Author Archives: Alexandra Allman

Purple Fuzzy Bear

Informant H is 19 years old and was born in Inglewood CA. She moved to a place near Valencia just outside of LA soon after she was born. After 5 years, her little sister was born, then her little brother, and then her youngest sister. The family then moved to Bakersfield. H homeschooled for many years and then transitioned into a public high school.

 

H: So the very first people who started Xpressions started this um I guess its like a pre-show ritual where they have this little purple fuzzy stuffed animal and he’s about, I don’t know, he’s very small like this size, like a small ball. And we stand in a circle um backstage before its time for our show and the director holds the little fuzzy bear and he goes around and he puts it in front of everyone and everyone has to kiss the fuzzy bear for good luck.

Me: That’s really cute. Do you think people believe this will actually give them good luck and if they don’t do it like maybe they wont have a good performance that night?

H: Not necessarily. I think we know that the amount of effort and time we put into it is what’s gonna make it a good show but I think its just something that everyone has done every semester. So just knowing that from the very first group of people who did it now were doing it its cool that connection to the people who started it.

Me: So it’s about the history and the tradition more?

H: Right.

Me: Do you think the bear itself has any significance? Other than it was picked sort of randomly, do you know why it’s purple…?

H: I don’t know why its purple, I think its just a personal article, I don’t know any other significance to the bear.

Me: Do you believe personally that if you had done this or if you don’t, do you think something is going to happen?

H: Nope! I just think it’s a cute tradition.

Me: Do you think that’s why people do it? They just do this because it’s a nice bonding exercise?

H: Yes, I think it’s very much like a bonding exercise.

Me: Do you think it serves any other function besides a bonding thing between you guys?

H: I feel like bonding is mainly…and just that you know that that’s something you have in common with the Xpressions people because I know its changed over the years. So that’s something you have in common with someone who is an alumni of Xpressions, like oh you remember when you kissed the fuzzy bear?

Me: Is this like a secret thing? Do you guys talk about it very much?

H: Um no its just something we do like right before the show just like oh remember guys kiss the bear.

Me: And all the new members everyone together…?

H: Yeah everyone.

 

Analysis:

This dance group uses this fun tradition and ritual to bring all its members together and prepare them to work together as a unit for the show. Like other rituals, it ties them to the past and the origins of the group while keeping them in the present as they are about to perform. Also like other rituals, this takes place on a liminal moment in time, right before the dancers perform and is used to bring the dancers good luck.  This ritual also includes a kind of folk item, the fuzzy bear.

Christmas Tradition

Informant H is 19 years old and was born in Inglewood CA, and moved to a place near Valencia just outside of LA soon after she was born. After 5 years, her little sister was born, then her little brother, and then her youngest sister. The family then moved to Bakersfield. H homeschooled for many years and then transitioned into a public high school.

H: So in my family, I guess it started when we moved to Bakersfield, so we had to start over basically, so we had to get a new tree, and like new decorations. So we started this tradition where every Christmas we go and like as a family, my mom, my dad, me, my little sister, my little brother, and my youngest sister, so as a family we go and we find, in our city, a Christmas ornament and everyone gets to pick one Christmas ornament. And we do that every year and now our Christmas tree has so many ornaments on it because we’ve been there for about 10 years and so that is something we do every year.

Me: So do people pick the same type of ornament? Do you have like a style like ‘oh I pick the dancer ornaments…’

H: I guess my littlest sister…she always picks stuff like sparkly or pink so you know those are her ornaments. My brother picks like shiny cars and dinosaurs. So I guess we all sort of pick stuff that reflects our personality maybe what were interested in at the time. Like I have one that’s a cowboy boot from when I rode horses.

Me: So does it serve anything more practical than just oh we need to get ornaments for our tree?

H: Oh definitely it’s something we can depend on for Christmas time being together and we do this together as a family. And also it’s our tree in our house and all these ornaments aren’t random we hand selected each and every one, and they reflect us.

Me: So in a way when you look at your tree you can see your family…that’s really cool do people ever comment on the ornaments?

H: Oh definitely people are like ‘oh that’s a cute ornament’. And were like ‘oh there’s a story behind that’.

Me: So do a lot of the ornaments have these individual stories with them?

H: Um a lot of them do I know a couple fights were started over a couple ornaments.

Me: Care to share any fun stories about any of them any of the fights…?

H: Okay well there is this one this chandelier ornament it’s silvery and it has crystals on it. So we were going to the place, I think it was World Market, and my little sister saw it and she was like ‘Oh that’s like a cool ornament’, and she keeps walking because she wants to keep her options open. And then my other sister sees it and she’s like ‘oh my gosh I want this ornament so much’ and then my youngest one obviously plays the whole, ‘I’m cute I’m the youngest I should get this ornament’. And then the older sister was like ‘I should get this ornament because you always get the sparkly ornaments’ and the littlest one said ‘No I should get this ornament because I always get the sparkly ornaments’. And just like so much chaos. And eventually my little sister broke into tears and we’re like ‘it’s Christmas time you can have the sparkly chandelier ornament’ so there’s always this like bitterness when it’s time to pull out the sparkly ornament. And they always fight about who gets to put it on the tree. It’s very ridiculous. I think it’s hilarious.

Me: That’s so funny, do you all put your own ornaments on the tree?

H: We do. Sometimes people will forget because there’s so many, people like forget which ornaments are theirs, so like fights ensue because of that.

Me: I’m sure it still brings all you together though.

H: It does it’s fun times.

Me: Is it sort of interesting being away at college now? Are you the oldest?

H: I’m the oldest.

Me: So does that change any of the dynamic? Do they have to go pick ornaments without you one day? Because I know I usually get home right before Christmas, is that ever a problem…?

H: Well sometimes they have to put up the tree without me but sometimes, I think last year, they left all my ornaments there. Or they wait for me to come home so we get all of our ornaments together. So yeah they definitely want to make it a whole family.

Me: So sweet. Do you guys go to the same place every year?

H: Yeah we usually go to World Market, but sometimes we go to other places but they always have awesome really cool individualized ornaments.

 

Analysis:

H’s family definitely emphasizes them being together to celebrate this holiday with their own special family tradition. Even though an argument might have come from it, this tradition serves to bring her family closer together, especially now that she is living away from home. The tree is a way to express themselves all individually while still celebrating their family as a whole.  This tradition might be even more important for their family as their children start moving away from home to go to college, so this tradition of coming home for Christmas and doing this tradition as a family might become more special over the years.

Turkish Marchen and the Nasreddin Hoca

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

So a lot of fairy tales were actually made to teach kids lessons and to scare them, Turkish folklore is very much in that vein. It’s very much a country where the society is built upon kids being pretty obedient. They don’t have very much independence really even in college, especially if you’re a girl. You live in your parents home really until you get married or you move in with a different family member. It’s a pretty restricted society for kids. So a lot of stories tend to be kind of negative and ‘You shouldn’t do this’. And Gypsies are a big thing in Turkey. Any story that teaches kids a lesson, in these stories there’s usually this interesting character, they call her a hoca which is like a teacher. There’s always this like old man who will impart some wisdom on to the kids. And the guy always appears to be really stupid and then he turns out to be the smartest one. The Nasreddin Hoca is the guys name and he appears in a bunch of stories, and Nasreddin is his name and Hoca means teacher. So one day Nasreddin’s neighbor asked him, ‘Teacher do you have any 40 year old vinegar?’ ‘Yes I do’ answered Nasreddin ‘Can I have some I need some to make an ointment’ said the neighbor. Nareddin answered, ‘No you can’t have any. If I gave my 40 year old vinegar to just anyone I wouldn’t have had it for 40 years would I?’ So this is kind of a joke but kind of not, and they just tell these stories to people.

 

Analysis:

Informant C tells here about how in Turkey they use fairy tales to teach lessons to children and how to behave. In this story the neighbor asks for some vinegar but gets turned away. Although this story may seem harsh, it effectively teaches children that you have to be prepared in case something goes wrong and you can’t always rely on strangers to help you through. This story may reflect the values of self sufficiency and hard work in Turkey, and the importance of teaching children these values.

For this story and other Nasreddin Hoca stories see

Stories from Nasreddin Hoca. (2005, January 1). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://www.sivrihisar.net/stories.htm

Turkish Marriage Ritual

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

So every region of Turkey kind of has its own folklore and I like the Black Sea’s folklore and there’s a region called Trabzon in it. Its kind of seen as the more wild and I don’t want to say less domesticated, but there’s just not as many people living up there. We have some relatives that live near Trabzon and there’s this really famous town named Çarşıbaşı. And when someone gets married to test to see if the marriage is a good idea, they come to the house and you know how like in some places you have to carry the bride over the threshold, there’s this vine that you break into 3 pieces and you plant them into the ground. And if they sprout that means the marriage is going to be successful and if they don’t you’re kind of doomed. People in Turkey are very into agricultural rituals, folklore, and even mysticism.

 

Analysis:

Here informant C tells about an agricultural ritual that predicts if a couple will have a successful marriage. Marriages are very important and the entire community always wants them to be successful and will often perform rituals to see if this will be so. Because the area is so agricultural it follows that their marriage ritual would also be agricultural. Rituals are also often performed at liminal moments, such as when a couple gets married.  Growing of the vine may symbolize growing of a marriage and with it, prosperity.  In this ritual like many others, we see an emphasis on the number 3.

Turkish Fortune Telling

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

Fortune telling is actually a big deal in Turkey. They do it with Turkish coffee, which is really like fine ground black coffee and its very dark. You get in a little tiny cup and you have a saucer and you flip the cup over onto the saucer and all the little grounds trickle out of the cup and you can read the different things. My mom and my grandmother can do it really well, like everything my grandmother says comes true. She said that I’ll find a tall blonde guy whom I’ll really like, which is true, and then that there’s one class I’ll really like and one that I’ll have to work really hard in. And she said about water she said something you love like the ocean could turn dangerous for you but then it’ll come back and be really good for you. So me and my little brother were surfing over Presidents Day weekend and he actually got caught in a rip current which was kind of scary and luckily he got out but he’s like 14 so he’s pretty little. But then after all that happened we ended up having a really good day surfing and he actually just got his lifeguard certification which is really cool. And I kinda think a lot of it is made up but I don’t know I’m actually starting to believe in it a bit more. And my family really believes in it.

 

Analysis:

Informant C tells here of a traditional Turkish custom and folk belief that her family participates in. The fortune telling is an entertaining way to bring the community together and connect generations all over Turkey, while for many providing an insightful view into the future. H says she may have participated in the fortune telling just to bond with her grandmother and mother, but then she adds that she is starting to believe in it more.  For many, knowledge of the future is valuable, and something like the more chance based way the coffee grounds are running down the cup provide a good medium for this fortune telling.