Author Archives: estpierr

The Frozen Fruit Cake

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 27th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Informant describing a tradition from the theater at his high school:

“At my high school during the fall play, there was this tradition of giving a frozen fruit cake to the favorite freshman by the senior class. The freshman was someone who was like really funny or helped out a lot or did stuff like that. Then that freshman would hold onto it until they were a senior and then gift it to a freshman and the pattern would continue over and over every year”

Background:

The informant went to a public high school in New Jersey with an active theater department. 

Context:

The fruit cake was gifted after closing night of the play each year. The informant told me about this when discussing traditions in his high school theater department. 

Thoughts:

This tradition mirrors a lot of experiences in an American high school. A lot of importance is put on certain things that in any other sense would not mean anything. This fruit cake is a symbol of honor and importance given by a senior, the most powerful type of person in the eyes of a high school freshman. Outside of high school, the senior/freshman dynamic does not mean anything. The continuation of fruit cakes being given and kept until senior year keeps the theater department connected year after year. It creates value and connection through a frozen dessert that otherwise would not hold weight.

The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 3rd
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

This is a transcription of the informant explaining the Philly Cheesesteak Challenge. 

So basically it’s this tradition that you do during your second semester of your senior year of high school, it’s mostly people in the DMV you know D.C, Maryland, Virginia. The point of the challenge is you’ll meet up with friends at school at just a regular school day after you’ve gotten into college and your attendance doesn’t really matter any more. And you guys like get in the car together and then when the first bell rings of the school day you leave your school and you guys drive to phil and get a cheesesteak and take a picture of you doing it and document the whole journey, like vlog it or whatever and get a picture of you doing it. And then you have to drive back to your school with the cheesesteak before the last bell rings and have the evidence. It’s for bragging rights to give you something fun and stupid to do before college.” 

Background:

The informant went to a large public high school in Northern Virginia. This challenge was something he looked forward to starting as a freshman. 

Context:

The informant described this to me when we were comparing high school traditions and experiences. 

Thoughts:

The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge encapsulates a lot of common patterns that occur during liminal moments in people’s lives. The Challenge itself is inherently funny, there is no real prize, just an arbitrary goal to complete before graduation. It gives students a sense of responsibility and freedom before they are actually out in the real world. In the late spring of the year, seniors teeter between students and graduates. The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge allows them to break the rules and be “adults” or graduates for the day to then return to the school setting they have known for the past 12 years of their life. It also allows for friends to accomplish a goal together before they all part and go their separate ways, making the Challenge feel even more important.

Lemonade, Crunchy Ice

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 20th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant recited a rhyme that she remembered from elementary school. 

“Lemonade (clap, clap, clap)

Crunchy ice (clap, clap, clap)

Sip it once (clap, clap, clap)

Sip it twice (clap, clap, clap)

Lemonade, crunchy ice, sip it, once sip it twice

Turn around, touch the ground

Freeze”

The informant explained after one girl said freeze you lost by being the first person to move, so the girls would stay frozen for as long as they could.

Background:

The informant explained that there were many rhymes that she and her classmates would turn into games. Having these rhymes memorized was seen as being really cool or made you more popular, according to the informant. This occurred at a public, co-ed elementary school in a suburb of the midwestern United States.

Context:

This game would be played between two girls. The informant explained they would normally play when they were waiting in line between classes or after recess to pass the time.

Thoughts:

Rhyming games like this one exist in many iterations all over globe but the emphasis on lemonade and ice in this rhyme seems particularly American. It also evolves into a competition by the end to make the game carry on beyond the words. School girls can use these rhymes to develop friendships and bond with one another. It creates a small community of girls that can all join in on something similar and play with one another in an organized fashion. This form of folklore holds significance in childhood and also evokes nostalgia for adults. The informant explaining this to me was an adult but recalled this rhyme with ease.


Christmas Chimney

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 20th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

This is the transcription of an interview I had with the informant about her Christmas traditions. 

“So my dad’s grandma, my great-grandma, she made us this chimney. Like out of wood. And we put it on the dining room table on Christmas Eve. My mom is always in charge of it. And she puts tiny gifts like pencils or a piece of candy in the thing, like in the chimney. Then there’s a ribbon that’s attached to each gift that has a name of a family member on it. There’s one for each of us. And then after Christmas Eve Mass we come back and have dinner and stuff and after dinner we get to pull the string with our name. So it’s like the first gift of Christmas”

Background:

The informant comes from a very tight-knit family. She grew up near all her extended family. Her great-grandmother is of Eastern European descent. 

Context:

I was talking to the informant about traditions that make her think of family and this was one of the first she told me.

Thoughts:

The holidays produce a lot of traditions and customs important to families. This “first gift” of Christmas often mirrors what is discussed during Christmas Mass from the gift of Jesus’s birth to the gifts the Wise Men bring to the child. This provides a small tradition the family can do to physically celebrate the holiday in a way that combines the Santa ideas of Christmas as well as the biblical meaning.

Pork and Sauerkraut and Birthday Wishes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 53
Occupation: Teacher
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

This is a transcription of the informant’s New Year’s Day tradition.

“Every New Year’s Day we always go over to my brother’s house with all the extended family, cousins, aunts, uncles, everyone. He is a really good cook and makes a giant roast pork and sauerkraut meal that we have been doing since we were little. Then New Year’s Day was my mom’s birthday so we’d cut her the first piece and then she’d put a candle in it for her birthday. It was like a fake little pre-birthday celebration with the whole family. She passed away many years ago but we still light the candle and do the whole thing but instead of a birthday wish it’s a wish for the new year for everyone. It’s sweet I think.”

Background:

The informant is from a large German-American family. 

Context:

The informant described this to me when I inquired about her family’s traditions around the holidays. 

Thoughts:

Pork and Sauerkraut is a very common New Year’s food, especially for those of German heritage. The combination of a birthday wish and luck for the new year appears to go hand in hand. There are certain theories as to why pork is associated with luck for the new year, “In Europe hundreds of years ago, wild boars were caught in the forests and killed on the first day of the year. Also, a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in the forward direction” (Sherrow 28). The symbolism of a pig digging forward is meant to represent forward movement for those that eat the pig in the coming year. The luck of pork and a birthday wish create a hopeful start to the year for this family  

Sherrow, Victoria. “EAT FOR LUCK!” Child Life, vol. 86, no. 1, Jan, 2007, pp. 28-29. ProQuest, http://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy2.usc.edu/docview/216762697?accountid=14749.

Derby Day

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 12th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant described to me a tradition at her all-girls, private high school known as Derby Day. It is a day at the very beginning of the year, reserved for just the high school aged girls because the school is for grades 5-12. The high school girls would not go to class in the morning and instead play games and have cheer contests. 

In the afternoon, each grade was required to bring a different product. Freshman always had to bring ice cream. Sophomores had to bring oreos and jell-o. Juniors had to bring chocolate syrup. Seniors had to bring whipped cream. After the morning activities, the student council would “dump all of these things into kiddie pools on the field. When the set-up was complete, the freshman and sophomores had to sit in big circles” said the informant. Then the seniors would dump all of the jell-o, oreos, ice cream, etc. on the freshman and the juniors would do the same to the sophomores. The informant explained it was sort of an affectionate thing, “if you were a freshman and had a senior friend you would just get disgusting but it was out of love”.

After all of the dumping was complete, there was a water slide the informant’s school would rent. This was the only way to get cleaned off but it was an unspoken rule that the seniors could skip anyone in line and the juniors could skip anyone but seniors. So the freshman would wait in line to get cleaned off but never could.

Background:

This occurred at the informant’s all-girls, private, Episcopalian high school in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an ongoing tradition that girls looked forward to every year.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience.

Thoughts:

This tradition acts as a way for the high school aged girls to feel as though they have really grown up at the start of the year. It is common for students to go through types of hazing as underclassmen and then transition into being the hazers. Being able to dump chocolate syrup on someone’s head is looked at like a rite of passage at this high school. As the informant explained it to me, she held the day in such reverence it clearly is an important memory to her. She included the feelings of being an underclassman and upperclassman, participating in this. This tradition emphasizes the changes to the high school classes, as newfound juniors those students can establish themselves as upperclassmen by getting the opportunity to dump oreos on the heads of their peers. It is a funny, but important way to demonstrate the girls have grown over the past year.

Term for Cheap Vodka

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 23
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 14th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

In this conversation E.S represents myself, the collector.

Informant: “We would all drink Shitty K like it was nothing”

E.S: “We never had that”

Informant: “What? Shitty K was just like all that really gross vodka you could buy for cheap.”

Background:

The informant grew up in a large, suburban, middle-class town in central South Carolina. Underage drinking was very common.

Context:

I was hanging out with the informant, talking about the differences in our high school experiences. The informant brought up what people used to drink when they were underaged and we compared our towns.

Thoughts:

With underage drinking, there is a consistent level of secrecy that surrounds the activity. Many high schoolers consider drinking alcohol to be an adult activity and it makes them feel older. To describe cheap liquor as “Shitty K” is inherently a very childish thing. It also removes the word “vodka” from its title, adding to the secret facade high school kids try to keep up in front of parents. The creation of this term allows for kids to feel like an adult because they are consuming alcohol but emphasizes immaturity as it is an inappropriate name for the drink.

Pondy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: March 20th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant: “I’d always play pondy in the winter, I never played hockey though”

Background:

The informant grew up in a small, midwestern town on the Great Lakes where winters were always below freezing and lakes were of easy access. The informant’s high school also had a very competitive hockey team. Hockey was ingrained into the town as something all kids would play for at least a year, according to the informant.

Context:

The informant was telling me about her hobbies she had when she was younger.  I thought she played hockey, but the prior quote is how she corrected me.

Thoughts:

This demonstrates a piece of folk speech that has been created to differentiate one activity. Outdoor hockey is exclusively known as pondy while indoor, rink hockey is just hockey. From context clues, this word is easy enough to understand which lends itself to being used by young kids out playing games. Pondy also implies a sort of casual play to the game instead of competitive hockey. It is interesting to see the same sport be defined by its location through a colloquial expression.

Peace and Chow

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Zimbabwean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 5th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The informant is a member of an outdoors club on campus that has a tradition of doing “Peace and Chow” after every dinner they eat on trail. The informant says “Peach and Chow consists of the two guides of the trip organizing us into a circle. Then we grab hands, right over left to create a criss-cross effect. Once we’re are all connected anyone who is grateful for anything from the day sticks their foot into the middle of the circle. Then they say what they are thankful for. If anyone else in the circle agrees, they all wiggle back and forth. This continues until we’re done saying things we’re thankful for. Then someone in the group recites a quote, probably about nature. After the quote we pass the pulse, which starts from one of the guides squeezing the hand next to them and the squeeze makes it all around the circle. Once the circle is complete we unwind and it’s done”.

Background:

The club has existed on USC’s campus since 2008. Peace and Chow originated with the start of the club but no one knows the direct origin, who started it and why. On each trip there are always two guides and 8-10 participants. The guides are in charge of leading Peace and Chow and it is not required but heavily suggested they do it every trip.

Context:

The ritual of Peace and Chow happens after a meal, most likely dinner, when the group is out in the wilderness either at their campsite or in the backcountry. The informant described this as a ritual that held a lot of importance to them.

Thoughts:

Food is common to surround with certain rituals. In terms of Christianity it is common to pray before every meal. Peace and Chow acts as sort of a “prayer” of thankfulness for these students on their outdoor adventures. It is also common in outdoor communities to try and feel in touch with one’s surroundings. This ritual helps the group remain in touch with each other and the land around them as they are able to grow closer as a group. This ritual creates a sense of community for people that were recently strangers. Food tends to have a way of bringing people together and this tradition adds to that feeling.

Gray Thursday and Black Friday

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: United States
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10th
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Within the private schools in the greater Memphis, Tennessee area the informant explained to me there is a tradition of Black Friday and Gray Thursday. This description is the informant’s personal experience with Black Friday. 

Black Friday was the day before the seniors were going to graduate. Before Black Friday the informant said they would have Gray Thursday where the seniors would stay overnight in the school. A few teachers were there to chaperone but as the informant describes it, “the whole thing was a shit-show”. The students would stay up all night writing notes to lower classmen and setting up pranks. The notes would be tapped to the lockers of girls and the next day it was like a popularity contest to see who got the most letters. The pranks were equally a big part. The informant said “one year they tapped all the phones to the ceiling, one year the seniors printed out every college rejection letter they ever got and hung it in the junior’s hallway”.

On Black Friday, after being in school the whole night, the seniors would come to class wearing all black and crazy makeup. Then they would interrupt chapel by saying the senior class had an announcement to make. The whole senior class would go up to the altar and sing songs. At the informant’s school, they would always sing “Tonight” by Fun! and “Wonderwall”. By the end of it, all of them would be crying in a big celebration of their graduation. After their ceremony ended, the seniors would all leave. The informant then said “juniors would then take off their sweatshirts revealing a class shirt they had designed and they would move up to the senior section of pews in the chapel”.

Background:

This occurred at the informant’s all-girls, private, Episcopalian high school in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an ongoing tradition that girls looked forward to every year.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience.

Thoughts:

This tradition takes place at a liminal moment in these girl’s lives. The Friday before graduation they do not have the responsibilities of a student but they are not technically a graduate. This allows for a tradition to be created, such as Gray Thursday and Black Friday, similar to jokes made at weddings and other liminal moments in people’s lives. The creation of this tradition allows the girls to be cathartic and find some sort of “closure” on this chapter of their lives. Also this example of Black Friday took place at a school that was for grades 5-12, so these girls had been with each other for a majority of their lives. This might explain the commitment these girls felt to saying goodbye in an exaggerated way.