Author Archives: Allison Avila-Olivares

The Toilet Fountain at UCLA

“I just think that there aren’t a lot of customs at UCLA. Let me think. Okay, got one, So apparently there’s this fountain called the toilet fountain. It’s like…halfway between north and south campus…Wait…you don’t know where that is. It’s called the toilet fountain because it looks like a toilet being flushed. Okay but like as a freshman, you have to touch the water in the fountain once before you start classes as a freshman. Then you have to touch it after you graduate. If you touch it anytime in between, supposedly you won’t graduate. I honestly don’t believe in that. I’ve touched it more than once.”

Context/Analysis: The informant first heard of this ritual when she entered her freshman year of college. During orientation a tour guide, who was a senior at UCLA, told them about the ritual. Then they allowed whoever wanted to, to participate in the ritual. Most did. It is probably the most well-known ritual at the UCLA campus. The informant also informed of some people who touched the fountain before their graduation and actually didn’t graduate. Because of this, she whole-heartedly believes the folk belief and refuses to touch the fountain until she graduates. This ritual is an example of a liminal, in which once you engage in the ritual, you are truly a “bruin” and have agreed to the 4-year college journey.

White is a “Mourning Color”

“In India, we wear white to funerals. White is the color of barren soil. White is the color of dead things, ghost, sand. Infertile things that don’t grow anymore. For us black and red are very good color. Red soil is very iron-enriched because it’s good to grow stuff, and black soil is usually river soil so it’s very fertile. You can grow a lot of stuff in it…So for us red and black aren’t the mourning colors. The mourning color is just white. When people die they don’t turn black, they turn white. White isn’t even a color, it’s just color-less.”

The informant was not told of this custom from another individual, is it just a tradition that she grew up around. Growing up in India, the culture around her emphasized the color white as one of mourning or things without life. When she moved to America, she found it very strange that people wore black to Christian funerals. Black had a completely different meaning to her. This custom is significant to her because it makes more sense to her that white be a color of mourning. To the informant, black is a rich color. It is the color of hair, eyes, and clothing. To the informant, white has no color and symbolizes a blank slate. The point of dressing the deceased in white at an Indian funeral is to provide the soul with a blank slate in the afterlife.






Hindu Weddings: The Fire Ritual

“In Indian weddings, or Hindu weddings actually…because in Indian weddings there are a lot of different Indian people…We do this thing where there’s like a bonfire in the middle, and the couple is supposed to tie their scarves in a knot and walk around the fire seven times…and this symbolizes that the couple will be together for their next seven lifetimes. We believe in soul rebirth.”

Context/Analysis: The informant was not told of this custom from another individual, it is just a tradition that permeated the world around her when she grew up. The same way the western world “grow up” around white dresses for weddings, the informant grew up in India around this wedding custom. It is merely part of the context and culture that she grew up in. This custom is significant to her because she believes it is very romantic and unique. American weddings tend to be very commercialized, but Indian wedding ceremony is very simple and spiritual. There is no legal contract. The act of walking around the fire symbolizes the marriage itself.


How to Eat Poi

Poi is made out of taro. In traditional Hawaiian language, Taro is called Kalo. I feel like it’s fermented taro because it’s really bitter. I hate poi. I cannot eat it without sugar or honey…But anyway, to eat poi, you have to use two fingers and swirl your two fingers twice in the bowl. Using one finger and doing one swirl is disrespectful. Using three fingers and three swirls is seen as greedy.”

Context/Analysis: The informant is Hawaiian, and has eaten poi many times at Luaus. When she was younger, the informant learned of the traditional way to eat poi from her mother at her first Luau. It is significant to her because it is a custom native to her home. Though she does not like Poi, she would still follow the rules on “how to eat poi” out of respect.

This custom is practiced when sharing Poi at a Luau. Food at Luaus is eaten with the hands and shared communally. Because the “right amount” of poi must be enough to not be rude but also not too much to appear greedy, this custom suggests how Luaus are celebrations to share and be generous with friends and family.

Ash-Scattering Ceremonies

“I think a lot of Hawaiians would rather be cremated than buried…Yeah. People would rather have their ashes scattered into the ocean. I think it’s a beautiful ceremony. I want to have my ashes scattered into the ocean. I think it’s the idea of being put back in nature. I guess that’s why people like it?…Anyway, I haven’t been to many, but I know that the main family members are the ones who cry the most. Like most funerals, they say a respectful prayer and scatter the ashes into the ocean. It’s just not really a solemn affair. More like just a goodbye.”

Context/Analysis: This ceremony is significant to the informant because it is part of her national identity. She would like to be cremated and scattered into the ocean just like her past family members. Most of her family members have been through the same ceremony, including her grandfather. She first learned of the ritual at her grandfather’s ash-scattering ceremony when she was younger.

It is compelling that Ash-Scattering ceremonies are not a sad affair. Most western burial traditions are incredibly sad and everyone wears black. People at ash scatterings don’t typically wear black. IN fact, it is a custom to just wear formal Hawaiian floral wear. Ultimately, it is a compelling tradition because it suggests that this tradition is more of a celebration of the life instead of a point of termination for the person.