Author Archives: Chandler Zausner

Flying a Kite on Easter

 

 

Nationality: Jamaican

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

Age: 33

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 15, 2017 (Skype)

 

Garfield is a 33 year old man, born and raised in Ochos Rios, Jamaica who is a loss control manager for a large clothing store in New York City. He immigrated to the United States 6 years ago.

 

 

Interviewer: Good Evening. Do you have a family story about when you lived in Jamaica and celebrated the holiday of Easter?

 

Informant: So I was saying like today is Easter Saturday you most people are out on the play field fields, flying kites, you know. They play crickets and sometimes we have kiteflying competitions you know. Whose kites look the best the designs, or um whose is the biggest, like the biggest kites, there is a competition for that also. And um a lot of bun and cheese. Jamaicans love bun and cheese for Easter you know. A lot of homes bake pudding. Jamaicans also love pudding for Easter you know. They don’t do a lot cooking like from Good Friday. They put away the cooking and they bake from like Thursday or so to celebrate Good Friday.  And then, today is Easter Saturday everybody has a kite, from the oldest to the youngest. When they fly kites, yes um. Some kids play marbles, but most focus on their kites today. Yes very nice. Very nice.

 

Interviewer:  When you came to the Unites States did you carry on any of the traditions here?

 

Informant: No not really. Because.. ah.. I don’t see much place here. I don’t see them following the traditions here. I don’t see kites in the sky. So even if they have kites here they are ready made. Like I see some of the tree things tree tree thing looks like something from China. We make our kites from bamboo, Jamaican bamboo. Then we shave it and buy bags of colored paper and we design the kites you know. Everything is just different and there love for Easter is more you can feel a different energy really in Jamaica. You know here people having Palm Sunday that stuff like that. They go to Church but they don’t have the vibe when we celebrate Easter in Jamaica.

 

Interviewer: What is the significance of Kite Flying on Easter in Jamaica?

 

Informant: Well you know it is all about Jesus on Easter, When we put the kite in the sky you know it is about the rise of Jesus to heaven. Yes that is what it is.

 

Thoughts about the piece:

Family traditions and memories can be very emotional. I sense from the Informant that there is a great void not able to celebrate Easter in Jamaica with family and friends. I was struck by his observations about the “vibe” being so different in the US. Even though there is a significant Jamaican / Caribbean diaspora in New York, that doesn’t duplicate experiences in Jamaica. Other Caribbean Islanders also fly kites for Easter: https://www.thecaribbeancurrent.com/some-easter-traditions-in-the-caribbean/

 

Getting My Ears Pulled When Speaking of The Dead

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (telephonically)

 

Alan is a 62- year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.

 

Interviewer: Good Morning. You mentioned that you experienced your mother’s family superstition first hand when you were a youngster. Can you explain it?

 

Informant: Sure. My mother would always pull my ears and those of my sister, when we were very young, when she heard that either a relative or person she knew had just died.

 

Interviewer:  Was there a reason why she did this?

 

Informant: She never spoke directly about this, but my mother was a superstitious individual when it came to the evil eye. I have to assume that this had something to do with that. For instance, she would always dress my sister and me in red if we were visiting someone who she felt possessed an evil eye. I remember one time when she just stood in front of this particular person and walking backward pushed my sister and me out of the room. I was young and didn’t really think anything about it.

 

As I got older I began to realize that the pulling of our ears when she spoke about the dead was a part of her superstitious beliefs. I never observed this behavior with her sisters and brothers (my aunts and uncles). Her mother and father (my grandparents) were both dead before I was born so I never saw if it was somehow connected this action to them. However, knowing my mother, she might have come up with this crazy superstition all on her own.

 

Interviewer: Does She Still Do This?

 

Informant: No. The last time I remember her tugging at my ears was when my Great Uncle Joe had passed away when I was 13. We were driving to a supermarket and my father asked my Mother when was Joe’s funeral. As he did she reached around from the front car seat and managed to grab my left ear, but I twisted and prevented her from getting my right one. From that day forward, she never tugged my ears again!”

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Superstitious gestures like this one become ingrained even if connection to meaning is lost. http://www.imamother.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=172695

For other Jewish superstitious customs see: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/popular-superstitions/

 

 

 

A Catholic Tradition Honoring My Mother

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish

Age: 20

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Mike is a 20 year old man, born and raised in New York, who is a mobile phone salesman in New York City. He is a high school graduate whose family is of Puerto Rican Heritage.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. You mentioned that you follow a tradition your Mom taught you. Could you explain please?

 

Informant: “Ya it is like I am Catholic you know you know and we really go by this Catholic thing like every time I do the cross. Every time I pass a Church, I do the cross. And I feel if I didn’t do the cross that I would feel different.”

 

Interviewer: You mentioned you would feel different, why?

 

Informant: “Like this was a thing, you know the do the cross, that I use to ah see my Mom do every time, you know, we were passing a Church. Like it ah didn’t matter if youse was on a bus or a car or like just walking down a street, um she would always cross herself.  Then… then I was, you know older then a little kid, ah every time she crossed herself you know and if I was wit her, she would stare at me if I didn’t cross myself.  So I guess, like um I would um feel different like I wuz disrespecting my Mother, you know.  So like , I am a Momma’s boy, she is very close. And um I don’t want to, you know give her anything that wouldn’t be very respectful. Does that make sense to you?”

 

Interviewer:  Yes it does. It is a very nice thing to do. Do you do the sign of the cross even when she is not with you?

 

Informant: “Of course, it’s like so deep in my bones and mind that it is like ya I am like a robot! When I see the church, like I have to stop and do my cross, you know.  It is so beautiful cause I see my Mom smiling a lot every time ah um I do that.”

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Devoted Catholics worldwide have been making the “sign of the cross” since the 400s: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-origin-of-the-sign-of-the-cross/

Here is a demonstration of how to do this movement prayer properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpRzqXG1dhc

 

 

 

 

Polish Easter Basket Blessing

Nationality: Polish

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Polish

Age: 28

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 15, 2017 (Skype)

 

Christopher is a 28 year old man, born and raised in Warsaw, Poland and who emigrated with his family to the United States when he was 8 years old.  He is a College Graduate with a degree in Political Science. He is currently employed as a doorman in an apartment building in Queens, New York.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. Does today being Holy Saturday bring back any memories of how you celebrated Easter in Poland?

 

Informant: So on Holy Saturday we would wake up very early and we would make um an Easter Basket with the family. Usually the youngest in the family will make the basket and in the basket you would put in a boiled egg, a piece of bread so ah a piece of Kielbasa little items like that. And that Saturday Morning, you and the family would head to Church and the Easter Basket would be blessed by a Priest. You would not be allowed to eat meat until that Easter Basket is blessed. Once the basket is blessed the whole family can enjoy meat on that Saturday. And that is the Polish Tradition of Easter on Holly Saturday.

 

Interviewer: Do you have any special remembrances when you celebrated in Poland as a young child then when you immigrated to the United States?

 

Informant: Oh my best memory is just how people would dress up and take the holiday very seriously. It was a very big, big holiday in Poland growing up.

 

Interviewer: Were there any changes when you got to the United States and the way the Polish Community celebrated Easter as opposed to in Poland?

 

Informant: Well in Poland they would held a big mass and this would take two hours to do. Everyone would get together with the Easter Eggs and baskets and getting blessed.  Over here in America I noticed it is a quick five minute process. You enter the church, you see the priest, then you are right out the door.

 

Interviewer: Now, as you live in America and people are less devoted to faith then in Poland, does the holiday take on another significance beyond religious?

 

Informant: For me personally this is ah about family, it keeps the family together. This tradition keeps the family together. It is about tradition.  Without tradition we start to lose family. As I said, we all get together for dinner, we see each so it is just a great way to catch up with family you haven’t seen in a quite a while.

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Polish immigrants that want to continue or revive this tradition of “swieconka” in the US, can find a list of church services and traditional basket ingredients on sites like this: http://www.cleveland.com/cooking/index.ssf/2014/04/easter_basket_blessings_of_foo.html Symbolism of basket ingredients is explained here; http://luzdelmes.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-traditional-polish-easter-basket.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Breaking of the Glass

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (Skype)

 

Alan is a 62 year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.

 

Interviewer: Good Evening. When I asked you about Jewish Wedding Traditions, you told me about your personal experiences with that of Breaking of the Glass. Can you explain further.

 

Informant: I would be very happy to do this. I remember when I was eight years old at my Uncle Jerrys wedding that I was the ring boy.  It was a traditional Jewish Wedding and Uncle Jerry and his bride stood under a tent called a Chuppah. I later learned about what the meaning was. I am not going to get into ah here…you can read all about it online.  It is well documented. So anyway, getting back to the breaking of the glass.  So when my job as ring boy was over, the ceremony was ending and then um, Uncle Jerry stomped on this white cloth on the floor and then I heard this sound which sounded, um like glass breaking. Then all the crowd of people at the wedding shouted. At the time I didn’t know what they shouted, however I would latter learn it was Mazel Tov, um which, I mean is a Jewish word for good luck.  At that moment I was so taken by how happy the people were and I thought the glass breaking caused everyone to become so happy.  I remember when everyone left where the wedding ceremony took place I went and very carefully to pick the white cloth up containing the glass. I remember carrying this cloth with the glass like it was the most valuable thing I ever held.  Anyway after everyone ate, I found Uncle Jerry and his new bride Audrey, who later divorced, and I presented the glass in the cloth.  They asked me what this was and as typical eight year said don’t you remember it is the glass you broke and then everyone cheered.  I um then told them that I thought you might want to keep the glass to remind you of the happy times. They looked puzzled and then laughed and took the glass and went on talking to other guests. Upon later learning of their divorce many years later and um speaking to Uncle Jerry I mentioned that the glass didn’t bring them any happy memories. He looked at me like he didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about.

 

As I got older I learned and understood more about Judaism I learned about the meaning of the glass breaking was all about.  There are a lot of interpretations about this, but one fact which is agreed that it commemorates uh the destruction and, sorry, destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Of course all the sorrows that brought but also remember for the wedding aspect of this tradition that you know that there will be good and happy times. Other sects of Judaism have other beliefs as well and it is open to many different um shall we say schools of thoughts. Such as the couple comes together by the smashing of the separate bonds or another is the reuniting of the two souls as ah lifelong mates.  I always felt that it was a beautiful thing in that it announces to the world the couple’s union as husband and wife and announces the journey in life as one united. I am very sorry I am going on and on.

 

Interviewer:  No that’s OK. This is a great story, please.

 

Informant: OK then. Glad you are still interested. So oh where, oh let me see, yes, so I liked this tradition so much that at every Jewish Wedding that I attended that I would collect the glass, this time being smarted about things and carry a plastic zip lock bag, so to keep everything intact. Then I would present it to the couple afterwards and explain what I told you before and all the time the couple was thrilled to have it.  I vowed that when I got married that I would save my glass and if I could turn it into something which could be displayed.

 

Interviewer: What does this piece mean to you?

 

Informant: While this meaning of the tradition of the glass breaking has multiple other meanings other than the one everyone agrees about the destruction of the temple, the meaning for me always holds great optimism about a couple coming together to hopefully live a joyous and loving life together.

 

Thoughts about the piece:

A surprising number of manufacturers create vessels for this ceremony of destruction, similar to inexpensive plates sold to be broken at Greek weddings. Another Jewish fable about remembrance; two souls reunited as one, at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/542288/jewish/Why-Break-a-Glass-at-a-Wedding.htm?gclid=CJyfvcSzpNMCFUSBswody4QOww

Some other Jewish wedding day traditions at: https://www.theknot.com/content/jewish-wedding-ceremony-rituals