My informant is Pakistani and has lived in many countries worldwide, yet has deep knowledge of his culture and is very associated with certain events and occasions that occur in Pakistan.
This prayer, typically known as “Namaz E Janaza” is a common type of prayer “performed at funerals”. It is a ritual that has “existed in Islam for a very long time” and is “very important to our religion and culture.” The ritual is illustrated by a “group of people that are praying as the body is put in front of them” He states that it is because “everyone is praying towards god when the body is also there” conveying the influences of religion on their life. The informant also states that it is “the same Islamic prayer from the Qur’an that people read.” It is a widely known tradition in South Asia, specifically Pakistani culture when it comes to funeral rituals and events that must take place in order to properly bury a body.
The ritual is “always performed by men in a room separate to the women,” and the informant continues to assert that “they cannot be together and a woman cannot speak the prayer to the body” highlighting the strict nature of this ritual and the specific cultural customs on death and funerals. It is usually done in Pakistan but also occurs in other Muslim countries that still honour this method of performing the funeral ritual. It is a very important aspect of how the body is sent to heaven and is a pivotal step in “family healing using religion and ensuring they continue in heaven”
The religious aspect of funerals is very common in many cultures, however, in Islamic culture, the split of the men and women into separate rooms signifies the power that the prayer holds as it is part of their tradition. Death and prayer being portrayed in a ritual allow families to use the religious scripture provided to them as a mode of grieving their loved ones in a structural manner, making it easier on the family that is closer to them. Although, the formality of the occasion eliminates personalisation of the funeral and family members when burying and honouring the dead as they must follow the known written words instead of making them uniquely theirs, which is seen in other cultures. However, it is a religious and important part of their cultural identity, therefore, the prayer does not solely mark the death of an individual but paves a path to their god that they are praying to, following the practices of their culture and tradition as it is passed down.
The informant is a family member of mine that has lived in Lebanon for the entirety of her life and has grown up learning the significance of certain rituals and traditions with the world around her.
The informant describes this medicine as a plant that is seen very traditionally “in many Arabic or Lebanese homes”. Although the plant has an original term and transliteration, it does not have a direct translation to the English language and is “similar to the leaves grown on herbal plants”. The plant is used to heal most wounds that include “deep cuts, scrapes and other physical injuries that required care” and is done by cutting up the leaves and making it into a “paste-like texture” and rubbing it into the wound. She states that it must be wrapped on the wound and left with no other ointments or medications as it is said to “clear the wound of any bacteria and also help it heal with the nutrient provided. The elder of the family, “usually my grandmother” my informant states will usually rub the plant into the wound and say a religious prayer to accompany the physical healing for general health and prosperity.
Although it is believed to have physical healing properties similar to aloe vera, it also holds religious significance as the plant was believed to have been the “Arabic blessing from god onto [their] gardens.” This is due to the plant not being seen anywhere besides the Levantine region and is seen as a gift that is only presented to them with its supposed healing powers physically and religiously. It is seen in most elders’ gardens as it was believed to have been the most “beneficial plant for bodily treatment”. The religious prayer was usually from the Islamic book, the Qur’an and would denote speeches from there to “help the kids who get hurt from their everyday activities”. The informant states that “it was important for me to do the same for my children and grandchildren because I still believe in this plant’s medicine and how god will listen to us” conveying its importance on her family and bloodline.
The plant is seen as more than a healing alternative to modern-day medicine as it seems to be still used to present the significance of culture on the healing and growth of children who get hurt and are treated with this plant. Religiously, the implications of the medicine being a gift from god allows the elders of the family to be seen as authority figures performing the acts of god on the children, healing and removing their worries from a situation through the use of plants grown in their garden. This blessing of the medicine in Lebanese culture plays a larger role as my informant still believes that it is the most suitable for most cases of harm, presenting it as a sort of ritual. It signifies the transferring of culture from one generation to another as she still uses it today on her grandchildren whilst teaching them the benefits. The life cycle of a plant may also be used to depict the human life cycle as it is also religiously associated and presents connotations of healing, allowing younger generations to feel connected to this certain folk medicine for the rest of their lives and offering them protection.
The informant is one of my Pakistani friends who has lived in many different countries, yet is very attached to the culture of his heritage and is very involved in the rituals, ceremonies and overall traditions that are tied to his roots in Pakistan.
The informant describes this dance, the Luddi, as a “circular formation that people dance to”. This dance entails the “clapping of their hands and spinning in circles as they are still moving in a circle.” Although the dance is not usually performed for a certain scenario or moment, it is “usually done at celebrations and ceremonies like weddings and dinners with the family” who are brought together and dance to specific songs that link to the informant’s culture. He describes his times watching the Luddi as a “coming together when [they] have not seen each other in a long time” and celebrating the family or a certain event happening at the time. It is always performed in Pakistan when the entire family joins, his family always visits to “celebrate their cousins, aunts, uncles and all the elders that have given us the privilege we have” conveying the importance of the dance in Punjabi culture.
The Luddi is typically done with “the group of women in the family that are important to the celebration or occasions” and this can range from “family of the groom or bride in a wedding or the parents and siblings of the birthday person.” The joining together of the women in a circle gives them a chance to “celebrate in a space without the men involved”. Although it is usually performed by older women in the family, younger women around the age of the bride and/or person of significance are able to join the dance and “learn the significance of what it means to become an adult woman” in the family that has their culture embedded into their daily lives. Luddi is msot typically seen in the winter and spring when all the family members come back from their travels for the wedding season, therefore, it allows the women to not only celebrate the occasion but also the family and other women.
The formation of a circle as part of the dance highlights the cycle of their culture and the generations that come together to form a chain that connects. It is creating a personal connection between the women of the family in that certain moment, growing as the girls grow and join the dance to celebrate each other. The clapping of their hands emphasises the celebration of the occasion and also creates a unified sound that the woman can sing and dance to, establishing their heritage and Punjabi culture in the form of performance and expression of their joy into feelings. The incorporation of this dance at weddings, which is also presented to be an important and momentous part of the culture in South Asia, highlights how the family is the base of their culture and even the women have their own traditions and rituals that create unity. Furthermore, the circle growing highlights the chain of Punjabi women in the family growing and the representation of the elders teaching the younger traditions to keep the culture alive.
The informant is a student in university who has spent the entirety of his life in the United States, starting various different traditions that she has the ability to experience due to family members building upon their values.
On Thanksgiving, the United States’ annual national holiday, the informant, her family and extended members join together to “share [their] love with one another by bringing [their] Christmas earlier in the year.” The ceremony that takes place accompanying the traditional Thanksgiving feast and activities includes the “exchange of an ornament on Thanksgiving because we often won’t be able to be together during Christmas but we get to carry a reminder of them on the tree.” This is typically done “after the meal ends, giving each other the ornaments, symbolic of our love on Christmas eve and day, is mainly for the extended family members who we don’t get to see on the most chaotic days of the year”.
The informant states that this tradition has existed in her family since “[her] brother was 5 so that was 13 years ago” and was a very important ceremony that played a “unique part of Thanksgiving day” as it was “more symbolic than the turkey was to [them]”. She had also expressed that these ornaments were usually personalized according to each family member and their interests, specifically over the course of that year. Examples of this in her family exist through an ornament that she received years ago that was “Nemo themed because it was my favourite movie as a child” and that resonated with the rest of the family as they put it on their tree for that Christmas season. Ornament ceremonies had a certain dynamic and were typically done between specific individuals most of the years with an exchange of “the older generations giving the younger generations personalised ones” and the entire family giving the elders “a collective personalised one” from their descendants. This can be seen through her family giving their grandfather a wooden ornament because of their “family memories and love for nature.” She summarises her experience with the ceremony as a “matter of how we can share our love with unfortunately not being able to be in the same space as each other” on Christmas day.
This unique ceremony being done during Thanksgiving presents a different approach to the traditional holiday by implementing the effects of the religious/community holiday of Christmas together. The mix of holidays in a familial setting embraces and highlights the true impact of these holidays on the informant and her family, placing her family in an important position in their lives. Although it is not a generational tradition that has existed for decades, it emphasises the significance of this tradition to the informant herself and her siblings. The personalisation of the ornaments presents the beginning of a narrative of sorts as she is able to collect the personalised ornaments she has received over the years to show the growth in her persona and values as a human. Besides this allowing the family to celebrate the family essence that they do not have on Christmas with the ornaments received on Thanksgiving, it also supports the ideology of feeling extreme gratitude on Thanksgiving. Spreading the “love and family joy” all year round as they prepare for the year ahead of them, with the ornaments piling up over the years symbolizes the impacts of implementing this ceremony onto Thanksgiving. It allows the informant to have grown up feeling connected to her extended family which is evident in the manner she has expressed the importance of family in her life, missing the ones who are not there for Christmas Eve.
My informant is a Pakistani male that has lived in many different countries across the world, yet his attachment to Pakistan and its culture plays a significant role in his life and how he lives.
Mithai is a “type of box or category of sweets” that exist within Pakistani culture. It is comprised of “different sweet treats and toffees that you give out to houses at the weddings.” He describes these sweets as a form of an invite for party favours that occur at the wedding. The sweets are often seen as a ‘thank you’ or token of appreciation and reminder of the wedding, they are the “staple sweets at Pakistani weddings”
The Mithai is usually made by certain stores in Pakistan that specialize in providing the sweets “on a large scale when they also are able to maintain the best quality” for the guests. Even though my informant is Pakistani and has seen these sweets at weddings and different family events that he has attended, it is “a general desi traditional sweet that also exists in India”. This sweet is provided before the dinner or reception as a sort of snack or small bite in order to keep the guests satiated and entertained for the long day of traditions ahead.
The incorporation of food into big events in Pakistan such as weddings allows the guests to feel like they are being cared for in a certain environment. It ties it back to their culture as the unified feeling of togetherness that is provided in the event is seen through Pakistani food as a whole which is usually made for sharing and family-oriented events. The ability that their culture possesses by bringing their families together with food allows them to maintain their connections with the children and set in place the values that they hold when prioritising family. Furthermore, this is seen in the wedding sweets as the guests are seen as part of the family and are given the opportunity to celebrate the day with the community whilst being fed and incorporated into a family tradition.