USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Traditions’
Customs

Seal Beach “Rubies” Tradition

Main Piece: “Me and my friends, 8 of them, they were really close, and I didn’t become a part of their friend group until late middle school. But after I joined the group we all became super close and did everything together. One tradition that we had.. I don’t know it’s kind of hard to describe but, I grew up in Seal Beach. It’s a small town on PCH between Long Beach and Huntington Beach. It’s super low-key, no tourists, and no sketchy people. It’s a very small community and everybody knows everybody in the town and everyone feels really close to the town. At the heart of the town is a Main Street and a pier that extends out past the sand on the beach. At the end of the pier, there was a rubies that was there that we used to always go to and spend time and eat lunch or dinner. But then one day it closed down and everybody in the community was super sad and my group of friends especially was really bummed out about it, because it was one of our favorite places. They gated off the section of the pier where the Rubies was. The Rubies was closed down and nothing replaced it for about 10 years, and then one day the Rubies caught on fire (probably because of an arsonist or something) and the Rubies burned down to the ground. Because this fire was pretty drastic, they removed that part of the pier, but the fence that would section off the pier to where the rubies was is still there. And because this was such a huge part of our childhood, no matter where we were, if we were out on the town we would always walk to the end of the pier and touch the fence. We literally did it every time, and no matter what you had to walk all the way to the end and touch the fence. Even when I go back home for breaks and for the weekend, my friends and I still do this.”

 

Background: KS and his friends hold the town of Seal Beach very dear to your hearts. He mentions that it is a very big community based town, and it is very normal for people to never leave the town. In fact, he said that it was very common for families to raise children and then once those children grew up and finished school and such, they would come back to Seal Beach and raise a family of their own. KS said it was very normal for people to live and die in Seal Beach, because the community is so important to everyone there. KS also mentioned that the pier is a huge part of Seal Beach, and the Rubies was a great communal meeting point so the feeling of touching a very iconic part of Seal Beach, solidifies the love and appreciation for the town.

 

Context of the Performance: KS told me this tradition that he and his friends have while we were discussing some of our favorite traditions in our friend groups. His tradition is very community based and it is so unique to one specific place, that he really felt emotional telling this story of how much he loves his towns and his friends.

 

Analysis: This tradition is very heartwarming and is a fantastic snapshot of how important traditions are in the realm of community and friendship. Unlike many communities in America, Seal Beach is very clearly a tight knit community that puts an immense value on community, friendship, and togetherness. The weight that this one restaurant has in this friend group and to the community as a whole, further accentuates that great emphasis on loving the community and each other. And while there are certainly some communities in the country that fit this mold, it certainly does go against the general American values of individualism. For me, the town I grew up in did not have this great of an emphasis on community, and it was still very much a community that favored individual success over being tight knit. So I find it fascinating that there are towns throughout the country that go against these American norms, and in turn create a very real and communal atmosphere for the population that lives there.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general

Horse Riding Tradition: “Never let a fall be the end of your ride”

Main Performance: “So at the ranch I ride at, there is this unspoken rule that everybody has to follow, it’s a tradition of sorts as everyone practices this at the barn. But basically, the custom is that if you fall off your horse, whether it be during an event, or while practicing, or even just riding out in the country, you have to get back on your horse afterwards. It is something that I have always been taught while growing up, and it was something that I saw every other rider doing at the barn. It was just expected that you never let a fall be the end of your ride.”

 

Background: GR grew up with a long history of horse riding, and that is one of her most favorite things to do when she has the free time and is able to make it to the barn. GR mentions that a big part of the tradition also is trying to earn the respect of the other riders at the barn who generally are either watching or riding horses themselves. Because this is a community built around the nature of never giving up as GR told me, making sure to get back up on the horse is huge to earning that respect form the more veteran riders. Additionally GR mentions that at the barn she was raised at, it was never okay to simply do things half way. It was expected that when you do something at the barn, you do it at 100% no matter whether or not you succeed, it is far more important that your effort is there. And GR also says that on the barn, while it was okay to not succeed every time, it was always preached that if you are going to practice something, you need to make sure you practice it right. Falling off the horse is the last thing the horse remembers, and GR said that its so important that you don’t end a session of a failure for the horse. GR said that undoubtedly this mindset of resilience and challenging yourself is a staple of her horse riding community.

 

Context of the Performance: GR told me this custom, while we were talking about the things we would do in our free time, and what types of hobbies we like to do. Since GR is from an area where horse riding is far more popular than in California, GR was able to inform me about some of the expectancies that come with riding horses.

 

Analysis: This custom is such an interesting tradition as I this idea of “you gotta get back on the horse” has definitely circulated in other parts of the country as a metaphor for never giving up. It is fascinating to see this saying and custom being used in a place where it is quite literal, and that getting back on the horse is so important not only for gaining respect and being a good rider, but also it is to help the horse not end the ride on a failure. In America, there is a huge cultural emphasis on never giving up and putting in 100% effort in the things that you do. This custom in the horse riding community is a perfect microcosm, and operates as a literal iteration of the belief that you must always keep trying even when you fail. Failure is a part of life, and seeing the fact that failure is accepted in this community as long as you get back up and learn from it, greatly represents the major American value of never giving up.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Turkish Superstition: the Evil Eye

evil eye

What is the Evil Eye?

P.N. – “So, the evil eye protects you, your family, your household, from evil.  And this is a myth, and also a glass object.  Every [Turkish] family has an evil eye in their house . . . My family thinks that if you tell somebody something good that’s happened to you, there’s gonna be envy there.  And they’re gonna somehow will nature to get rid of that opportunity for you.  The evil eye is meant to protect you from that.  So we have evil eye’s in different parts; like, for instance, we have one in our car to prevent a car crash.”

“We have an evil eye in front of our house.  You’re supposed to have an evil eye on top of the doorway to prevent bad things from entering.  One day, during the time when I was applying for colleges, it BROKE.  I remember, because my mom thought that that was a good thing.  “It’s done it’s job,” she said.  And so she put a new one up, and I got accepted into USC!”

“Another example was this: I was wearing my first ‘sexy dress’ in high school to this New Years ball.  I had a hair piece, everything. I looked good.  I was showing some cleavage.  My aunt put an evil eye in my jacket, and said it would protect me from the boys.  I still have it there in my pocket.”

What does the Evil Eye mean to you?

“The Evil Eye reminds me of my parents, because I have always considered them to be the most superstitious people.  And I guess when I think about other types of ‘evil eyes’ in other cultures, it feels like it brings me closer to those people as well.  There’s definitely a sense of identity with everything I’ve said here.”

Immediately, this made me think of the Jewish Mezuzah, which is a similar concept to the Turkish Evil Eye.  The Mezuzah, a small piece of parchment scribbled with specific verses from the Torah, is put on a family’s doorway to prevent any bad luck from entering the home.  When I brought up the Mezuzah to this person, she smiled, and informed me that she knew of the Mezuzah already.  The evil eye is definitely something that reflects one’s culture, one’s traditions, and one’s superstitions.  It’s for this reason that I am such a fan of the Mezuzah, as well as the evil eye now; it’s because I, as well as countless other people from a number of different cultures, can relate very strongly to it.  How different can two peoples really be, when they’re unified by so many aspects of life? 

Customs
Folk speech

The SoCal Spell Out

Context & Analysis

The subject and I were eating lunch together and I asked him to tell me about some of his experiences at USC; particularly, I asked him if he knew of any strong traditions at USC (aside from the obvious ‘Fight On’). The subject is a member of the USC Triathlon team and is very active and involved on the team. He proceeded to tell me about this particular tradition he enjoys on the Tri team, which is also a tradition shared by many other USC sports teams.

Main Piece

“My favorite tradition is, like, the SoCal spell out, and it’s basically a lot of things that I think, like, USC athletic teams do here. It just consists of basically spelling out “Southern California”, like, really quickly and really loudly and then just, like, erupting in cheer at the very end. That actually is, like, really really fun to do and a good tradition to have, plus it also fills you up with adrenaline. So that’s a tradition that we have.”

Customs
general
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

Claremont Colleges Birthday Tradition

Background information:

Throwing friends into the fountain on the day of their birthday has been a prank tradition for the span of several decades, and has become a birthday ritual for students at the five Claremont colleges. It is even noted on Claremont McKenna College’s website that the fountain at Flamson Plaza is a site that students visit to either study or to throw their friends into on their birthday.

Main Piece:

On the day of a friend’s birthday, it is a common tradition to throw that friend into a specific fountain at Claremont McKenna College. The fountain is located at Flamson Plaza and is in the middle the Claremont McKenna College campus. It is common for students from all five of the Claremont Consortium schools: Scripps College, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, and Claremont McKenna College, to engage in this tradition. When it is a student’s birthday, friends of that student often barge into the student’s bedroom early in the morning, physically carry them over to the fountain at Flamson Plaza at Claremont McKenna College, and throw the student into the cold water as a sort of wake up to their birthday. When interviewing a friend of mine who was thrown into the fountain last year during her freshman year of college, she said that it was definitely one of the highlights of her time attending Claremont McKenna College. She said that this tradition was very unifying in the fact that this was a birthday ritual that was specific to the Claremont Colleges and made her feel that she was a part of the college community. My friend stated that even though this is a small tradition, it has a large impact on how an individual relates to the community at the Claremont Colleges and reaffirms the fact that a student’s friends care about them and want to celebrate their birthday.

 

Personal thoughts:

Throughout my time at Scripps College during my freshman year of college, I found that this was a specific tradition that peaked my interest. I would constantly see people being thrown into the ice-cold water of the fountains at Flamson Plaza and think that is was very entertaining. I would often think that it looks very entertaining to someone watching, but must be relatively burdensome for the student being abruptly woken up and thrown into the cold water in the morning of their birthday. As such, my friends at Scripps College knew that I did not want to be thrown into the fountain on my birthday and always joked that they would throw me into the fountain but never did, to my relief!

Holidays

German Christmas Traditions

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as SH.

SH: It’s a German thing to open presents on the evening of the 24th. Christmas in Germany isn’t the 25th—the 25th is nothing. My family celebrates in the morning of the 25th because my brother and I grew up in here—Christmas is at its peak when you’re young, and my brother and I lived in Michigan, and I feel like it’s more exciting to wake up as a kid and think “There are presents!” as opposed to like, seeing them there the entire evening.

With Germans, it’s the thing where you go to church and then come back, and the presents have magically appeared. But like, if you don’t go to church, like my family, the presents would have have just kinda been… sitting there.

I guess it’s also a family tradition that my father always tries to force us to go to church, and the rest of my family always resists. Didn’t happen this year though, my dad gave in. He didn’t even mention church. He was like: “It’s fine, it’s whatever. We aren’t doing it.” I’ve found that a lot of other families make a big deal out of doing like—a home cooked meal for Christmas eve, or Christmas dinner, you know. We usually go out.

BD: But not to church?

SH: Nope.


 

Analysis: The German tradition to open presents the night before Christmas Day reminds me of a tradition my family celebrates, called Noche Buena—celebrated in Spain, the Philippines, and some places in Latin America, this holiday also puts more of the emphasis on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. I was unaware that Germany had a similar idea, and I find it interesting that my informant’s family changed their traditions upon being in America. Though she did not consider her family to be “very German” to begin with, the ease with which they adopted a more “Americanized” tradition for Christmas is very interesting. It helps to show what their family values as well—the excitement of Christmas for the younger generation is emphasized, and in a way, the children are prioritized.

Customs
Game
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Pull- Hope College

My brother went to a small liberal arts college in Holland Michigan. He remembers “The Pull” vividly:

Skye: The Pull is a tradition that goes back 117 years. Every fall the sophomores challenge the freshman to a gladiatorial variation of tug of war. It takes place across the Black River. 16 men on each team, 16 women serving as the callers of the cadence and in charge of “morale”. The teams train for weeks, they shave their heads, and they put on war paint. They run throughout the campus carrying the heavy thick ropes. Trenches are dug, with footrests of dirt mounded up. The pullers will lie in the trenches to pull as they push their feet against the dirt mounds. The actual day of the pull thousands come from throughout the region to watch along either side of the river. There is a lot of guttural shouting and cheering. Mud is generated.”

Me: How long does it last?

Skye: “A typical pull goes on for approximately 3 hours before one of the teams is pulled into the river. There have been years when the exertion has gone on for over 14 hours. More recent years have brought rules that allow for the pull to end at three hours even if no one has been pulled into the river yet. The teams go by the names “Odd” and “Even” corresponding to the class year.”

Analysis: In a very conservative, Christian area of the Midwest, emotions are often kept inside and the behavior is quite circumspect. The Pull stands in stark contrast to this buttoned-up way of life in Holland, Michigan. Hope College prides itself on the purity and mild attitudes of its students. A loud and seemingly violent event like The Pull is and anachronism at this Conservative Christian Dutch College.150926PullOddYear020

Folk speech
Game
general
Life cycle
Musical

Jewish Day Camp Traditions and Songs

The informant is from New York City and told me of his summer camp experience.

“Okay so I went to a Jewish Day Camp, so like you’d go, everyday you’d go to a bunch of different bus stops and then you go to the campground and do whatever camp shit you’d do and then come back like, so it was a Jewish camp and we celebrated Shabbat, and we even like one of the activities would be like, so every friday you’d celebrate Shabbat and then alongside the other activities like archery, ceramics, we would sing Jewish songs, so there’s like um, oh man, oh there’s “who knows one” and it’s like, i think it goes up to twelve and there’s like different hebrew or like old testament things like, or like, definitely like “nine” is the months of a -, I don’t remember but it’s like “Who knows one?” “I know one!” “one is the da-da-da-da-da-duh” “who knows two? I know two! Two is the da-da-da-da-da-duh.” And I know like one of them is like, twelve is the tribes of Israel, um, I think nine for whatever reason is the months a woman is pregnant? Um, uh, and just like seven is like the days of the week that god made, and all these other Jewish songs of like um, wait ok, so there’s who knows one, and there’s like, uh, I don’t remember anymore. But like the main part about the songs that’s pretty funny is that like seventy-five, no maybe like two-thirds of the camp were like black and hispanic, and were like not Jewish, because it was like, a somewhat cheap day camp in, like Manhattan, and they had a lot of bus stops in like Harlem, so like we made these black and hispanic kids eat Challah and drink grape juice and like sing these Jewish songs, and they were like kinda into it, none of them were like, “why are we doing this?” all of them were like “okay””

Analysis:

What is most interesting is that the songs were of religious connotation, but that many of those who attended the camp were not of that religion (Jewish). So they were learning all these songs and stories that did not directly affect them at all, opening up Jewish ceremonies to the wider world. It is also interesting to see how these “children’s songs” deal with adult themes such as pregnancy, which as a child did not really comprehend until much later.

general

Rainy Day Tradition

Main Piece:

Participant/interviewee is marked as AM and I, the interviewer, am marked as LJ.

AM: So my mom, whenever it rained, she would cover the  curtains with blankets and make hot chocolate. She would go out and buy pan dulce too–so sweet bread.

LJ: When would you do this?

AM: That was like elementary school. So like 3rd, 4th, and 5th grad. And then she stopped.

 

Context:

We had been talking about childhood and this story came up. I then proceeded to record it.

Background:

The participant is a first year student at the University of Southern California. She was raised in South Central, Los Angeles around the university in a Mexican household. This was a tradition within her family–especially on her mom’s side.

Analysis:

This is a very nice tradition to uphold during childhood. It encourages bonding between parent and child because of the hot chocolate and pan dulce. The rainy day changes from something bad or dangerous (having to cover the windows) to a great moment between two people. Although I’m not sure if it had to be blankets to cover the windows, it shows that the rain outside was being warded off. Perhaps bringing negative energy in if the blanket was not on.

Customs
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

New Years in Brazil

Title: New Years in Brazil

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- “Everyone wears white to signify that Brazil is a peaceful country. If you don’t wear white you’re the one kid that doesn’t wear white, so they don’t want to stand out. Some people buy new underwear, and they only wear it for the day, for the event.

Also some people try to go to the beach, and jump over 7 waves.

After the fireworks, after the year begins, there are a lot of parties and there are concerts and things of that nature. A lot of alcohol.

There are customary foods by my family just eats whatever. Some people eat lentils on the day.

Big dinner that is usually held later so that they can see the fireworks.

People do a bunch of resolutions, which a lot of people in other countries do too.”

Analyzation: This appears to be a collection of superstitious things that people do on new years, not just one simple tradition. People have different reasons to be doing these traditions, and not everyone does every action. For example, the Interviewee himself says that some people do some things, and he himself only does some of them with his family.

Tags: New Years, Brazil, Traditions

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