USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘transition’
Adulthood
general
Initiations

Cigars on Graduation Day

Information on the Informant: The informant for this collection is my brother who currently is a Junior at Georgetown and studying Business. He plays football there and is very involved in Business clubs and intramural sports. He is an incredibly avid sports fan and follows football, baseball, basketball, and hockey very closely. He attended Loyola High school, the same school that I went to, which is an all-boys Jesuit school in downtown Los Angeles. While there he was the starting quarterback of the football team and also led numerous retreats while holding a position on student council.

The tradition from the informant:

“After every single graduation ceremony for the seniors at Loyola, it is an unwritten tradition for all the graduates to smoke a cigar after the diplomas are passed out. I don’t know why it started but it is mostly just a symbol of our next chapter in life, where we are older and more mature. It is one of those traditions where the younger students look at it as a sign of success because in order to do it you have to graduate. Some of the faculty aren’t too fond of it because it can be dangerous having hundreds of cigars lit up in a small area but all the students do it regardless because they all feel as if they deserve it.”

Analysis: This example of smoking cigars after a graduation, or an initiation into the next chapter of life, is a good example of a ritual done in order to enter into adulthood. Additionally, the tradition makes sense that it occurs at an all guys school because typically smoking cigars is something that guys enjoy more than girls do. Not to say that girls don’t smoke cigars but simply that it is typically done by men. Also, one other notable thing is that the cigars are usually fancy cigars that are purchased by the father’s of the sons who are smoking the cigars. The father buying the cigar is a symbol of initiation into adulthood after high school.

Adulthood
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Rajasthani Wedding Games for the Bride

Rajasthani Wedding Games and Pranks
1. After the wedding ceremony, the bride goes to her husband’s house where his family will put her intelligence, courage, strength and cooking experience to the test (in a friendly series of games). The exact tests to be performed vary by family, but some that Mayuri listed were:
– The bride enters the house only after kicking a rice-filled pot with her right foot (auspicious one).
– The ring game: a vat is filled with milk and small metallic objects (along with the wedding rings) are thrown in. The bride and groom must reach in together and try and fish out their rings with one hand. The one who does so first will have the upper hand in the marriage!
– The bride must try and hold as many of the gifts that her new family will deposit in her lap. Brides will often use their veils to wrap all her new family’s gifts and carry them around. She must carry as much as she can in her sari (test of her ingenuity and resourcefulness).
– The bride must also pick up every female member of her husband’s family. This is a test of her strength.
Later on, right before the wedding night, the bride and groom will be teased together (especially by the cousins) and pushed and shoved all the way to their highly decorated bedroom.

These rituals are done to ease the liminal period for the bride. Traditionally in India, the bride does not meet her husband or his family before the marriage and so these games are done to ease the transition from her old family home she’s lived in her whole life, to her new home with her husband and his family. In India, families live together and share the same house; therefore, the rituals and games involve the whole family. The bride is also going from an unmarried virgin to a married woman on the wedding night so it is important for the bride to feel comfortable with her husband.

Adulthood
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Game
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rajasthani Wedding Games for the Groom

1. The first time the son-in-law comes to his mother-in-law’s house,  the women in her family fill his mouth with sweets, and he can’t refuse.

2. The Son-in-law will also have to pick out his new wife from amongst all the women in her family (and servants). They will all cover their faces with their veils and group together. The new husband must recognize his bride by her hands and figure; if he picks her out, he gets to spend the night at her side. Otherwise, he has to sleep outside under the stars.

Just like for the bride, the marriage period is a liminal period of transition that needs to be eased. Teh groom is now responsible for his wife and is joining a new family.Unlike the bride’s experience though, the groom is not being tested like the bride for his courage, strength, intelligence, etc. This is probably a carry over form the dowry tradition, back in old days (and to this day in villages and conservative communities) the bride’s family would pay the groom’s family to marry their daughter. Thus, the groom’s family would put her to the test to make sure she was “worth the money” so to speak. Now, the dowry system is uncommon, but the practice of testing the new wife remains.

Adulthood
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
general
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「青春」– Japanese Folk Speech

The Japanese word 青春 does not apply itself to an exact translation in English. The first letter of the word, 「青」literally means “green,” and in this word is used in the context of a green bud or fruit perhaps, just about to ripen. The second letter, 「春」literally means “spring,” or “blooming.” At first glance this may seem like a word meant to indicate a time in the harvest, but it is, in fact, actually a very colloquial word used to describe a romanticized vision of the teenage years of one’s life.

My informant was a teenager in the city of Naha, Okinawa, Japan, in the seventies. The word has been so long engrained in Japanese society that when I asked her about it, she looked perplexed, asking, “What do American people use to describe those feelings then?” Those feelings, as she described them to me: the first time she realized she had strong feelings for a boy, the first time a boy had asked her out, “that feeling you get when you finally get your first kiss,” the moment when she’d realized she wanted to touch the opposite sex, and not just to hit them, either.

“It’s not all this romantic for everybody. [Laughing] I mean, 青春 can be used to describe things like your first summer job, your first summer away from your parents at camp or something, but I keep coming back to this one time, after this guy I liked gave me my first kiss in front of my house, and he left, and I just sat there on the front steps of my house in the dark, just sat there thinking and thinking, that just happened, not wanting to go inside because that would kind of ruin the magic. That kind of… teenage frailty? And vulnerability, how important everything is when you’re that old–that’s what 青春 has always been for me.”

However, I found it interesting that most teenagers themselves do not use the word 青春 to describe their current state. The word is primarily used by older people who have advanced well beyond their teenage years, to look back on a time when everything was fresher, new, and exciting–in fact, it is a word that exists mostly for the purpose of invoking nostalgia. For instance, my informant remembers, when she had finally gone inside the house after sitting on the steps for a while, she had been caught by her mother in the kitchen. Her mother had said, smiling, “Anything happen then?” When my informant shook her head, she couldn’t help but stay grinning like maniac, and of course her mother knew, and said, “Kiss?” My informant nodded, and her mother sighed romantically, saying, 「ああ良いよね〜、青春」which translates to, “There’s nothing like 青春, is there?” Even in this case, it is the mother looking back on her teenage years, perhaps her first kiss, and feeling nostalgia for the time that has passed–sad, perhaps, that that time will never come back to her, but happy for her daughter, who has yet to experience so much. My informant would never have said, for example, “Oh, this is 青春,” for it is in itself a word tinged with nostalgia. Her mother saying “There’s nothing like 青春,” I thought, is the equivalent of an American mother saying, “Oh, I remember my first date,” except in Japan there is a word for it, and it comes pre-packaged with nostalgia.

When my informant asked me whether there was an equivalent word in English, I was surprised. “Puberty,” didn’t really do it–the connotations were too sexual and bodily in nature, and there was not as much of the vulnerability and freshness that colors 青春. A significant part of the meaning inherent in 青春 comes, I believe, from the fact that they do not reference the changing nature of the body; though, of course, it is apparent indirectly in the budding feelings between the opposite sexes, the word focuses more on the emotions and the intense, painful nature of love at that age. Sexual encounters in 青春 are thought of as always awkward, and always romantic, stemming from love and innocent desire more than anything else. Under the umbrella of the word 青春, everything becomes noticeably more innocent, more okay.

Perhaps this word works and is so widespread in Japan because of its extremely homogeneous society; 青春 as a word probably means very similar things to many people across the country, if only because the culture has been so standardized by television and by the homogeneity of the people themselves. There are countless movies, dramas, mangas, and animes devoted to the theme of 青春, and indeed novels concerning this period in life often make the top of the best-seller lists in Japan.

Unlike in America, teenagedom is something the Japanese look back to, then, with a certain fondness. Often, I hear people in America saying that they never want to go back to high school again, that they wouldn’t survive a single day in middle school now–in Japan, although of course some people must feel the same way, the general feeling is one of an almost maternal fondness. Remember this? Remember that? They say, as they watch a new generation of young adults going through the 青春 that they themselves had experienced perhaps long ago. “Lucky them,” my informant said. “If I could stay one age all my life, I think I’d just stay in that period of 青春, it must have been the most fun I ever had.”

 

 

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