Author Archives: Delaney Sylvester

New Year’s Day Sauerkraut

Text: “On New Year’s day my family eats sauerkraut for good luck. It’s a German thing. We have smoked sausage and mashed potatoes with it. We’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and my mom did it as a kid as well. We do it for good luck. To start the year off right.” 

Context: The informant grew up in Ohio and his parents did as well. His mom is part German, and passed on some of her German traditions to her kids. His mom grew up in Hamilton, Ohio where there is a portion of town called “Germantown” because a lot of German immigrants settled there. The German tradition is thought to bring about good luck and was brought to his Midwest my immigrants.

Analysis: For many people, the new year is an opportunity to make changes, set positive intentions, and start over, in a sense. And so, many rituals often surround the idea of prosperity and good fortune—This tradition does just that. Sauerkraut is believed to have certain healing properties including improved liver function, removal of bacteria and parasite, and is even thought to prohibit the growth of cancer. And so, I believe that the tradition of eating sauerkraut in the new year is done so in hopes of bringing good health and good luck in the new year.

Thankful on Thanksgiving

Text: “For Thanksgiving, my family always celebrates the day before Thanksgiving and we sit at the table and go around saying what we’re thankful for. We’ve been doing that every year for as long as I can remember. And since we celebrate the day before, on actual Thanksgiving, we reflect on those things and it sets the tone for the day.”

Context: The informant grew up in Las Vegas, NV. Her parents are divorced, and so she grew up celebrating with one side the day before Thanksgiving, and the other side the next day. However, the sharing tradition is only on her dad’s side of the family.

Analysis: I believe that this tradition was implemented by the informant’s father’s side as a way of drawing attention away from the fact that her entire family doesn’t celebrate all together, like they may have in the past. I believe that it was a method put in place by her parent figures to bring positivity and gratitude to a situation that may have been less than ideal for a younger child. I also think it is a way of practicing mindfulness and communication with important people in your life meant to encourage similar discussion at other times. 

New Year’s Black Eyed Peas

Text: “My family is very superstitious and every year on New Year’s Day, we make Texas Caviar which is a dish made up of black eyed peas, black beans, corn, jalenpeños, onion, avocado and a vinaigrette dressing. Everyone who comes over to our house to celebrate the New Year absolutely has to have a bite of Texas Caviar to ensure they’ll have good luck for the whole year. The black eyed peas are what specifically create this good luck. I remember when I was younger, I didn’t really like beans and hated being forced to eat them but my family would always force me.”

Context: The informant grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and her mom is from there too. Her dad is from New Jersey. They have been partaking in this tradition for as long as she can remember. Her mom’s side of the family partook in the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day before her family did, but they ate them straight out of the can rather than in Cowboy Caviar.

The tradition of black eyed peas goes back to the Civil War, when eating black eyed peas was considered a privilege and lucky. They are supposed to symbolize luck and prosperity, and the informant’s family views them as such still. 

Analysis: The new year is a particularly superstitious time for many people and I believe it is because it is the start of a new cycle. People often see it as a reset, a chance for change, and a new beginning. Because of this, the first day of the new year can be extremely important, as it may set the tone, or the outcome of the rest of the year to follow. So, I believe that in partaking in this tradition, it is the informant and the informant’s families hope that the new year is prosperous and brings good luck.

Opening Christmas Presents Christmas Eve — Hispanic Tradition

Text: “We open our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. It’s a hispanic thing. I don’t know why we do it that way, I just know, like, every Hispanic person does that. We’ve always done that—We do Christmas even with my closer extended family. When I was little we would open them at midnight, but now we do it at 7 or 8 pm.” 

Context: The informant was born and raised in Chino Hills, CA, but her mom is from Bolivia and her dad’s family is Cuban/Columbian, though he was born and raised in America. Her Hispanic roots are strong on both sides and she grew up partaking in a lot of Hispanic traditions, one of which being opening Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve rather Christmas Day. Spanish was her first language, and her parents are still very connected to their Spanish roots as well. The informant grew up in the Christian church.  

Analysis: Given that when Spaniards came to America, they brought with them Catholicism and Catholic practices, this tradition makes a lot of sense. I believe that because Catholic people see December 25 as Jesus’ birthday, it’s only natural the festivities would begin around midnight in celebration. Religion has long been very important and influential in Spanish culture. I believe that this is why the tradition is still carried on, and why it is so deeply a Hispanic tradition.  


Text: “Macbeth!”

Context: The informant is from Las Vegas, NV and learned about the legend of Macbeth (and how you are NOT supposed to say Macbeth in a theater) when she played the titular character “Macbeth” in her 5th grade production (Alexander Dawson Elementary School). She was told by her teacher as a warning. She states “It is bad luck to say Macbeth in a theater and your show will be cursed with bad luck if you do. I don’t know the reason why, but I know that you aren’t supposed to say it.” She believes that “Macbeth is such a powerful character and so people associate it with his power” and that’s why they don’t say it in theaters.

Analysis: In the past, different productions of Macbeth have been “cursed” — There have been several accounts of real violence and death occurring during various productions of the Scottish Play. Most commonly known is a production where a real dagger was brought on stage and used to kill an actor, on stage, in front of a real audience. Since then, it is considered “bad luck” to say Macbeth in a theater when you are not performing the show itself. And, as actors tend to be very superstitious, avoiding the name “Macbeth” is a common practice in theaters still. If someone does accidentally say it, they are supposed to go outside the theater, spin in a circle three times, and say a foul word to “undo” the curse. I believe that this is also used as a way for performers to justify having a “good” or “bad” performance—they can place the blame on something other than their own abilities.