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

Novenas

Novenas 9 days before Christmas, novenas happen. They are a custom done at home in Columbia in which family gets together and has potluck style meals as well as praying together. The meals usually consist of home grown fruits as well as white meats. The Novenas, are usually more prayer oriented, the potluck tradition just grew as a well-mannered custom. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This tradition kind of reminds me of when someone dies, you light a candle for 9 days as well as praying together with family and sharing potluck meals.

Customs
Foodways
general
Gestures
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition of Gift Giving- Christmas (Cali, Colombia)

During Christmas, it is, really common for people to make a lot of breads and pastries in Columbia to just give to surrounding neighbors. The more popular treats would be empanadas which are a pastry in which the inside is filled with different type of sweet pastes. The sweet pastries are a form of telling your neighbors to enjoy the festivities and have a great time, basically a good omen for the holidays. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This seems like a great way to start the holidays with gifts, as how usual Christmas goes in the United States.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Protection

Bendiciones

When you greet each other, combination of being catholic in Columbia, you ask or give a bendicion(blessing). It is a common thing to do every time when you greet each other or you are saying good-bye. It is asking for a blessing basically from the other on the one as a sign of belief and good fortune after dismissing the other one from the phone. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people

Childhood
Customs
general

Bath Time – Japan

My informant was born and raised in Japan, but moved to America to finish her college degree at the University of San Diego. She told me about a childhood custom that is common among Japanese families.

“In Japan a little daughter and dad shower and bath together is normal–with son too. People from other countries say that’s disgusting. (But) it’s because normally dads don’t have time to communicate with their kids cause the work, so bath time is perfect time to have kids time to them. We did until I was 7 or something.”

I knew she had an older brother, so I asked if her dad would shower with both of them simultaneously or one by one. Her response was:

“Both! But that’s only when we’re little like 3 or 4. After that let’s say probably when I’m taking the bath my dad join me after. We just talk and play in the bathtub. Maybe he help me wash my hair, but not the body.”

I thought it was interesting how my informant pointed out how other countries saw this custom as strange, and felt the need to provide an explanation (almost in a defensive manner). I think it is because in Western culture it is more commonly heard of for mothers to take baths with their children since they are the ones to have given birth and are the “caretakers” of the family. A father  taking a bath with his child–especially a daughter– could be interpreted as inappropriate or even as sexual abuse.

However, baths are a huge part of Japanese custom. Japan has numerous public bathhouses located all over the country, varying from rural to urban areas. These bathhouses have large communal baths that are typically segregated by gender. Visitors comfortably bathe and walk around nude in front of complete strangers. With this information in mind, I was not surprised to hear that it is typical for children to bathe with their fathers.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Polish Easter Basket Blessing

Nationality: Polish

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Polish

Age: 28

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 15, 2017 (Skype)

 

Christopher is a 28 year old man, born and raised in Warsaw, Poland and who emigrated with his family to the United States when he was 8 years old.  He is a College Graduate with a degree in Political Science. He is currently employed as a doorman in an apartment building in Queens, New York.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. Does today being Holy Saturday bring back any memories of how you celebrated Easter in Poland?

 

Informant: So on Holy Saturday we would wake up very early and we would make um an Easter Basket with the family. Usually the youngest in the family will make the basket and in the basket you would put in a boiled egg, a piece of bread so ah a piece of Kielbasa little items like that. And that Saturday Morning, you and the family would head to Church and the Easter Basket would be blessed by a Priest. You would not be allowed to eat meat until that Easter Basket is blessed. Once the basket is blessed the whole family can enjoy meat on that Saturday. And that is the Polish Tradition of Easter on Holly Saturday.

 

Interviewer: Do you have any special remembrances when you celebrated in Poland as a young child then when you immigrated to the United States?

 

Informant: Oh my best memory is just how people would dress up and take the holiday very seriously. It was a very big, big holiday in Poland growing up.

 

Interviewer: Were there any changes when you got to the United States and the way the Polish Community celebrated Easter as opposed to in Poland?

 

Informant: Well in Poland they would held a big mass and this would take two hours to do. Everyone would get together with the Easter Eggs and baskets and getting blessed.  Over here in America I noticed it is a quick five minute process. You enter the church, you see the priest, then you are right out the door.

 

Interviewer: Now, as you live in America and people are less devoted to faith then in Poland, does the holiday take on another significance beyond religious?

 

Informant: For me personally this is ah about family, it keeps the family together. This tradition keeps the family together. It is about tradition.  Without tradition we start to lose family. As I said, we all get together for dinner, we see each so it is just a great way to catch up with family you haven’t seen in a quite a while.

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Polish immigrants that want to continue or revive this tradition of “swieconka” in the US, can find a list of church services and traditional basket ingredients on sites like this: http://www.cleveland.com/cooking/index.ssf/2014/04/easter_basket_blessings_of_foo.html Symbolism of basket ingredients is explained here; http://luzdelmes.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-traditional-polish-easter-basket.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Breaking of the Glass

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (Skype)

 

Alan is a 62 year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.

 

Interviewer: Good Evening. When I asked you about Jewish Wedding Traditions, you told me about your personal experiences with that of Breaking of the Glass. Can you explain further.

 

Informant: I would be very happy to do this. I remember when I was eight years old at my Uncle Jerrys wedding that I was the ring boy.  It was a traditional Jewish Wedding and Uncle Jerry and his bride stood under a tent called a Chuppah. I later learned about what the meaning was. I am not going to get into ah here…you can read all about it online.  It is well documented. So anyway, getting back to the breaking of the glass.  So when my job as ring boy was over, the ceremony was ending and then um, Uncle Jerry stomped on this white cloth on the floor and then I heard this sound which sounded, um like glass breaking. Then all the crowd of people at the wedding shouted. At the time I didn’t know what they shouted, however I would latter learn it was Mazel Tov, um which, I mean is a Jewish word for good luck.  At that moment I was so taken by how happy the people were and I thought the glass breaking caused everyone to become so happy.  I remember when everyone left where the wedding ceremony took place I went and very carefully to pick the white cloth up containing the glass. I remember carrying this cloth with the glass like it was the most valuable thing I ever held.  Anyway after everyone ate, I found Uncle Jerry and his new bride Audrey, who later divorced, and I presented the glass in the cloth.  They asked me what this was and as typical eight year said don’t you remember it is the glass you broke and then everyone cheered.  I um then told them that I thought you might want to keep the glass to remind you of the happy times. They looked puzzled and then laughed and took the glass and went on talking to other guests. Upon later learning of their divorce many years later and um speaking to Uncle Jerry I mentioned that the glass didn’t bring them any happy memories. He looked at me like he didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about.

 

As I got older I learned and understood more about Judaism I learned about the meaning of the glass breaking was all about.  There are a lot of interpretations about this, but one fact which is agreed that it commemorates uh the destruction and, sorry, destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Of course all the sorrows that brought but also remember for the wedding aspect of this tradition that you know that there will be good and happy times. Other sects of Judaism have other beliefs as well and it is open to many different um shall we say schools of thoughts. Such as the couple comes together by the smashing of the separate bonds or another is the reuniting of the two souls as ah lifelong mates.  I always felt that it was a beautiful thing in that it announces to the world the couple’s union as husband and wife and announces the journey in life as one united. I am very sorry I am going on and on.

 

Interviewer:  No that’s OK. This is a great story, please.

 

Informant: OK then. Glad you are still interested. So oh where, oh let me see, yes, so I liked this tradition so much that at every Jewish Wedding that I attended that I would collect the glass, this time being smarted about things and carry a plastic zip lock bag, so to keep everything intact. Then I would present it to the couple afterwards and explain what I told you before and all the time the couple was thrilled to have it.  I vowed that when I got married that I would save my glass and if I could turn it into something which could be displayed.

 

Interviewer: What does this piece mean to you?

 

Informant: While this meaning of the tradition of the glass breaking has multiple other meanings other than the one everyone agrees about the destruction of the temple, the meaning for me always holds great optimism about a couple coming together to hopefully live a joyous and loving life together.

 

Thoughts about the piece:

A surprising number of manufacturers create vessels for this ceremony of destruction, similar to inexpensive plates sold to be broken at Greek weddings. Another Jewish fable about remembrance; two souls reunited as one, at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/542288/jewish/Why-Break-a-Glass-at-a-Wedding.htm?gclid=CJyfvcSzpNMCFUSBswody4QOww

Some other Jewish wedding day traditions at: https://www.theknot.com/content/jewish-wedding-ceremony-rituals

 

 

 

Foodways
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

An Easter Tradition

Nationality: Jamaican

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

Age: 59

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Carlton is a 59-year old man, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica who is a superintendent of a large apartment building in New York City. He immigrated to the United States over 38 years ago.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. Do you have a family story about when you lived in Jamaica.

 

Informant: “Sure. I am from Jamaica and in Jamaica traditionally during Easter we bake buns and cheese and that is what we have for gifts that we eat that during Easter and so my father would always would always go and we would make these buns in ovens so we would light the fire and bake these buns and get them glazed and sell them to all the people, and give them as gifts and so on. So Easter is was a very traditional thing where people go to church and worship on Good Friday and it was very quiet. No one in in the store or shop so you just had people go to church and worshiping. That was a tradition of my family and others in Jamaica”

 

Interviewer:  You mentioned that your father would bake the buns at Easter. Is this common for Jamaica men to bake on Easter?

 

Informant: “No I don’t think so as far as I know, I can only speak about my father. It was a very special indeed special memory for me and me sisters.  He never did anything in the kitchen.  He said that was women’s work. But on Easter this was his special tradition and that he had to carry out and me and my sisters were expected to help him out. He was so so very serious about this. He would even wrap our hands if he caught us tasting the sweet glaze of the buns.  I just remember him being so proud that he did this and I think he was doing this so we would always think of him, he died a few years back, when me and sisters celebrate Easter with our families”.

 

Interviewer: Do you carry on this tradition with your family?

 

Informant: “Sorry to say I do not. I feel this was a um very very special thing that my father did and I cherish this memory of him when I celebrate Easter with my family here in the US.”

 

Interviewer: Thank You and I wish you a Happy Easter.

 

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Food is a powerful memory aid to immigrants like my informant. This British import is a Good Friday treat, which may have roots in ancient Babylon. It has been adapted for Jamaicans by the addition of local molasses. The cross bun song can be found at: http://keepitjiggy.com/2011/03/a-jamaican-easter-bun-and-cheese/ Here is a recipe for making homemade Jamaican hot cross buns: http://eatjamaican.com/recipes/Jamaican-hot-cross-bun.html

 

 

 

 

 

Childhood
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

New Year’s Eve Tradition

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: New Year’s Eve tradition by Alec Shale

Every year while waiting for the new year to begin, we would do a giant puzzle and try to finish it before midnight.

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: Tradition created with my Dad for every New Year’s Eve when I was young. I like it because it reminds me of fun times with family.

 

Interviewer:  What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: United States, Arizona

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: My Family

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: When I was 4 or 5 years old.

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: On a New Year’s Day without much to do, we had a puzzle and decided to race to solve it.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: To me, this is a tradition that means time spent with family…. Doing an activity, but mostly just talking and enjoying each other’s company. I intend to continue this tradition with my kids.

 

Context of the performance- conversation with classmate

 

Thoughts about the piece- This informant believes his family tradition to be unique but I have also experienced a quiet NYE with my family. Our activity is preparing and consuming a gourmet dinner. In both cases, an introspective preparation precedes a momentous symbolic shift. Googling New Years Eve at home yields almost 19 million results, even a wiki-how; http://www.wikihow.com/Enjoy-New-Year%27s-Eve-at-Home-With-Your-Family

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eating 12 Grapes on New Year’s Eve

Interviewer: What is being performed? New Year’s Eve Tradition by Elisa Alfonso

 

Informant: Eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: It’s a Spanish tradition that is practiced in Cuba. I know about it because I do it with my      family every year and uh I learned it from my Cuban relatives, specifically my grandmother.

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: Camaguey, Cuba

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: I don’t belong to it but I believe it comes from Catholicism.

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: From my grandmother

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: I know that it’s a superstition. And that each grape is supposed to represent a month of good luck in the New Year.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: I really like this tradition because it makes me feel more connected to my culture and my family and it’s a fun thing to do every year. I’ve no idea where this tradition comes from or how it started, but my family has been doing it my whole life. It’s just something fun to do together.

 

Context of the performance- conversation with a classmate

 

Thoughts about the piece- This reminds me of the marketing campaign by Nathan’s Famous to have a timed hot dog eating contest on July 4th and a little research shows that ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’ was also started by marketers- grape growers with a surplus crop. Eight million people watch a midnight broadcast from Puerta del Sol each year. The 12 grape rule can devolve into a competition because they should be swallowed before the clock stops striking. For some grape eating strategies check here: http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/12/28/12-grapes-at-midnight-spains-great-new-years-eve-tradition-and-superstition/

 

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Old age

Compliment or Curse?

Informant: The informant is Thomas, a fifty-five-year-old man who has lived in Westchester, New York for his entire life. He is a financial consultant for hospitals, has two children, and is of English and Russian descent.

Context: We sat across from each other at the kitchen table in Thomas’s house one afternoon during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: When I was little, my grandmother always told me about her belief that if I, or anyone for that matter, complimented something in her home, she felt that I wished her dead because I wanted the item. I was at her house one day when I was about twelve years old, and she had just gotten a new coffee table in her living room. I admired it, and she responded, “You wish me dead!” Then she went to my dad and said, “Your son wishes me dead; she wants my coffee table.”

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece of folklore?

Informant: I like this piece of folklore because after she died, my family said that I should be the one to get the coffee table. It’s still in my living room today, and every time I look at it, I smile and recall what she told me.

Personal Thoughts: I think that this piece of folklore is interesting because I had never heard of someone being offended by a compliment, or taking a compliment as a curse. What I like most about Thomas’s story is that his family got involved in accepting and appreciating the folklore after his grandmother had passed and gave him the coffee table. In a sense, the tradition can then say alive through Thomas.

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