just told our parents we were staying after school to do homework in the library or had a club meeting or something. My friends would also buy cigarettes at these little smoke shops there, and there was like, always one that kept getting shut down or they kept changing the name…it would pretty much be a different woman every time, like ‘Kim’s’ or ‘Annie’s’ or something. And they wouldn’t ask for your ID or anything, my friends would just like buy whatever their friends bought, like red Marlboros or American Spirits and stuff. They had pieces too [for smoking weed] and bongs, so sometimes my friends would get the cheap glass pipes, they were like $10 each or something. I know some people would go through the markets where they had clothes and knock-off jade stuff, and there was this one little stall hidden behind clothes that sold a whole bunch of weapons. We mostly just went and looked but some people bought things, like ninja stars or big knives…people said these guys supplied the Chinese mafia, or something. One time someone said they saw a warhead…like the kind of thing you put on top of a missile. For awhile one of my friends had like a plywood board in his garage, and we’d take turns throwing the ninja stars at it.”

I asked JH why he thought Chinatown was so popular for younger high school kids, and what it said about their youth culture:

“I don’t know…I don’t know when they built the Metro, but I guess it was probably pretty new. And in like 8th grade, beginning of high school, no one can drive, but you kind of want to start going out and exploring…beyond Pasadena, outside of just your neighborhood and school and stuff. And then the Metro only really has a few stops that aren’t in totally random places, like yeah you could get on different lines and go to Hollywood and stuff but we only had a couple hours after school and going too far was probably too…intimidating or scary when we were only like, 14. And then obviously older kids were doing it and that’s where they were getting dumb things like cigarettes that they had at parties, and I guess we just wanted to see what they were getting into, and it just seemed really cool going to a kind of sketchy place and knowing we were breaking all these rules. Probably just like, typical teenage rebellion, sneaking behind your parents’ backs before we could drive and really start getting into trouble. Plus, in Pasadena I think we all know we’re super sheltered in this really well-off community, and everyone’s had pretty comfortable and safe lives…which I guess adds to the danger part.”

My analysis:

I think this type of ritual is typical among teenagers, especially younger ones, who are just starting to become independent and want to push the boundaries their parents have set so far. The ages of 13-16, 17 really define the liminal period in American culture, when kids start to feel more self-sufficient but aren’t ready to take on all the responsibilities of adulthood; parents struggle with the transition too, knowing they should start preparing older children to take care of themselves, without wanting to kick them out of the nest so fast. Kids toeing the line, and learning to take advantage of their parents is nothing new, and here we see them trying to navigate the larger (and more adult) world using public transportation, coming into contact with drugs and drug paraphernalia, and doing so with an air of secrecy and defiance.

Additionally, it starts to separate “cool” or “mature” kids from those who are happy to obey authority, and some feel pressured to challenge their parents instead of their peers. Sneaking out and experimenting with illicit activities (drinking, drugs, sex, etc.) is a large part of the American high school experience, and this ritual demonstrates one foray into that world.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Ritual

 

Primary Language- Spanish

Occupation- Factory Worker

Residence- Los Angeles, CA

Date of Performance- 3/19/16

Every Time it is someone’s birthday, you have to sing Haaaappy Birthday to you, Haaaaappy Birthday to you, Haaaaapppy Birthday to Anthony, Happy Birthday to you. Ya queremos pastel! (Translation- We want cake now!) Shortly after you blow the candles, everyone chants, que lo muerda, que lo muerda (Translation- bite the cake) and when they go in for a bite, you grab the back of the person’s head and slam their head into the cake. After that, we start to cut pieces off the cake where the face did not touch and give a slice to everyone. In Honduras, it was the same tradition except we said feliz cumplanos which is just happy birthday but in spanish.

The happy birthday song alway brings a smile on anyone’s face because it is the time of the year where you celebrate the day you were born. Reina loves to go birthday parties and sing happy birthday, especially the recording of when their faces get plastered on the cake. She learned the song when she was in Honduras from her mother who would sing happy birthday to her along with her other relatives and bought a cake to eat as well. The song means a lot to her because in Honduras, they did not have the money to throw any parties but they had enough to buy a cake so to be able to do the same here and much more makes her feel happy and remember the celebrations she had with her mother.

When performing the happy birthday song, you must say it with a group a people while the birthday person sits in front of the birthday cake. While the candles are lit on the cake, before they blow it, you must sing the song, let them blow the candles, and tell them to bite the cake. Even if they do bite the cake, it’s tradition to just smash their face on the cake either way. Then everyone screams from laughter, takes pictures, and eats the cake that does not have any face on it.

I have had a lot of experience from this birthday celebration since my aunt Reina has celebrated almost every birthday with me. Her husband has usually been the one who bought the cake for us. I have also had an enormous amount of cake in my face. My mother also sings the same song and everyone does the same performance at any hispanic birthday party. It even happens for grown people because the tradition will most likely never change. There are a couple alterations such as saying cha cha cha after you say happy birthday in the song, but in our family, we just clap three times instead. One thing that will most likely never change is the fact that the birthday person must get cake on their face somehow. Finding the root for the tradition through history would be difficult, there is also no particular reason for why it happens. It is all in good fun and just keeps the party going. The face smashing also creates memories in which tons of pictures are taken. The singing is also very special because everyone can have a meaningful birthday celebration despite their income with the song and a cake. The photo uploaded is a picture of my last birthday party where my family and friends completely masked my face with cake. There is almost no chance of escaping so sometimes it is best to just take it in and laugh at it later. This long simple tradition will be maintained in my family for generations to come.

 

Childhood
Customs
Holidays
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Birthday Customs

The Main Piece
A person’s birthday is a special day. A day of celebration, where said person should feel unique and get treated differently than all others. In the Jones household they uphold this tradition, but in their own unique way. They have set a couple of rules that each member of the household must abide by. The birthday person is allowed to choose every meal that the family will eat for the day and are “chore free,” which is claimed to be the second best part of the privilege. The number one benefit is known as “room choosing.” The birthday person selects any room in the house the night before and is able to totally rearrange it or decorate it in whatever way they want all at their beckoning call. Thereby, they can move furniture around, add curtains or mattresses, anything their heart desires. This room represents their throne, their palace, a place of luxury for the special birthday person. This is all done in celebration of the birthday person and everything is organized by members of the family in a collaborative effort to appease the birthday person.
Background Information
My informant is Nile Jones, a current undergraduate and close friend of mine at USC. Nile’s family has been performing this tradition ever since her eldest brother, who is now twenty-one years old, was six years old (therefore fifteen years of tradition). The Jones family has come to love the tradition as it is performed for each child and adult. Niles’ mother came up with the idea when she saw that her son was crying over not getting enough attention on his birthday. To get him to stop crying she told him that the day would be especially dedicated for him, and he continued to expect it to be so ever since. To make things equal she continued the tradition with each child.
Context
Nile told me this story as we were sitting together discussing her life at home. I found so many elements of her life differed from mine, I had so many questions to ask. It was casual conversation as we were simply chatting like normal friends. Hearing stories about my friend’s different lives has expanded my mind as I learn about their different lifestyles.
Personal Thoughts
Everyone, including myself, shares the commonality of celebrating birthdays. However, it was refreshing to hear that not everyone celebrates birthdays the same, drab way. The Jones family had their own take on what a birthday should entitle and expressed it through the traditions they practiced. I have learned that a family’s beliefs and ideals are often portrayed through the traditions that they practice.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Shabbat Khayal

The informant is an Israeli American who grew up practicing traditions from both her Israeli and Persian culture. She describes a custom surrounding the sending off and return of teenagers who are drafted as soldiers. The informant recalls one of these parties that she attended when she was young.

  • Shabbat Khayal is an Israeli tradition having to do with young soldiers. There is a kind of sending off that people do, when they first are um drafted. And so people have you know: goodbye parties, they’ll have um celebrations and then everybody holds their breath until soldiers get through their training which is like an intensive three months that they don’t really see family and its you know really crazy and they don’t really see their families and then there is a homecoming and thats a really big deal. The moms will buy all their favorite food and snacks and cook all their favorite meals and get their rooms ready and its like a whole you know and theres an excitement and build up when the family comes over and everybody wants to hear stories and see how that teenager has changed… so um theres that kind of anticipation and you know people know who’s son is coming home and this home’s daughter is coming home and there is a lot of support in the community around it. And once they’re placed within the army, and they kind of know what they are going to be doing for the next two or three years, then they get weekends off here and there, and those weekends are a really big deal. You know, same thing happens- you know family gets together, everybody comes for shabbat, the soldiers are like center of attention. Again everything with the food, they do their laundry, they make sure that they’re resting, that they’re seeing their friends, its like a whole big thing when a soldier is home. And i think thats in the fabric of pretty much every Israeli family.
  • Sometimes people will take them to see a rabbi or someone for a blessing before they send them back out- depending on their background and culture you know if they’re Persian, Ashkenazi Jews, but some people will take them to someone and ask them to kind of say you know thank God, you made it through this far and then before we turn around and send him back you know give a blessing to make sure that he/she is safe and that God watches over them and that they come back to the family. So a lot of people will set something up like that or take them to Jerusalem or something kind of sentimental like that. 
  • I was apart of one of these rituals when I was a little younger for my cousin- it was such a build up, I mean you don’t really hear from them or have contact with them. I mean I can’t even think about what to compare it to here in America, I mean there is not really much- you’re sending a teenager away, and its a high schooler and they’ve just graduated and all of a sudden they are thrown into this entirely different setting, so I just remember my aunt getting everything ready and going to every different market and getting all his favorites and getting them all together and making sure it was all there. And then him coming home and looking so grown up and different and everybody wanting to hear all his stories and how is was, and what does he think he wants to do in the army, and how did he test, and he becomes that kind of center of attention and it will last all weekend, and people will spend the night, and want to be with them and yeah its very special. 

ANALYSIS:

I think that a traditions such at Shabbat Khayal are really important for families who have loved ones at war or in training. I think the whole celebration an already special occasion that much more intimate and important for both the family and the teenager. Most importantly, I believe that people continue to have these celebrations not only because it is tradition, but because it gives the family and the teenager something to think about and look forward too, instead of the family anxiously waiting around for the teenager to return they have the opportunity to run around preparing and gathering friends and family, focusing on what is most important in life.

 

 

Customs
Foodways
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sunday Pizza in Sao Paulo

Title: Sunday Pizza in Sao Paulo

Interviewee: Rafael Blay

Ethnicity: Brazilian

Age: 19

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): In his room in Webb, with 3 other friends playing video games in the background. It was a Thursday in April, all the work done for the week, so spirits were high. The interviewee sat on his bed to recount some tales and such.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- “In my city, it is a huge tradition that everyone gets pizza delivered to them on Sunday night. It’s important that it’s Sunday night. It’s because the pizza is so good, and the maids and the people that clean the house do not work on Sunday, so it is easier to clean.”

Interviewer- “Have people been doing that for a while?”

Interviewee- “Well as long as I can remember, since I was a little kid.”

Interviewer- “Is it something important in your family?”

Interviewee- “Not really. I mean it’s nice knowing that on Sunday you are going to have dinner with your family and you get to see everyone. Even if you go to a friend’s house you can see their whole family because they come to dinner. On the other hand, maybe the reason I like it so much is because I don’t have to do the dishes (laughing).”

Analyzation:

What apparently started off as an innocent thing simply because it was the easiest thing for the family, probably due to hearing children complain about having to do the dishes, has turned into a real tradition. Of course the reasons for the tradition starting are practical, but it has grown to be something far more important than just not doing the dishes. It gives families an excuse to come together and eat good food and not have to worry about anything afterwards. Specifically with the Interviewee, it is something that he remembers fondly and misses from being back in Brazil. The Interviewee also says that Brazilian pizza is also far superior to American Pizza, which did not sit well with other Americans who heard his statement.

Tags: Pizza, Sao Paulo, Tradition

Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Breaking of the Glass and the Huppah in Jewish Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”

While out to breakfast while the informant was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her to describe any wedding ritual or tradition that has stood out to her throughout her time as a reverend. Her response was as follows,

“Well, there are many traditions drawn from each culture, and the couple always gets to choose which they would most like to incorporate. One in particular that is almost always a part of weddings where the bride or groom is Jewish is the breaking of the glass. I’d say 99% of the time if either of the two is Jewish, they’ll do this. Basically, I bless a wine glass, wrap it up in a linen cloth, and place it at the groom’s feet. He then stomps on it. This represents how fragile life is and dates back to the suffering of the Jews. In some weddings, the breaking of the glass is done under a huppah, a cloth that is held up to create a canopy over the bride and groom. The four ends of the cloth represent the four directions, and the couple standing underneath it means that they will build a life and home together.”

On the surface, the breaking of the glass is a lighthearted wedding ritual that is fun for both the groom and all who watch him perform it. Under normal circumstances it is taboo to purposefully shatter a glass, and the ridiculousness of the groom doing so on purpose serves as a source of laughter for the wedding attendees. The significance of the ritual is actually very heavy, representing the ease at which our lives can be taken and the history of persecution that the Jewish people have endured. It is most likely important for the fragility of life to be highlighted at such an important transition in one’s life as a wedding to serve as a reminder to the bride and groom, along with the audience, not to take one another for granted and to make each day special. I asked the informant the significance of the huppah representing the four cardinal directions, and she responded that she was not entirely sure. Since the couple standing underneath the canopy during the ceremony is symbolic of their future life together, it is possible that the four directions provide a physical representation of the permanent connection forged between the newlyweds—no matter where in the world they may be, they are connected to one another beneath their commitment to marriage.

Customs
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Lazo and Arras in Mexican Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”

When out to breakfast with the informant while she was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her if there were any Mexican rituals or traditions that she often incorporated in her weddings. She responded,

“Oh yes. The lazo and arras ceremony. Before the couple takes their vows, the maid of honor and the best man take a lazo (a rope) and wrap it around the bride and groom. This symbolizes to the community that the bride and groom are now one. The arras is 13 coins representing Jesus and the 12 apostles. I bless the coins and pour them into the groom’s hands. He then pours these into the bride’s hands. This symbolizes to the community that he will take care of her. Nowadays, because women want to be viewed as equals, often times the groom will pour las arras into the bride’s hands, and the bride will then pour them back into the groom’s hands, showing that she will take care of him, just as he will her, spiritually, emotionally, and financially.”

This ritual, which the informant often performs when marrying an individual with a Mexican cultural background to someone without this background, is symbolic of the spiritual, emotional, and physical commitments that come with marriage. It is typically performed at weddings where one or both partners practice the Christian faith, because of the parallel between the thirteen coins and Jesus and the 12 apostles. However, the informant stated that the ceremony is still sometimes conducted during secular weddings due to family tradition. It is interesting to examine how this form of folklore has evolved over time to reflect the cultural norms in which it is performed, as it was once held that the man is entirely responsible for taking care of his bride, but with the recent push for gender equality across all spectra of life it is now also important for the woman to show she will take care of her groom. The lazo is a public display of a couple’s commitment to one another, and highlights the permanent merging of two individual’s lives as a result of their marriage.

Folk Beliefs

Avoiding Exclamation Marks in Film Titles

The informant is an 18-year-old Film Production Major, freshman.


 

According to the informant, there is a tradition in Hollywood filmmaking to avoid exclamation marks in movie titles, for they are considered bad luck to box office success. Under the tradition lies a paranoid tradition of film studios avoiding any decisions outside the norm, so as to not risk a poorer performance in profits. Therefore, this tradition is rooted in a likely statistic that films with an exclamation mark in the title make less money, whether by chance or a subliminal dislike of Americans towards exclamation marks. As a result, the informant claims he also avoids using exclamation marks in any films he produces in the School of Cinematic Arts, perpetuating a widespread habit among filmmakers.


 

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