“My dad believed it was bad luck to leave a hat on the bed. He thought it would bring death to the family.”
Background: The informant’s father, who comes from Western Pennsylvania, told her this superstition when she was a child and would always remind her, when she did leave a hat on the bed, to put the hat elsewhere. She believes it has something to do with hat pins that people used to use to keep hats on their heads. So if they were to put a hat on a bed with the hat pins still on and then accidentally laid on it, it would cause harm. The informant says that she still practices this in her own household.
Analysis: This superstition could have many different origin points for many different reasons. Hat pins are likely because laying down on one may lead to harm. Though there are a multitude of reasons for this superstition. There are beliefs that evil spirits spill from the hat when placed on a bed leading to your misfortune. A more common and far less superstitious reason for not placing a hat on the bed is the possibility of transferring lice to or from your bed. That being said, there are many superstitions that are passed down from previous generations that many don’t have a reason to believe in, but still choose to practice and pass down to their children. Many superstitions these days don’t have long explanations and we still follow them out of tradition and out of habit, whether we believe in the negative or positive result of the superstitions.
“They have Las Posadas during Christmas which is like a…., not a parade, but it’s kind of like a parade, it’s like a procession. And basically they have actors play the virgin Mary, Joseph, and then they reenact the whole birth of Christ and stuff like that. It’s like about nine days before Christmas and lasts until Christmas eve. It’s like a whole set of holidays.”
Background: The informant has not attended the Las Posadas procession herself as it primarily takes place in Mexico and other Latin American countries. She says at some point her and her family were planning on going but unfortunately were not able to.
Analysis: Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, is the dominant religion in Latin America because of Spaniard colonization so Los Posadas is celebrated throughout Latin America. Latin American immigrants have since brought this tradition to the United States and it’s now also practiced by Latin American people in the United States. It’s common to find people who practice Christianity, mainly Catholicism as it is the most dominant branch of Christianity, recreating the events that lead to the birth of baby Jesus. The importance of the event can also be seen in the use of nativity sets that many Christian households have and display during Christmas time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
“We’re not allowed to walk around barefoot in the house because you’ll supposedly get sick, there’s another thing we do where when you’re on your period your not supposed to drink cold water, after you have something that scares you, you’re not supposed to drink water, your supposed to eat a piece of bread or something, or when a kid gets hurt they’ll like sing “sana, sana, sana, colita de rana” which I think translates to “heal, heal, heal, frogs tail” but I’m not too sure.”
Background: The informant is from a latina household and says that she heard all these things from her mother when she was younger. She says that many of the practices were to prevent her from getting sick and her parents never explained the background of the superstitions, so she doesn’t know why her parents believed in such superstitions.
Analysis: While the informant comes from a Latina household, some of the superstitions also align with superstitions from other cultures. Walking barefoot in the house is a very common superstition in households, most of the time believing it will result in the person catching a cold or getting sick. Drinking cold water is also believed to not be good for a person’s health by many people. So pinpointing the origins of these superstitions is highly unlikely.
However, the “sana, sana, sana, colita de rana” saying does come from Spanish speaking cultures. Its English translation doesn’t make much sense, but it is used by many Hispanic and Latino families. The purpose of this saying does not have any magical elements to it and is solely used to console children who have been hurt.
“There’s like a monster called El Cucuy, kinda like the boogeyman, it’s meant to scare children. Basically if you misbehaved El Cucuy would like to come and get you.”
Background: The informant’s parents never used it to scare her as a child, she would sometimes hear it from family members at parties or at dinners. She says it was used more in a joking manner in her family, rather than as a tactic to keep the kids in line.
Analysis: The El Cucuy is mainly viewed as a Spanish myth or legend but it can also be viewed as a superstition as it is able to mysteriously hide under the beds of misbehaving children. El Cucuy is often equated with the Western idea of the boogeyman and has many different variations such as Coco, Coca, Cuca, or Cucuí. Many cultures often have a boogeyman in order to prevent children from misbehaving, though most families don’t take it seriously in today’s society, often using it in a joking manner so as to not completely terrify children.
“Once there was a teeny tiny lady and she lived in a teeny tiny house outside a teeny tiny village and she lived with her teeny tiny dog and her teeny tiny cat. One day the teeny tiny lady decided to go to the teeny tiny village to market. On her way home she saw a teeny tiny bone in a teeny tiny field, so she picked up the teeny tiny bone and took it to her teeny tiny house. When she got home she made herself a teeny tiny supper and she sat down to eat it. She heard a noise from her teeny tiny cupboard, very quiet, barely a whisper, ‘give me my bone.’ She shook her head and didn’t pay it much attention and she finished eating her teeny tiny supper. Then she went to her teeny tiny bed and she went to sleep. When she was laying in her teeny tiny bed the teeny tiny lady heard a teeny tiny voice from her teeny tiny cupboard saying, ‘where’s my bone?’ The teeny tiny lady was afraid so she pulled up the teeny tiny blanket to her teeny tiny face. A little bit while later she heard the voice a little bit louder, ‘Where’s my bone?’ The teeny tiny lady covered her head with the blanket and she pushed herself all the way down into her teeny tiny bed. And then she laid there for a while, and then she heard very loudly coming from the cupboard, ‘I want my bone!’ Then the teeny tiny lady stuck her head out of the blanket and she said, ‘You can have it! Take it!’ And she covered her head back up and crouched down into her bed. In the morning she got up and she went to the cupboard and she opened the cupboard and the teeny tiny bone was gone.”
The informant first heard this tale as a child during the 1960s from either her father or uncle, because it was so long ago she can’t remember which. She says that her family enjoyed listening to a show called “Fractured Fairy Tales” one of these tales being “Old Mother Hubbard”,
“Old mother Hubbard, she went to the cupboard, to get her poor dog a bone, and when she got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor dog had none.”
She says that she used to ask questions about the fairytales they heard. The tale was an explanation for why there was no bone in the cupboard because, why would she check the cupboard if she knew there was no bone? She clearly thought there was a bone in the cupboard?
This tale is used to explain why Mother Hubbard went to check the cupboard and gives context as to why she would think there was a bone in the cupboard for her dog. The use of a tale to explain and give context to another tale is very interesting as one could consider it a sequel, or in this case a prequel. Which shows that tales giving context to folklore are also considered folklore. Of course, the tale itself can be told separately from “Old Mother Hubbard” and be used as a scary story to prevent children from picking things up from the side of the road or taking something that does not belong to them.