USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Traditions’
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

Holidays

Christmas Traditions

Collector: Do you have any holiday traditions?

Informant: Um… let me think first. Okay, I guess for Christmas, uh, my entire family gets together the night before on Christmas Eve, and we have a dinner party, and then we just stay up until midnight, when the, when it becomes Christmas Day. And then we all just go around the room and hug each other and say Merry Christmas. So then, everyone goes home to their own homes, and the next morning, my parents, my brother, and I have breakfast in our pajamas and then we open Christmas presents, while watching A Christmas Story.

 

My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying psychology. She is from Orange County, California.

 

This is an interesting family tradition because I think it’s very common to do this with families. My family does this type of thing as well where we gather for Christmas Eve and then the smaller family gets together Christmas Day to open presents.

Holidays

Family Traditions

Collector: Were there any traditions you had for holidays?

Informant: We always used to have fondue on, oh, we always used to have fondue on Christmas Eve, and then, um, and then my mom would always light something on fire. That was part of it, um, but, that stopped. It would be accidental, but she would, like, knock over the fondue thing, and something would like… Actually on Thanksgiving, though, we used to have a tradition that something would catch on fire. It goes pretty…It happens pretty much every year. My grandma does that. She lit a cornucopia on fire once.

 

My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.

 

This is really an interesting tradition, and I think this happens with a lot of families is that a tradition is accidentally created, and it just continues to happen for some reason. For me, every year, my aunt will make some type of joke, and my mother will get mad and everything from then on during the dinner. This seems like an unintentional family tradition that everyone looks back on and remembers but becomes a problem each holiday.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Where The Hell Is Cuba On The Map?

Sara comes from a traditionally American family. However she told me about the time when she spent new years with her Cuban friend:

“It was very strange Alex. They filled champagne glasses with grapes! They ate them real fast. Then her grandmother walked up to everyone with a suit case. They each out an item in and then she walked around the block. When she came back she took a bucket of water and throw it out the door. What the hell!”

She later asked her friend who explained everything.

One, her friends grandmother was a bit crazy and slightly out of her mind. Two, they were old Cuban traditions – of course she was going to find it weird.

Analysis: Culture shock anyone! The twelve grapes each represent one months in the calendar. By eating them real fast after midnight, you’re hoping that good luck will come for each of the months that are to come.

The grandmother walked around asking for one valuable item from each of them. She put them in the luggage case and walked around the block to signify that the important things in life will only come with a little bit of effort and lot of hard work. To remember that the important things in life you earned and you need to continue working to keep them. Lastly the odd bucket of water is meant to symbolize all the sins from the past year. By throwing it out of the door she is asking for the families forgiveness and getting rid of all their demons.

Adulthood
Customs
Game
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Together Forever – A Henna Tradition

Item and Context:

“Henna traditions are deeply entrenched in the proceedings of Indian weddings. I remember when I was a teenager, my older female cousins would be getting married, and they would tease all of us younger girls by saying that if they hid the initials of our boyfriends in our henna and the respective boys were able to find them in the swirls and floral patterns, we would be together forever. Of course, being a teenager, I found this pretty embarrassing and awkward, as most teenage girls are when it comes to boys. Now, it’s no big deal, because I’m already married. But the next time any of the girls in our family gets married, I won’t leave you!”

Analysis:

As the informant mentioned, henna is really important in Indian weddings, regardless of religious affiliation. There are man different henna rituals and traditions, including this one. Oftentimes, the people targeted by this “hidden initials” ritual are the teenage girls of the wedding party, i.e. the ones who are about to grow up and get married soon enough. Therefore, it is common to embarrass them by hinting towards their upcoming weddings. Also, the idea of predestination is important in the faith of Hinduism, the predominant religion of India. The idea that a woman’s soulmate has already been picked out for her from lifetimes before and for lifetimes after is highlighted by this tradition, and the ideal outcome is that the girl’s supposed boyfriend should find his initials in the girl’s henna. Since henna is traditionally applied on the palms of a girl’s hands, the notion of palmistry is also brought up here ; if the boyfriend is able to find his initials in the girl’s henna, symbolically, he is finding and establishing his place in her hectic life as well.

Game
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Blue Key Heads

Informant: “Blue key heads are this tradition where we’re like spirit leaders and, um, we… It’s, there’s ten, five boys, five girls, um, it’s picked through an incredibly nepotistic process that is basically half popularity contest, um, it– that’s just how it is and so, um, all five boys and five girls wore skirts, uh, blue skirts that are passed down every year so that’s a big tradition, is, like, who you get your skirt from and who you pass your skirt to is like a big deal, um, and so the blue key heads are at every varsity game in the fall, um, and a lot of varsity games in the spring and we, like, cheer except for basketball we, we cheer, but we—the step team is what mostly did that so, yeah. And so we, like, show up and we cheer and it’s not like cheerleading it’s mostly like running around and painting your face, um, and it’s really cool and we lead a pep rally which is fun, uh, and the, uh, what was I gonna say? There’s, uh, the way the blue key heads are chosen is this, like, big school thing, tradition where you have to audition in front of the entire sc— like in front of school during, like, either lunch or during dinner. So you have to round up all your friends and you have to do, like, a public audition which is, like, you have to do push-ups—oh also everytime the football team scores we have to do push-ups for the number of points we have. So if we get into, like, 50 points we have to do, like, 50 push ups and it’s awful, um, I couldn’t do it. And so, um, so have to do push-ups, you have to, like, throw gummy sharks into a cup. You have to serenade—you always have to serenade someone. You always have to do a bunch of cheers. You have to name all previous 10 blue key heads. You have to name 10 shades of blue. Um, they’ll ask you, like, random questions to see how long you could, like, go without breaking. One of them, the best one that I had was mak- you literally sit there and you just say make me laugh and somebody has to try and make you laugh and its wonderful because there are just certain people who can’t, won’t break. And, um, so that was really good. And so it’s this, like, terrible process and then there’s always, like, a big secret, the, only the blue key heads– the new– only the new blue key heads know how they got, how they find out. Like, it’s a big secret how they find out that they’re blue key heads. So, like, my year we were told that there was a second secret audition and so we came and they actually put us through an audition and then told us, ‘Just kidding you’re the blue key heads.’ Um…”

Lavelle: “They do it differently every year?”

Informant: “Yeah, they do it differently, well because, like, it kind of gets, it’s, like, you know, just to make sure that it doesn’t get out, um, but it’s usually pretty secret in terms of, like, people just suddenly find out and suddenly, like “Oh, they announced it apparently.” And, like, and no one can figure out how they told the people, um, so that’s pretty cool.”

My informant is a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover with the class of 2011. She was one of the blue key heads during her senior year at Andover. This is an important memory for my informant as she greatly enjoyed her high school experience and looks back on her years at Andover fondly.

The idea of appointed spirit leaders is not unique to Andover and many high school students enjoy experiences similar to those of my informant.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Junior Ring Ceremony

My informant described a yearly ceremony at her high school, Notre Dame Academy, Junior Ring Ceremony. This ceremony takes place at the end of the fall semester each year. This is when junior receive their class rings. Students do not have to purchase a traditional class ring, any ring is fine. Generally, students try to get rings with stones in their class color (red, blue, purple, or green). This ceremony is really only for juniors and their families. It’s at night and the girls are required to dress up and look nice. It consists of some short speeches from classmates and faculty, a song sung by the class, and the presentation of the rings. After the rings are given out, girls are supposed to get their rings turned 100 plus the year of your graduation times, so if you graduated in 2011, you needed to get your ring turned 111 times. Each time someone turns a ring, they’re asked to make a wish for the girl. The last turn is supposed to be saved for someone special, probably someone the student admires or who has been influential in her life.

My informant graduated in 2011 from Notre Dame Academy Girl’s High School in West Los Angeles, California. She currently attends UCLA in Westwood, California. Notre Dame Academy, often called NDA, is a Catholic, all girls school with many traditions the students participate in annually. My informant told me about one that every girl looks forward to as the ring ceremony is a reminder that senior year is approaching quickly. This ring ceremony seems rather unique to NDA, but I have heard of some other high schools have formal presentations of class rings.

[geolocation]