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.


After my younger sister and I were born, my mother wanted to know how tall we were going to be as adults.  My family is rather short so she was worried that we would have the same fate and not be very tall.  Her cousin was supposedly able to predict the adult height of a child.  All he needed to know was their length at a particular age, which was 5 months for girls and 8 months for boys.  My mother gave him all the information that he needed.  From his predictions he concluded that I was to be five foot three inches as and adult, and my sister was going to be five foot one inch as an adult.  These estimates were extremely accurate.  I am now five foot three and one half inches tall at age 18.  My sister is only fifteen and she is five feet.  She will most likely grow that extra inch that he predicted.

Not only did my mom’s cousin have these beliefs and make these types of predictions about children after they were born, but also during the prenatal stages.  He predicted that my mother was going to have a girl both times she was pregnant.  When my mother was pregnant, according to her cousin she was caring the baby weight in the front, verses in the legs, hips, and bottom.  If the mother is carrying the baby weight in the front is means that she will have baby girls.  Conversely, if the mother has gained her baby weight in the legs, hips, and bottom, she will have a baby boy.

We will never know if my mother’s cousin’s tricks and beliefs in knowing the adult height of a baby, and the gender of the fetus really work or if it was just a lucky guess.  However, my mom will swear by his words till this day.

Contemporary Legend – Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

My mother went to Purdue University for her Bachelors degree.  My father went to Notre Dame and I am attending the University of Southern California.  There is a lot of fighting in my family about who is the best team.  One day we got into the discussion of our mascots.  By far my mom, a boilermaker, has the most unique mascot.  She began to explain the legend behind how they got their name.  She described it as the “Purdue lore” that everyone knew.

A long time ago when Purdue was just getting started, they did not have a name to call themselves.  When Purdue was playing a game against Wabash collage in 1889 in Crawfordsville all the local newspapers were there reporting.  She said there were so many reporters there that they made up for the lack of turnout of fans.  Purdue won the game by an astounding 18 to 4, “Of course we won” my mom added.  The papers started to write about the game.  They called the players of Purdue big burly brutes, and hulking men.

But then two years later Purdue played Wabash Collage again.  This time they won 44 to 0.  Even more reporters were there this time.  Even more fuss was made about how big Purdue’s men were.  They called the Purdue players “a burly gang of haymakers, cornhuskers, log haulers” and finally boilermakers.  The school decided they liked being called the boilermakers, and the name has stuck until present time.

My mother is still very proud of her school and her team the boilermakers.  The first time she told me they were called the boilermakers, she laughed.  The name is not very scary, not very intimidating, and kind of embarrassing, but she will always be a boilermaker.

March 2007

Contemporary Legend

When I just turned sixteen and everyone was getting their new cars they all wanted to experiment with this legend.  We had all heard about it and wondered if it was true.

The story was that there was a hill.  You had to drive quite a long way to get to this hill.  Usually, it was close to a cemetery.  All the people in the car would park their car facing up the hill and then put the car in neutral.  They would get out of the car and wait for what would happen.  Supposedly, the car would begin to move UP the hill by itself.  Allegedly, it was the ghosts from the cemetery that pushed the car up the hill.

I have heard this story in many places.  For instance, in Chicago, California and even in Connecticut, where my cousins live.  It seems as though all the teenagers of this age seem to have this same story and belief.  However, younger children and adults are not usually familiar with this peculiar event, of the car moving up the hill.

Probably the reason why this legend developed was because the teenagers are just beginning to drive.  They are all a little scared of this huge responsibility that driving entails, especially what can happen to them at night while driving.  Therefore, this story reminds them that they need to be in control of their driving in order to feel comfortable and for nothing bad to happen.

Contemporary Legend – Hoofbeat Ridge Camp, Mazomanie, Wisconsin

When I was younger I would go to a sleep-away camp called, Hoofbeat Ridge.  The camp was about horses; we rode them, cared for them, and learned about them.  However, within the first day of arriving at camp I learned of Goliath.

On the first day of camp, the counselors and the owners took all the kids up to the barn, which was high on a hill.  They sat us down on the dusty benches.  Behind them were tons of horse bits.  Horse bits are the medal contraptions that are connected to the horse’s bridle in order to control them.  At first, they started by explaining the different types of bits; “this is a Snaffle, this is a D-ring”.  Then they pulled out the largest bit I have ever seen.  It was easily three times the size of all the other bits.  All of us children gasped in surprise.  Even the people who were familiar with horses had never seen anything like it.  Then they told us the story.

“Years ago when the camp first started, there was this young adventurous girl.  She was not scared of anything.  One day she was taking out Goliath to ride him in the fields.  She saddled him up, and put on his huge bridle.  The girl mounted him and rode off into the forests and meadows. Something excited Goliath in the forest.  He bucked the girl of and started running as fast as he could.  The poor girl returned to camp later that day without her horse.  She was all scratched up and crying.  She explained to the owner what had happed.  Then all the counselors got on their horses and began to look for Goliath.  He was no where to be found.  All they found were his bridle under some bushes.  To this day Goliath, the enormous horse, has never been found.  However, it is said that he still roams the forests on the outskirts of the camp.  Many people have claimed to have seen this giant creature in the distance, still wearing his saddle.”

I heard this story was I was in camp and so did my sister many years later when she went to the same camp.  I had forgotten parts of the myth because it has been so many years, but my younger sister did not fail to remember anything. She gave me all the details.  Obviously this story was meant to leave an impression on all the campers.

This myth was probably invented by the owners of the camp to prevent the children from going into the forests that surrounded the camp.  It was very easy to get lost in those forests and extremely dangerous to ride horses in them.   The forests where full of fallen trees, and poison ivy.  Therefore, this story was probably created to scare the children, and from experience it definitely worked!

Proverb – India

  • “Ud Jag Musafeer bhor bhai ab rain kaha jo sovat he Jab chidia chug gai khet tub pachtowe kaia horat hai”
  • Get up early so that you don’t waste your time sleeping because then the sparrows will get to your crops before you do.

My good friend from when I lived in Illinois is very religious and involved with the Hindu community.  Both of her parents grew up in India and later moved to the United States.  She told me of this proverb that her parents often say to her.  The proverb is telling people that sleeping is a waste of time.  There is a lot of work to be done, and if the work is not finished it will be ruined.

It is well known that the Indian community has very high expectations for there children.  The immigrant parents who made something of themselves, and are now able to send their children to good schools, expect that their children succeed as well.  The children are expected to me doctors, lawyers or engineers.  The entire time that I was friends with Ridhi, her parents were very strict.  She always had to do extremely well in school; and A minus was not good enough for her parents.  After school she played lots of sports and in each sport she was required to succeed.

Therefore, it is clear why Ridhi heard this proverb many times from her parents when she was lazy and did not want to get out of bed, or wanted to watch TV all day.  Her parents had faced prejudices in their early experiences of getting jobs, so they felt their children would have the same difficulties.  In other words, if their children did not get the job done, it would be filled by someone else, the sparrows.  It is important to notice that in the proverb the sparrow is chosen.  The sparrow is not an intellectual or well liked bird, it is a pest.  Therefore, the proverb notes that the job will be done by someone else, but moreover, someone less qualified.

In conclusion, this is a proverb that every person she hear.  It is very true.  Success does not come to people who “sleep in”, it comes to those who work for it and earn it.