Author Archives: Ann Bernal

Toifitag (Austrian holiday event)

Toifitag Austrian Holiday Event

Informant learned about the Toifitag annual event by witnessing and participating in it while staying with a former Au Pair’s family in Rauris, Austria.

Collection context: Informant was in her room working on an arts and crafts project.


Note- Throughout the “recitation” the informant would talk with her hands and gesture. Italicized text was said with particularly more enthusiasm than other segments (although she still was enthusiastic while relating the entire event). Also, a Toifi is one of Santa’s devils (like Krampus) and was pronounced phonetically dweefe or doifi by the informant.

Informant (I): Sandy lives in Rauris which is this tiny little town in Salzburg above the Alps…you know that.

Collector (C): Yeah, yeah I’ve been there

I: *Laughs* Great, well, anyways…it’s a National Park and they all have their own little forests, but the guys up there, they cut down these trees and I don’t know the name of those trees I’m really sorry, but there’s this tree up there and, it’s just a regular tree, and then once a year during a certain time of the month if the moon is full on like the third day around Christmas time, you can cut down the tree, and it won’t burn. And then they make chimneys out of it that they use for Doifi day (Toifitang) and the Doifi are like the devils of Santa Claus and they come *collector laughs* No! Have you seen…I have to show you the pictures They have these big furry colorful scary masks, they kidnap that children and hid them in sacs. I’m not kidding, like the kids are terrified of the Doifi. (Hand movements all through this) And then Santa comes to all the kid’s houses in this tiny town and like gives them there presents and everything. It’s really cool and Santa has like these angels, but all the like older guys in the town are like the Doifis and they hit kids with brooms…I got hit by a broom almost, it kind of hurt…actually I definitely did get hit and it definitely kinda hurt, but I was protecting Anna who was scared of them. But these trees on that day…

C: Wai-wai-wait a sec I don’t understand these tress

I: On this day, these trees, they have them out in the snow and everything cuz they make like chimneys out of them because you see the Doifis on the street and everyone’s out there, right? And so you make this like you hollow it out and then you burn wood inside of it, but for whatever reason cutting down the tree on this one day, the wood doesn’t burn…in theory it’s this one day that causes that and then like the…you have fire inside it and you don’t have to worry about your chimney burning down.  It’s like they hollow out the log the, the trunk of the tree.

C: So they, do they put it inside of the house?

I: No. They, it’s all outside. That I saw it was all outside

C: So they cut down the trees and like put them outside their houses and then…

I: Yeah they like cut like a chunk out…like this (indicates with hands), you know?

C: Oh ok

I: Just like a cork…like a cork here (holds up a cork). And then they hollow out the inside and then they put the fire inside of it.

C: To keep away the Doifis?

I: No, just to keep warm. But the point is the wood doesn’t burn

C: (Simultaneous with the wood doesn’t burn) But wait…but it’s not in their house.

I: No, the point is that the wood doesn’t burn. The wood, in theory, this folklore that I’m giving you, is that the wood, every other day of the year, you could cut it down and use it in your fire, but you can’t on this one day…if you cut it down you can make a chimney out of it and the chimney won’t burn down. Just the wood that they put inside the chimney.

C: Ok

I: That’s the folklore

C: Cool…Where do they put the wood…for the chimney?

I: Should I draw this for you? They put the chimney…I don’t know…The chimneys that I saw were outside…In the street. Where the snow is, where the doifis do this big dance and all the kids have to go see it even though they’re terrified.

C: Ok. I was just wondering because to keep them warm, but then they’re inside and the chimney is outside.

I: No, no, no, they’re outside.

C: Cool.

What the Folklore means to her?:

When asked what this folklore meant to her, the informant responded, “It means that…the other day when I was talking to this guy…about…you know…like, um…farmers and how they have all these crazy things *laugh* like on this moon you gotta do this and that…I was like, “Oh my God I know when that’s true!” and people think I’m nuts”

Why do you like this folklore?:

I: “Because it’s just so like traditional and cool, you know? Like I’ve seen it and I…I feel like…they have a lot of weird things. Like you know you can’t cut your nails on certain times like at the end of the month, you have to do it at the beginning of the month or something…like…Sandy has these weird ones that people have taught her…through her life, in this little town, you know like? But that one…I don’t know…I just think it’s cool. Like it’s got this nice cultural heritage to it. It’s got this nice religious heritage to it and it’s just kind of like…it’s there, it’s this tree and it’s like magical, you know? And it’s really cool day that they use it for.”

C: “And people get hit with brooms.”

I: “Yeah..but I’m just saying it’s really magical and I like that and I…I think it’s sweet. That’s what it means to me…that I love Sandy (laugh). And I don’t like getting hit with brooms…Even by Doifis…Doifin I guess.

Do you believe this folklore?:

She said she chooses to believe it because it is cool, but she thinks there is most likely a scientific explanation. She said it probably has something to do with the moon (because it affects the tides and water etc.) and that with the moon placement and the time of year there is probably more water in the trees which is why they do not burn (or are harder to burn)


I think that the informant enjoyed the folklore for the very reasons she insisted. She finds it cool and fun. As an outsider, it was a brand new experience for her and it was a way for her to connect with the friend she was staying with who was a part of the community. Every time she thinks of the folklore she will associate it with Sandy. She also noted a religious undertone that she saw and as a religious person it spoke to her more than a secular event would have. Finally, the as a biology major the possible scientific explanation for the tree not burning would be something that would intrigue the informant.

Annotation: The Toifi are Christmas devils and a form of Krampus. Krampus can be found in an episode of the show “Supernatural” the A Very Supernatural Christmas.

Kripke, Eric. “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” Supernatural. The CW. 13 Dec. 2007. Television.



Family Legends (raised by wolves, the seventh child, and the gay gene)

Family Legends

Location collected: Informant’s bedroom


Informant (I): Like I think one of Grandpa’s aunts was a nun actually, at the hospital…which is…why…I think Noni’s side of the family…yeah, but anyways he did used to tell us that he was raised by wolves until the nuns took care of him. But somehow he still grew up in Chicago with, with our grandparents, I don’t know…And then Uncle Dennis, he said used to be given by…raised by wolves too and that they found both Uncle Dennis and my mom in the forest…our mom in the forest. And then…what was the other one? Oh, that there used to be a seventh child and you didn’t know what happened to him, and that was always like the punishment, was you…the alligator belt or do you want to be the seventh kid! *laughing* And then Grandma was the wicked witch of the west…And Aunt Cici was the wicked blimp of the East…This tree just doesn’t look the same as it did before (Referencing the craft project)…The Uncle Raymond gene is by far the biggest joke in our family

C: Ok, let’s hear it.

I: Ok, so, I…it’s so funny telling you these things because I know that you already know them. Ok, Uncle Raymond gene. Uncle Raymond was gay. It was a touchy subject for a while, not so much anymore, but anyways. *Laughing* So uncle Raymond was gay, and he was a minister because they wouldn’t let him be a catholic priest…um, and yeah, that was the big joke, is who was going to get the Uncle Raymond gene. For a while it was like oh, Uncle Dennis is going to get it, for a while we were saying Robert or John (informant’s brothers) were going to get it. We don’t know. But the Uncle Raymond gene is out there…and that that’s what it means…if you’re gay you have the Uncle Raymond gene.

C: And it always skips a generation

I: Yeah…that was…I…yeah, is that what we said? No?

C: When no one in the first generation had it, it’s what we said

I: Yeah, well, so we think

C: But hey, Uncle Dennis got divorced so you never know

I: *laughing* no. He likes, he like the Asian girls…that’s really like his type it’s so obvious I just love it…Yeah maybe Uncle Tom has it. Maybe it skipped over ungenetically *laughs*…I’m just kidding. Don’t let Uncle Tom know I ever said that.

Meaning/belief/why perform:

The informant finds the Uncle Raymond Gene story funny. Uncle Raymond did actually exist and was gay and if someone else ends up being gay then she said would definitely blame the Uncle Raymond gene. She knows that homosexuality does not have any known heritable gene associated with it and she does not actually believe that if someone in the family is gay then it will run in the family, but she will still accredit the “Uncle Raymond gene” For the other jokes it is the family joking around with little kids.  The way that her grandfather was raised is his way of saying he is a saint raised by wolves and nuns and he is the head honcho. The other stories such as the seventh kid are ways to make children behave and to scare them. If they misbehave it is because they were raised by wolves, not the parents. It’s not the parents fault. She does not believe that any family members were raised by wolves but gladly propagates the stories


The family stories are good ways for the family to connect and joke around with each other. I agree with the informant about the function of the stories regarding the seventh child and the being raised by wolves. The seventh child is a scare tactic and the being raised by wolves is a variant on saying someone was raised in a barn. The Uncle Raymond gene joke most likely started as a coping mechanism as the informant admits that there was some tension regarding his homosexuality originally. However, I believe that the joke no longer reflects such tension as the informant herself has no homophobia yet still participates in the joke and she say family member all claim they would have no issues if a family member ended up being homosexual. It is interesting to note that the family always guesses a male will get the gene which shows an idea that the Uncle Raymond gene is a male gene. Also, the knowledge that homosexuality is not actually passed on by those mean (or at least as it is currently understood) is seen by the joke that maybe a male on the other side of the family who is not genetically related to Uncle Raymond received the gene. The more religious overtone of that side of the family is reflected in the informant’s comment that Uncle Tom not be told of the comment.

Annotation: Many of the family legends above can be found in authored literature. One would be the story of being raised by wolves. This can be seen clearly in The Jungle Book.

Kipling, Rudyard, and Jerry Pinkney. The Jungle Book: The Mowgli Stories. New York: William Morrow, 1995. Print.

Hide and Seek


Collection Context:

The following folklore was collected during a Joint Educational Project assignment (volunteer program) at an elementary school near USC.


Informant (I) : We…um…sometimes we play…um…hide…hide and seek

Collector (C) : Ok how does that work?

I: By…someone needs to count…and then you need to and the rest of us, the rest of our friends, needs to hide somewhere.

C: Ok. And what do they count to?

I: Um…you could tell them whathever but except…uh…until 100, not 100.

C: Ok, you can’t count to 100?

I: yeah.

C: Ok, what number do you guys usually count to?

I: Um…20

C: Ok, so how do you play hide and seek?

I: ok if you find the people…um…they need to find the person. If yous know where the person, you can help them where are the person.

C: So if you  were hiding but you get found you can help the it person find everyone else?

*Informant nods*

C: Ok, so who’s it next?

I: um…who you found first.

Meaning/Why perform:

When asked, the informant expressed that hide and seek is something they play because it is “so fun.” When I asked her she also stated that she learned it from her grandpa who speaks mostly Spanish.


I think the informant accurately identified the main reason she and her friends play tag at recess when she stated that it is “so fun.” Generally, people like to play games that they find fun. However, I also think that they play this type of game because you get to run around a bit which is something that they do not get to do in class. In class they have to sit still and listen to the teacher whereas when they play hide and seek they get to come up with the rules and be in charge. They also get to help the person in charge or the it person find other people which allows the people without the control to take some of the control. This is something they cannot do in the classroom.

Bubblegum, Bubblegum rhyme

Bubblegum, bubblegum rhyme

Collection Context:

The following folklore was collected from during a Joint Educational Project assignment (volunteer program) at an elementary school.


Informant (I): Someone needs to count…because first we put someone’s foot in it

Collector (C): Put someone’s foot in what?

I: Well first we be like…like…um…put your foot like this (she puts her foot out to indicate those participating form a circle each with one foot in the middle of the circle), and there are like some words, and then who gets out and the other one and who’s left is gonna…is gonna count.

C: Ok. What are the words? Let’s pretend we’re doing it right now. What would the words be?

I: Bubblegum, bubblegum in the dish, how many pieces do you wish? If we…if I touch you or me we need to say a…a…an number like ten. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

*Informant indicates that with each number the counter points to a foot in the circle. The foot pointed to is not random but goes in a circle*

*Informant lands on her own foot on the last number*

C:  And so you would go out? (Meaning she would remove her foot from the circle because her foot was landed on/pointed at for the last number counted to)

I: And you…you need to count.

C: And so I would be it?

I: uh huh

C: What do you do, so if there’s more than one or whatever people you just keep doing the bubble gum game until there’s only one person left?

I: Um we don’t play…we…huh?

C: So if you’re doing…you know if you’re trying to pick who’s it, and there’s…let’s say there’s four people here, do you keep playing until there’s only one foot left in?

*Informant nods*

C: So you’ll do it four…you’ll do multiple rounds of the bubblegum game?

*Informant nods*

C: Do you do that for every game?

I: um, I think.

Why does she thing they do this?

The informant stated that they play bubblegum, bubblegum to decide who is it and they always use this to decide. She also stated that this is something that she learned from people at school, but she cannot remember who taught it to her.


I agree that this is a means for the children to decide who is it and it is a way which they all can agree on. They have some control over the game because they are able to pick the number that is counted to, but they never know exactly who is going to be out. This makes it a fair way to decide and no one will be ganged up against. It is a way for the students to be in charge of planning their own activities in a world where they rarely have such an opportunity.