Author Archives: Erin Lee

Holiday – Korean

Holiday – Korean


Uh ree nee nal

Children’s Day

My mother told me about a Korean holiday called Children’s Day, which is celebrated on May 5th. This is not an official United States holiday, but my family and a few other Korean families I know celebrate this holiday. My mother does not remember who started this holiday or what year this holiday originated from, but she believes that the goal of this holiday is to develop a sense of appreciation for the youth of the nation. Most communities celebrate this day with festivals or parades. She said that when she was a child, they used to play traditional games and go to amusement parks that offered free admission to children. This day is when children are given gifts by their parents, and sometimes by certain stores that they might visit. Some families will put out all of the traditional Korean foods they can get their hands on. My family simply celebrated this holiday by taking the children out on a shopping spree, or the children in the family would receive money from the adults of the family. Since I am an only child with separated parents, I usually received money from both my parents, both of my grandmothers, and most of my aunts and uncles. Unfortunately, once I turned around fifteen, our family stopped celebrating this holiday. I believe this happened because there were quite a few fights in our family, and we generally eventually stopped celebrating holidays together as a family.

It is interesting to note that May 5th marks the beginning of summer, an important mark on the South Korean calendar. This beginning of summer is called Tano. Also, generally, around the month of May is when people all over the world celebrate the birth of new beginnings. For instance, June weddings are said to bring the best luck to couples because it is around this time that is best to have new beginnings. Also, Easter is celebrated in April, which not only celebrates the resurrection of Christ, but also involves the Easter bunny and searching for Easter eggs. The Easter bunny represents fertility, and the searching of eggs represents the search for new life. These holidays are placed between the winter solstice and the summer solstice for the hypothetical “circle of life.” In other words, it is scheduled to be around the equinox. Another example is “May Day,” which is situated along the equinox as well.

Recipe – Peruvian

Peruvian Dish – Ceviche


  • Five to seven catfish
  • Fresh squeezed limejuice
  • Salt
  • Onions
  • Celery


  • Cut fish into small squares
  • Sprinkle lots of salt on the fish
  • Squeeze the limes all over the fish, until everything is completely marinated
  • Leave dish for 30 minutes in order to be completely marinated
  • Cut onions in thin slices, and put it on top of the fish
  • Cut fine cilantro and put it all over the fish with onions and celery
  • Mix the dish
  • Serve to the family

Percy learned this dish from his mother very recently, on one of his biweekly trips back home from college. He said that this dish was a quite popular dish in Latin America, and each family had its own personal way of preparing it. The recipe above has been passed down in his mother’s side of the family for as long as his mother can remember. Percy’s mother is from Lima, Peru, while his father is from Ibano-Franchesik, Ukraine. He admits that his house seems like a hodgepodge of different cultures, but that is what makes him appreciate the intricacies of both cultures even more. He feels blessed to be able to experience the wonders of both the Peruvian culture and the Ukrainian culture. He states that this was the first time he learned a recipe from his mother, and hopes to learn more traditional dishes from her. He said that this dish is typically prepared for special occasions such as birthdays or a family gathering. However, ever since Percy and his identical twin, Yuri, went off to college, his mother had been cooking this for them once or twice a month, every time they visit home. When asked how he feels about this dish, he stated that learning how to make this traditional Peruvian dish instilled in him a desire to learn more about his family roots. He stated that it is very important to know where you come from, especially if you did not grow up in the same country that your parents did. He only visited the Ukraine for one summer, and spent three to four weeks in Peru. Thus, he wishes he could have visited more often in order to be more familiar with both cultures. He also hopes to learn how to speak Spanish and Ukrainian fluently, instead of simply being able to understand a few phrases. His parents speak Ukrainian to each other 70% of the time in the household, but when Percy and his brother are around, they speak mostly in English.

I believe it is imperative for an individual to explore the roots of his family, especially if his parents come from two very different countries. Being an only child, I feel as though it is my responsibility to carry on my family’s widely held traditions to my future generation. Sadly, I do not know how to make any of the traditional Korean dishes that my mother or grandmother makes, but I am more determined to take initiative and strive to learn as many dishes as I can.

Traditional Dance – China

“USC TCDance” – Traditional Chinese Dance:

  • “Water Village”
  • “Dunhuang”
  • “Dance of the Peacock”

Joy spent ten years of her life in Wuhan, China and moved to the United States when she was ten years old. Her mother was from Shanghai, while her father was from Wuhan. Since her father was a highly distinguished professor, they were invited to live in Cedar Falls, Iowa so her father could teach at a local university. Next, she moved to Columbia, South Carolina for middle school (6th – 8th grade). Finally, before attending USC, she resided in Bakersfield, California during her high school years.

Joy stated that there were loads of different tribes in China, which meant there were different types of dances for each of these tribes, whether it be folk dances or classical dances. Of the countless art forms there are in the long history of China, She believes that dance is the most expressive. She has had a passion for dance ever since she was young, but her parents forced her to play piano instead. One day, her friend from high school told her about USC’s Traditional Chinese Dance team and it had sparked her interest. After moving to a dorm in USC, Joy immediately tried out and made this team in the fall semester of her freshman year. She rehearses with the team twice a week on Thursdays from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM and Saturday mornings from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM. She said that the time commitment is somewhat difficult, considering she is in a 6-year pre-pharmacy program at USC called TAAP. However, she believes that it is worth the hard work. She stated that she learned a lot about discipline while being in TCDance, and she also learned about the cultures of other tribes of China. This was particularly important to her because she stated that most Chinese people are part of the Han tribe, so it was originally difficult for her to learn about the numerous other tribes.

This first picture is of a dance entitled “Water Village” from the Dai tribe. It is Joy’s favorite Chinese folkdance. The colors of the dancers’ costumes are blue and white, symbolizing the water motif of the dance. This dance portrays maidens washing their hair, and playing with the water by the river. This dance accentuates the curves of the dancers by incorporating loads of hip and waist movements, which are analogous to the sinuous characteristics of water. This was a variation from a dance originally performed in a Chinese art school that won first place in the dancing competition. The captain of her dance team brought it over to the USC Chinese dance team and modified it.

This is a classical dance entitled “Dunhuang.” The initial picture is supposed to represent the Buddhist goddess “Guaying.” She is most famous for her multiple hands, which is the picture that is trying to be portrayed by the dancers in the initial picture of this second set of pictures. Joy stated that an actual city called “Dunhuang” has loads of gorgeous Buddhist temples. She said that the movements involved very small steps and flowing movements, almost as though they were walking on clouds.  Their dresses were very long and covered their bare feet. The second picture is called “The Lotus Flower” and it is a representation of the goddess “Guaying.” These costumes, including the lustrous headpieces, were all obtained from China by their dance captain, who visits China every summer.

This dance portrayed above is called “Dance of the Peacock.” It is the most famous dance in China, and was made famous by a woman named Yang Li Ping. Joy described this dance as graceful and beautiful. The dancers were told to portray the beauty of a peacock with their bodies.

The USC TCDance team consists of mostly Chinese- Americans but some members are not full Chinese. They perform for organizations such as USC’S Asian Pacific American Student Association (APASA), Chinese American Student Association (CASA), Underground Student Government (USG), the Special Olympics, and several Chinese communities around the USC area. Also, they have their own show each year at Bovard Auditorium. Joy feels as though it is important to carry on with showcasing traditional Chinese folkloric dances because it is a great way for the present generation to connect with the culture of the past. Many Chinese Americans of our generation attend Chinese school to learn things such as calligraphy, but most people go because their parents force them to. She says that Chinese dance is something that genuinely interests her, and the fact that her parents are not forcing her to dance fuels her desire to learn more about her culture on her own. She hopes that this desire will rub off amongst her peers – not only her Chinese friends, but also anyone who is interested in the Chinese culture.

I completely agree with Joy in that dance is a highly effective means of connecting with a particular culture’s past. These dances mentioned above are all very symbolic and graceful. Each of them deals with some form of nature. For instance, the “Water Village” deals with the essential element of water, “Dunhuang” involves a the glorifying of a well known goddess, who associates herself with the lotus flower, and the “Dance of the Peacock” is a visual representation of the beauty of a peacock. This common factor illustrates that the concept of nature is a huge aspect of the Chinese culture. By studying these dances and searching for prevalent themes, such as nature, one can have a stronger understanding of the complex history and culture of China.

Hand Game – New Jersey

East Coast Folklore – Children’s Hand Game

Miss Mary Mack

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack

All dressed in black, black, black.

With silver buttons, buttons, buttons

All down her back, back, back.

She asked her mother, mother, mother

For fifty cents, cents, cents

To see the elephants, elephants, elephants

Jump over the fence, fence, fence.

They jumped so high, high, high

They reached the sky, sky, sky

And they didn’t come back, back, back

‘Til the 4th of July, ly, ly!

Alicia learned this rhyme when she was in elementary school from her group of friends at school when they were playing during lunchtime. Following the melody shown above, she and her friends had matching hand motions to each line of the song. They would repeat the motions for every single line, and the melody would repeat for every line as well. She stated that this rhyme was the most popular one in New Jersey, and that all of her friends knew it. She was quite surprised when I told her that I had never heard of it. Thus, she called it “an east coast thing.” When asked what she thought it meant, she said that she always pictured the rhyme to be describing a circus. She believes that it is interesting to see young kids play such games because it is completely different from what adults would do. She states that elementary school was a time of no worries and blatant joy, and she misses it.

I believe this rhyme clearly illustrates the frivolous minds of children. I also had rhymes like this when I was younger, but I have never heard of this particular one. I agree with Alicia when she says that there were pretty much no worries in elementary school. Children would make up games such as the one above, or hear it somewhere and sing it everywhere. Because children in elementary school are barely learning a language, it is common to find rhymes that make no literal sense, but have words that rhyme quite nicely with each other. Children are a goldmine for folklore for this reason. This children’s tapping rhyme also appears in The Book of Tapping and Clapping by John M. Feirabend.[1] The fact that there’s variation further constitutes this as folklore.

[1] Annotation: Feierabend, John M., comp. The Book of Tapping and Clapping. Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc., 2000. 35.

Children’s Game – Rhode Island

Children’s Game – Rhode Island

“First you gotta get an apple. Then, you like (pause) twist the stem until it breaks off from the apple. Every time you twist the stem, you say a letter of the alphabet. The letter in which the stem breaks off is the first letter of your future spouse’s name. After that, you like (pause) stab the apple with the stem until the stem breaks the skin of the apple. Just like before, each time you stab the apple, you state a letter of the alphabet. The letter in which the skin breaks is the last initial of your future spouse.”

This interview with Catherine was conducted while we were waiting for an annual a appella concert called “SOLtrain” to begin. This concert was hosted by Cal State Northridge’s a cappella group called Aca Sola. She said that she had not played this game in a very long time, so there were quite a few pauses in her description of the game. In addition, the environment we were in was very loud and she was practically screaming while she was telling me about this game. She said that she used to play this game with her friends when she was in middle school in the lunchroom. Most people in her school knew about it. She said that it might be a “Rhode Island or New England thing.” She said it was more of a superstitious game her friends would play every time they were eating apples for lunch. She feels that it was cute back then, but she feels stupid looking back at her times in middle school. Whenever her group of friends would get the initials of someone they actually knew, they would have a great time of laughter and fun. It was a way for her circle of friends to get closer to each other and share in times of jubilance.

It was fascinating for me to hear about this game because I grew up with a similar version. Rather than twisting the stem of an apple, my friends and I would flip back and forth the ring-pull tab of a soda can. Each flip would be equivalent to the first initial of the person you had a crush on. This difference between using a soda can and an apple is particularly interesting because I am from the west coast, while she is from the east coast. Most of my friends from the west coast had also heard about this game using a soda can. The fact that we both played this game during elementary school illustrates that children enjoyed joking around about relationships between men and women.