Author Archives: Ashley Lax

Festival – Brazil

Isadora was a freshman with me at the University of Southern California.  She is from Brazil, one of the traditions they celebrate there is “Carnaval”.  It occurs from February to March.  She starting telling us the story of Carnaval because it had just began in Brazil and she was criticizing how Americans don’t have any such traditions that the entire country can participate it.

Isadora explained that besides New Years, Carnaval is the next biggest celebration in Brazil.  She said that groups or collections of people come together and represent a team.  A city can have many of these groups, for instance.  Each group has a theme.  Using their theme they make large animals and make and wear “heavy” ornate costumes.  Then when all the teams are ready there is a huge competition. Each team dances down the street doing the Samba dance.  They carry their animals and wear their costumes.  They have to dance down the entire street while crowds of people watch from all sides.  All the while each team/group is being judged.  They are judged on their costumes, their theme, and their dancing.  They are awarded points.  For instance, if they do not reach the end of the street in a certain time period, points are deducted.  In the end, the team with the most point wins.

I asked Isadora why Brazilians have this tradition.   After I asked she looked at me puzzled and said she had no idea, and that it did not matter why or where it started but that is was BRAZILIAN.  Brazilians have so much pride in their country, their people, their language, and their traditions.  After many years of traditions, that eventually just turn into large parties the reason why the tradition was started is eventually forgotten.  I found this extremely interesting, that to Isadora the reason for Carnaval was not important but that it brought her country together in a celebration.

Proverb – China

A good friend of my family’s is a very successful business man.  He travels a lot between China and the United States for business.  Most business men these days are some what required to know a little of the Chinese language just to make things easier for themselves when they are abroad.  Charlie Wyatt is practically fluent in Chinese because he is not only a business man in China but also has a personal relationship with a Chinese woman in China.  This woman encouraged Charlie to learn her language so it would be easier for them to communicate.

When he first, started learning the language he would tell us all the new words that he was learning.  The words were simple, like “hello” or “thank you”, but then he became much more confident.  So confident, that when we talked to us (only English speakers) he would say the words so quickly, slurring them all together.  We all thought that he was not speaking completely correctly, but did not want to say anything.  However, one night he was talking to his girlfriend in China, on the phone, and we realized that he spoke much differently.  He spoke slower, and pronunciated more carefully.

After that night we confronted him, and made fun of him.  We told Charlie that his ego for speaking Chinese had become to large.  He laughed, admitting that he knew it had.  He also responded by telling us a Chinese proverb that he had learned form his girlfriend, because she had also noticed that his confidence level had risen.  We laughed at how ironic it was that he had learned a proverb, in his new language, that was perfectly fitting for him.

CHINESE:  jia? b?ng bì baì

LITERAL TRANSLATION: arrogant soldier certain be defeated

TRANSLATION: the arrogant army will definitely lose the battle

In conclusion, this proverb means that if a person is over confident or arrogant about their abilities, in the end, they will fail.  If the army believes that they are the best and will win the war, they are setting themselves up for failure.  The army just needs to try their hardest and realize that they are going to do the best with their abilities.

The same is true with Charlie.  He began to believe that he had “conquered” the Chinese language, but in reality he was just at the beginning.  He girlfriend humbled him by informing him of what the Chinese believe by this proverb.


Ever since I was little I have heard about this strange tradition that my dad’s side of the family used to do.  I talked with my grandmother in detail amount what the tradition entailed, and why they carried on this tradition.

My dad’s side of the family is from a small town in central Italy called Pelena. My great grandmother, Carmela Massmile immigrated to the United States when she was very young, around the time of 1912.  Despite being a female she is the one that enforced the tradition.  Often, in large Italian families it is the mother figure that is the head of the house.

My grandmother explained to me that this particular tradition of eating eel every Christmas eve was very important and special to them.  I asked why eel? She explained that on Christmas Eve the Catholic Church does not eat meat, and only fish is eaten.  It is unclear why eel was chosen besides the fact that my great grandmother liked that fish best.  On the morning of Christmas Eve the whole family would go to the fish market together.  They would buy the entire live eel.  At home my great grandmother would begin to prepare it.  First she would slice the eel as if is were a sausage, is round pieces.  Then she would put it in a pan with butter and bake it.  Despite that the eel was the main dish for the night, some other foods that were served were ricotta stuffed ravioli, and fried eggplant.

I asked whether any prayers different from normal everyday grace were said with the eating of the eel and my grandmother responded no.  She said that the day was about the whole family being together the day before the birth of Christ and enjoying a huge feast of foods that during the rest of the year they never ate.

Proverb – Columbia


Mas vale pajaro en mano, que cien valando.


But is worth one bird in hand, then hundred flying.


One bird in your hand is better then having a hundred that you can’t catch because they are flying.

This proverb is used in the Spanish language.  All languages probably have a similar saying that they use to express this idea.  The main message of this proverb is that it is better to have something in your “hands” then to have it up in the air, where you are not sure whether you have it.

This is an interesting idea.  Often people want to be risky and not have anything, knowing that they might be able to get more.  However, this proverb is telling people that you never know which way your life is going to turn, therefore, you should always be safe.  It is better to have caught one bird then not to have caught any, and hope that one might fall from the sky.

This idea can be used in many areas of life, for instance, in gambling, or love.  However, not everyone agrees with this philosophy on life.

Festival – Brazil

In Brazil, the New Years celebration is enormous.  The party to honor the New Year starts before December 31 and ends after January 1.  It is a time to enjoy and commemorate life and make wishes for the New Year.

My friend from school, Isadora told me of the many things her friends and family do for the New Year.  First of all, everyone wears white, white dresses, white pants even white under clothes.  I think that the tradition of wearing white probably represents purity.  For instance, on her wedding day, the bride wears white, to represent her purity in this transition in her life.  By wearing white she can start fresh.  The same is true for the Brazilians.  It is a new year, so they get a fresh start.  They are able to forget any sins that they committed in the last year, therefore, they wear white.

Another thing that the Brazilians wear is a Bracelet called Fitinna do Bomfim.  The bracelets come in all colors, and each color represents something different.  For instance, white represents peace.  The color could represent a hope for the future.  When the Brazilian gets the bracelet they must tie three knots in it.  Then they make a wish, and leave the bracelet on.  When the bracelet falls of, weeks from then, or even months, the wish is suppose to come true.

Another way to make wishes for the future is by going to the beach.  Friends or family will go to the beach together, around the time of midnight.  They have to jump over seven waves, and with each wave they get to make a wish for their future.  Brazil is a Catholic country.  In the catholic religion people are purified by water.  Therefore, the jumping of the waves could be another way of purifying them.

In the end, the New Years celebration for the Brazilians is about purifying themselves so they can have a new start in the New Year.