Title: New Years in Brazil
Interviewee: Rafael Blay
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
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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 the one she considers most exciting and memorable: NDA Day.
“So, NDA day is basically, like, our spirit day, um, except maybe a bit more involved than at some other schools. Um and, okay so, it starts off with a mass, because it’s a celebration of our Lady, ‘Notre Dame.’ Um, and at this mass all the girls are required to wear full dress uniform, um which just basically means you have to wear your red plaid skirt rather than the khaki one, um, a white blouse, your blazer, and nice shoes. Like, no tennis shoes. Um, and sometimes girls will put a bit more effort into the way they look, than they would on a normal day. Um so some girls will like wear make-up or straighten their hair or whatever. Um but then there’s a mass. Um, a Catholic mass. And afterwards, while we’re still in the gym. Oh, uh, we do mass in the gym because our chapel isn’t big enough for the whole school. Um, but anyway, after the mass, the spirit stuff starts. Um, so basically the freshmen get up first, and they’re all sitting in the same area and they have some girls who were appointed, like, cheerleaders who go to the podium, and they scream and spell out their grade level, so F-R-E-S-H-M-E-N, uh and then they bang on the chairs and scream really loudly and stuff. Um, but then the sophomores go, and the freshmen realize that the spell out doesn’t just have to be a chant, because all the other grade levels also have like a rhyme or a song to go with their theme. Oh, and each grade has a theme for the day and it’s usually supposed to be an alliteration with their grade level, like FBI Freshmen, Supernova Seniors, you know, things like that. Um so after that, each grade is dismissed back to their classrooms and all the girls change into costumes or crazy outfits or whatever—oh and also, each class has a color that they have all four years, um, so you’re either red, green, blue, or purple. And the grades incorporate their color into what they’re wearing on NDA day. So, once everyone’s dressed, um, you go out into the parking lot to take a picture with your class and the poster someone in your grade designed, or something. Uh, and once everyone’s taken a picture, there’s a sort of parade. Um, where we walk around the perimeter of our school and go to the little school, um, the elementary school, and the elementary kids are outside and you, like, high-five and stuff. And that whole time you’re basically, like, cheering the cheers your class made up to go with your theme or just your graduation year or something. Um, and you’re taking lots of pictures, like lots and lots of pictures, like not just during the parade but during the entire day. It’s a pretty memorable event. So then after the parade, we all go back into our gym and play volleyball. Um, each grade level has a team and the rule is that no varsity, uh actually, no school players can play on the NDA day volleyball team. Um, you can be a coach, but you can’t play. So it’s not really all that competitive. But the matches are that you play your sister class, so juniors play freshmen and seniors play sophomores and then the two winners play each other and then the winner of that match plays the faculty. So that’s pretty fun. If you’re not playing, you just stand on the side and scream and stuff. And do cheers. There’s a lot of cheering. Um, and after the volleyball game they provide us with lunch. Um, and then after that, it’s time for the skits. Uh, so each class has to do a skit and a dance. Usually they try to incorporate the dance into the skit. So it’s, like, in the middle or something. And the faculty do a skit also, which is usually pretty hilarious. Um and each class gets 5 minutes, I think, maybe 10, I can’t remember. But the seniors definitely get more. Probably like 20 minutes. And that’s because seniors also get to make a video, which usually comes out pretty good. And it’s all just supposed to be, like, silly and funny. So then whatever time is left in the day they’ll just put, like, music on in the gym and turn it into a dance party, basically. But there’s usually not much time so you just go back to class. And that’s it. Oh and then, uh, you get the day after off of school, which is nice. Because NDA day is exhausting.”
My informant enjoyed this spirit day quite a bit and cites it as one of the things she misses about high school. Spirit days are a common occurrence in many high schools, but every school does it differently.
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.
Primary Language: English
Other language(s): Polish
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Performance Date: April 22, 2013
My informant was born in Boston, but his parents immigrated to the United States from Poland. He is an American citizen, but he has spent a few summers in Poland, and his parents keep many Polish traditions alive in his household. He told me about some of the similarities and differences between the ways that Christmas is celebrated in America versus in Poland. This is his account:
“In Poland, little kids are told that Santa Claus comes in early December. On the 6th, you come home form school. And there are gifts under your pillow. I don’t know why Santa puts gifts under your pillow, but he does. So they’ll be like, chocolates or little toys. Like small-scale gifts, like Pokemon cards or a Gameboy game. And the Polish tradition is to open gifts on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day. These are the gifts from family members, not Santa. And then we would sing Polish carols and stuff. Some of them are the same as English songs, but just in polish, like it’ll be “Jingle Bells” sung in Polish.”
Analysis: My informant’s broad descriptions of some of the differences between Polish and American Christmases seem to indicate that many of our traditions are the same. Some noticeable changes are that Santa visited my informant’s family on December 6th, whereas December 24th is his usual visitation date in the United States. My informant also mentioned that he didn’t understand why Santa put gifts under his pillow—instead of in stockings, as is common in the U.S.—but to me, stockings seem stranger than under pillows. This is one example of how certain traditions can develop seemingly arbitrarily; placing presents under pillows did not really make sense to my informant, but his family did it ever year, and putting presents in stockings seems somewhat silly to me, but my family keeps this tradition alive. Despite the lack of concrete explanations for these habits, they still certainly have meaning. Christmas in particular is especially ritualized because of its religious and cultural significance. And although these rituals may differ from Poland to the United States, the fact that citizens from both nations make efforts to sanctify this holiday show that these cultures both see Christmas as an important holiday. This common ground seems more significant to me than the specific differences in how it is celebrated; essentially, Christmas is a unifying celebration for multiple cultures.
My informant was born and raised in Fresno, California. His parents immigrated to the United States from India. He described the traditions his family has to celebrate the Indian holiday of Diwali:
“What Diwali basically is, is actually the festival of lights. Me and my family, we celebrate it every year around October. It’s always towards the end of October but the actual date changes every year. So this year, it was actually when I was away at college. So what we did is I ‘webcammed’ with my mom, and the webcam was right there, and I saw all the rituals they were doing. And there’s actually two days of it. So we light candles, and the candles are supposed to represent purity and they’re supposed to guard us from all the impure things that happen in our house, like greed and dishonesty. And by lighting the candles, that gets rid of all of that. So the first day, they light up twelve candles, and the second day, which is the main day, they light up twenty-one candles. There’s twenty small candles in a circle and in the middle is one bigger candle. By candle, I mean something called a diya, which is like a wooden pot, so to speak. The bigger candle is supposed to be lit all night, and my mom usually stays up all night to like, protect it and see if it’s lighting up. And usually, our tradition is we stay up all night and play games and invite some family friends over. What we do on the second day is, after we’re done with the prayers and stuff is we eat. My mom always makes really good food. It changes every year based on our preferences, but it’s always our favorite food. So it’s a really huge deal for us and other Indian families. And three, four weeks before and after Diwali there’s always parties—Indian get-togethers—where everyone wears Indian clothes. And it’s always a big deal. We always call our relatives in India, wish them a happy Diwali. We light fireworks. Decorations include lights around our whole house—like Christmas lights—so usually our lights stay up from Diwali until Christmas.”
Diwali is a holiday rich in rituals that have been around for centuries, but my informant updated it in a way by participating in the rituals via webcam. They used new technology to perpetuate their old traditions. Like many folklore traditions, Diwali is unifying for my informant’s family; they make an effort to call each other to wish each other happy Diwali despite being thousands of miles away. It is interesting how one element of the holiday—the lights strung around the house—carry over so seamlessly from Diwali to Christmas. Despite the vast differences between these two holidays, they both incorporate decorative lights. Yet as my informant explained, the lights for Diwali are integral to the significance and meaning of the holiday in a deeper way than they are for Christmas. He said that the lights around the house and the candles lit inside the home are believed to protect the family from impurities. It is a pretty literal symbol, with the light combatting the darkness in the way that pure virtues should combat evil ones, but it is a beautiful one nonetheless. The beauty of the holiday paired with its religious and cultural significance as well as its unifying nature make it a very special one for people all over the world.