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

Freshman-Senior Brawl

Piece:

Freshman-Senior brawl: at the end of each year, the senior boys and freshman boys gather in the schools old gym (this tradition is unknown by the school’s faculty) to have an unofficial freshman-senior brawl to celebrate the moving up of freshman to sophomores and the graduation of seniors moving on from the school. “I do this to you so you can do this to freshman some day.” The idea is that freshmen are hated for being new, young, and naïve and this is the last chance for them to be bullied before they are no longer freshmen. The seniors sort of intentionally go easy on the freshman because they’re 18, whereas the freshmen are 14.

Information & Context:

My informant for this piece is a student at the University of Southern California who graduated from the boarding school (Cate) from which this tradition originates. His knowledge of the tradition dates back between 3 and 11 years ago, though it is reasonable that it has existed for longer.

Thoughts:

It is curious to me that a ceremony of physical violence can be viewed as a positive thing. My informant explained to me that it was seen as a right of passage—after which, both parties move up in the world. I would point out that both parties would move up, regardless of the ceremony, but it is important to note that this is how the community reacts to such a passage. It becomes a “you get bullied now so you get the right to bully later” type of scenario.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

USC Club Swim Team’s Banana Chant Tradition

Tradition: The Club Swim Team at the University of Southern California always does a chant involving bananas before every swim meet.

The informant is a 20 year old female USC student, who is on the swim team.

Informant: Before every swim meet, we always do this chant with bananas. Everyone on the team holds a banana in their hand, and we all chant:

“Are you ready to go bananas? (Everyone screams)
Peel bananas, peel peel bananas!
Swim bananas, swim swim bananas!
Fight bananas, fight fight bananas!
Win bananas, win win bananas!”

Collector: Why do you guys like to do this chant?

Informant: I think that it it gets everyone excited, and it’s a lot of fun.

Collector: What do you do with the bananas after the chant?

Informant: Most people just eat the bananas after the chant.

Collector: Where did you learn this chant from?

Informant: One of the members on the team taught it to us. He learned it from his swim team before joining our swim team.

I think that the swim team does this chant to get pumped up for their competition. I don’t know why they chose to use a banana, but it reminds me of the idea of ‘going bananas’ (going crazy), in a good way that gets everyone excited. Another reason may be that bananas are a health food and helps relieve muscle cramps for swimming. The words in the chant itself “swim,” “fight,” and “win” are suggestive of what the team wants–to swim, fight, and win the competition.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ane Viejo Celebration in Ecuador

Tradition: For New Year’s Eve in Ecuador, people celebrate Ane Viejo by crafting life size dolls of people with straw. They fill the people with fireworks and light them on New Year’s Eve in remembrance of the old year.

The informant is a 39 year old male from Ecuador.

Informant: There’s this tradition that we do in Ecuador, and it’s called Ane Viejo. And it’s usually done during the New Year. You know how everyone has this thing where everyone toasts to the New Year? But in Ecuador we do this toast to the old year. And you can choose any person that you want, and you make the person out of clothes, and straw, and stuff–so you make a straw person. It could be of anyone that you want, and it usually has some significance to something that’s in the past–whether it’s something bad or something good–it doesn’t really matter. They call it your Ane Viejo, like “your last year.” Once you make this straw person, they put fireworks inside of them. And they light it on fire on New Years’ Eve.

Collector: How big is this person?

Informant: Like normal size, like a real person! They put like clothes and jeans on them. Most people don’t burn the clothes, but they’ll leave them out for a week before New Year. So if you walk around town, you’ll see them on people’s front porches, they’ll be sitting down.

Collector: Who makes these dolls?

Informant: The whole town makes them. They’re usually people made–like your family makes them. What makes them even cooler is that there’s a competition, like who can make the coolest one. They’ll put like sunglasses and a hat on them.

Collector: Why do you think people keep performing this tradition?

Informant: I think they do this as something fun at the end of the year as a end of the year remembrance of your past. It’s like a whole ceremony prior to lighting your fireworks. I don’t know where it started, but I just know that that’s what they do.

Collector: Where did you learn it from?

Informant: When I was a kid, I just saw it on the streets.

Collector: What does it mean to you when you see it?

Informant: For me, when I see it, it reminds me of my childhood, my family, because that’s how I learned it and how I was introduced to it. Because I left my country, and the first time I came back I was like 8, 10 years old, and I experienced it. But everyone lived with it. So when I see it, it reminds me of that time.

I think that cultures such as the United States celebrates the New Year by making toasts to the New Year because we are a future oriented culture. We focus more on welcoming the new opportunities in the coming future. From this tradition, it seems that the culture of Ecuador also reflects on the past in addition to the welcoming the New Year.

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Handshakes Before the Game

Information on the Informant: The informant for this particular piece of folklore is a 20 year old friend of mine who attends usc names Brian Finley. Brian is from San Diego, California and has played basketball his whole life. He recently transferred to USC this past year (2015) after spending his first year of college at Chapman University playing basketball. He is a tall and very skilled player who has traveled all around the country throughout his life playing in various tournaments. He has seen teams from many different geographical areas and how their traditions vary based on team.

From the informant:

“So essentially what happens prior to the game starting is that each team does its’ warm ups for a while and then we all sit on the bench and wait for the starting 5 players from each team to be introduced. The announcer typically says the player’s name, his position, and how tall he is. Traditionally, the starting five are sitting on the bench before they are called and the rest of the team is standing up kind of making a little pathway for the player to go through when he is announced. The player gets announced and then has to go shake hands with the opposing coach and referees. However, sometimes there is a player who stands at the end of the pathway and does a custom handshake with each starter of the team. If the players really care about the hand shake, they will practice before and each starter will have his own custom handshake that the non-starter does with him. Lots of high school, college, and professional players do it. Recently it’s become a lot more popular because a lot of pro players are making really weird handshakes that get filmed and then go viral on youtube or something.”

Analysis: Attached below I put a link of a player in the NBA, Cameron Payne, who has become popular this year because of his unorthodox handshakes before the game. Payne is a great example of a guy who has popularized this pre-game ritual and made it a more universal basketball tradition.

Folk Beliefs

Kicking the Flagpole

Information on the informant: The informant is my mother who is currently 50 years old and lives in Palos Verdes. She attended USC in the 80’s and was actively involved in a sorority. She also is a huge sports fan and regularly attended USC football games. She has been going to games since the time she attended USC up until current time.

From the informant:

“Ever since I first attended my first USC football game, I remember it being a tradition to kick one of the bases of the flagpole leaving campus going towards the Coliseum. I believe the pole is right near Exposition and close to the business buildings. I wasn’t exactly sure why everyone did it but I think people just did it initially as a superstitious thing and then it caught on and became more of a tradition. Even though it’s weird I still take part in it and kick the base of the pole every time I walk from campus to the Coliseum on Game days. USC football has fluctuated since I’ve been there but I’m guessing a lot of people kicked the flag pole while Pete Carroll was the coach.”

Analysis: As a fellow student who attends USC games regularly and who has since I was born, I have seen this tradition take place first hand. It is a fairly strong rooted USC tradition and could be a symbol of the fans who are truly USC fans who partake in this. I also remember being told about this tradition while taking a tour of USC in the Spring of 2015 so clearly it is an undocumented tradition of the school that many people know.

Customs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tea Ceremonies in Chinese 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 if there were any particular rituals or traditions drawn from Asian cultures that she has incorporated into weddings in the past. She responded by describing tea ceremonies, which she has commonly incorporated in the weddings of individual’s having a Chinese cultural background.

“In a tea ceremony, the parents of the bride and groom are called up to the altar. Together, the bride and groom prepare a cup of tea for each parent. The mothers and fathers then each take three sips of the tea, after which they sit back down. I’m not entirely sure why it is important that they take only three sips, but traditionally that is how it’s done.”

My first question after hearing of this tradition was, “How do they boil water at the altar?” To which the informant responded, “Typically a kettle has been heated somewhere behind the scenes, and it is brought out for the bride and groom. Really all they have to do is pour the tea into a cup and serve it to their parents.” This ceremony seems to represent the newlyweds demonstrating their gratitude to their parents for all that they have done, as a wedding marks the transition at which an individual’s spouse now has more responsibility for taking care of that person than do his or her parents. It is also a way for the bride and groom to let the parents know that they will take care of them in the future as old age approaches. While the informant was unsure of the reason that the parents take only three sips of the tea, examining this tradition with a comparative lens that takes into account a broad range of folklore shows that many folk traditions come in repetitions of threes. This often dates back to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity defined by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It also removes the awkwardness that would arise if one of the parents took a great deal of time to finish drinking the entire cup of tea while the entire audience had to sit and wait for them to be done, as three sips can be taken much more quickly and at the same speed by all parents.

Foodways

Jerky Tradition for the Trek to Camp Wolfeboro

Informant is a 21 year-old, caucasian male who used to be an Eagle Scout. He used to live in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles to attend school at the University of Southern California.

Tradition: Every summer, a Eagle Scout troupe goes to Camp Wolfeboro. On their drive to the camp, it’s a tradition to stop at a jerky shop and buy jerky for the weekend.

Informant: So my troupe every summer goes to camp Wolfeboro. And it’s like a four hour drive, and so halfway through, ah there’s this dinky little town where we go to this sketch stand, and it’s a jerky stand. And this dude has all kinds of jerky ranging from chicken to alligator and ostrich. And it’s the best jerky you will ever eat. So our troupe–all the little kids–will be chanting “The jerky man! We’re going to the jerky man!” And everybody gets jerky, and everybody loves it, and they eat it all weekend at camp. We’ll trade the jerky with each other too.

Collector: How long has the tradition been going on for? How did you learn the tradition?

Informant: It’s part of the tradition of the troupe, and it’s been happening ever since I got there. And I’ve been talking to the older people than me, and it’s been happening ever since they’ve been there. It’s at least 10 years old.

Collector: What does it mean to you?

Informant: It’s kind of like a signaling of the beginning of Camp Wolfeboro, which is a pretty awesome weekend. And it’s a great bonding experience.

I believe that the informant participates in this tradition because it’s something that brings the community together. Everyone might already be in Eagle Scouts, but having something in common with each other bonds everyone even closer. Everyone can bond through sharing food, and this activity marks the brotherhood between its members.

Customs
Game
general
Life cycle

Family reunions and “batchi ball”

The informant was discussing several things her family does for family reunions, so I asked her to elaborate on the details.

“We do family reunions, and one of the traditions is we wear really horrible t-shirts that have our family crest on top. And they’re usually like a super garish yellow and they’re super ugly, and the back of it says, ‘memories build traditions,’ and during the reunions we usually play horseshoes and batchi and my grandpa makes ice cream… We used to hold them down by my grandparents’ house, and they live in southern Indiana on the Ohio river, and there was always a tree down, and so my grandpa would take slices of the tree, like he’d take cross sections of branches, and he’d write ‘[family last name] reunion whatever year,’ and then he’d write like a quote from the reunion, like something that happened and then he’d lacquer it and drill a hole on the top and he’d give it to everyone for Christmas.

We play batchi ball… batchi ball is like a giant rectangular area, locked off by a string, and then you toss a ball around and then you have a really little ball, and the goal is to get the little ball as close to the bigger ball as possible. It’s kind of hard to describe without showing. It’s like an Italian game, I think… it can be made of different materials. Ours is made of a kind of… I think it’s like a metal ball and it’s covered in plastic, and they’re about the size of two fists, and you.. there’s… like four different sets of colors and two teams will… choose a color and you can have up to four teams, I think. And then, um, you basically take turns… OH, no no, this is how it works: you toss this little white ball in the middle of the thing and you can toss it either really close or really far, and whenever you toss it you want to toss it to the furthest corner, because then the goal of the rest of the game is to toss the larger balls and get them as close to the small ball as possible… but if they go out of bounds, then it doesn’t count. So, if you put it in the side corner, then no one’s gonna be able to reach it. Because the heavier balls are heavier and hard to toss”

Family traditions, especially family reunions, are quite common. But as illustrated above by my informant, some families go to great extent to make sure those reunions are a big deal and memorable. Games seem to be a common theme of family reunions, but making t-shirts is probably less heard of.

Customs
general

If He Loves You, He Will Drink Your Turkish Coffee

About the Informant(s): Informant A and her husband (Informant B) are both from Turkey. They met in college, got married, and then came to the US for graduate school. They are both currently teaching assistants for math.

The Interview:

Informant A: Before engagement, [to ask] for her hand…the [two] families get together and…

Me: They talk about getting engaged?

Informant A: Yeah. It’s like these two young people have seen each other; they like each other. So what should we do about this?

Me: The parents [meet]?

Informant B: No, the parents and the kids. The future bride makes coffee for the groom’s family.

Informant A: It’s a special kind of coffee. Turkish coffee. It looks like espresso. The bride puts salt in the coffee. The groom’s coffee. If the groom drinks it without any complaints, then the bride’s side says: ‘ooh, our groom is very nice. He didn’t say anything even though the coffee is not the best.’ But I didn’t do it…

Informant B: She was afraid that I would just spit it out.

Informant A (slightly sad): I didn’t do it.

[...]

Informant B: I heard a story but I am not sure if it is correct or not. A groom was…

Informant A: Dead! It is rumored that the bride put pepper, salt, eggs, many spices…

Informant B: Many spices, and the groom drank it and like, there was news that he…just died.

Informant A: He died!

Me: From drinking coffee?

Informant B: But they put several things inside the coffee.

Me: Like poison?

Informant A: I think they overdid it extremely. I don’t know. I just heard of it. I think it was food poisoning.

Me: So is it like a legend? No one knows if it’s actually true?

Informant B: It could be. I’m not sure.

Background Information/Context: I asked this couple about some Turkish wedding traditions, and the conversation went to how an engagement happens. Although Informant A didn’t follow tradition and give her current husband salty coffee, they both knew about it. It seems that brides normally put salt in, but they might add a variety of other things like spices in the coffee as well. Soon, the conversation turned to a legend about this fateful cup of coffee (that has to be Turkish coffee). Although the legend is about dead groom, we still laughed about it because of how extreme and ironic it sounded. I got the impression that the couple thought that this tradition was quite unnecessary and laughable, yet Informant A still seemed a bit disappointed that she did not put her husband to the test.

My thoughts: It seems that this tradition came about as a way for the bride’s family to see how fitting the groom is for the bride and how much he loves her. If the groom is willing to go through this kind of pain, then he can endure any kind of hardship in the future as well. This would explain why Informant A might have been disappointed because she did not place that trust in her husband back when they got engaged (even though they are a great couple today). The fact that a legend exists because of this tradition also shows how some people do not approve of this kind of test, since after all, someone could die from it. This legend acts as a cautionary tale for people thinking about getting married (telling the bride to go easy on the groom). It also acts as a way for people to deal with the fear of the engagement meeting not going as well as expected–even if the groom doesn’t spit it out, he could still die. Perhaps, for Informant A, it is a way for her to deal with the regret of not putting salt in Informant B’s coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Pilgrimage

“Senior Pilgrimage is a tradition at my high school. We would walk from our high school for 14 miles down to Mission San Juan Capistrano and even though the walk was long, it was fun to miss a day of class and have all my friends there with me. It was a highly encouraged event to go to, but students had to meet certain prerequisite requirements like turning in all books to the library, paying library fines, finishing detentions, and stuff to go. And if you didn’t want to go, you would have to have a form signed. They would give us out shirts that said “Senior Pilgrimage” and the year then have us start the walk to the mission at 8:00am on the last day of classes for the school.

The informant is a friend of mine from elementary school, though in high school we went to different schools. I ended up going to Tesoro High School while she went to Santa Margarita. She told me that the school liked having everyone participate in traditions such as the one above because it helped bring the students together and gave them a stronger sense of community. She told me more about this tradition when she was at my house last week and we were recalling things we had to do in high school. She enjoyed participating in the event besides having her feet hurt, and felt that she grew with many of the people she talked to along the journey to the mission. She feels it served as a capstone marking the end of her high school journey.

My friend recalls the school engaging in this tradition since its opening in 1987. Since then, every faculty member has ensured that the walk has happened in the same fashion each year, with everyone receiving the shirts marking the year of the pilgrimage. I wish that I too had something like this at my high school. Though strenuous, it would have helped round out my high school experience and mark my transition from high school to college.

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