Author Archives: Taryn Frank

Mazel Tov! You’re Married!

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 50
Occupation: Consultant
Residence: Saratoga, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/16/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French

Piece:

Interviewer: “Did you incorporate any like folk traditions into your wedding?”

B.F.: “Yeah. We did the traditional breaking of the glass.”

Interviewer: “Can you expand, please?”

B.F.: “So, um, at the end of the ceremony the groom stomps on a glass and everyone shouts ‘Mazel Tov’ (which means congratulations in Hebrew). My parents did it at their wedding, you Uncle Dan did it at his wedding, it’s just, just something we do.”

Interviewer: “Did it hurt your foot?”

B.F.: “Ha. No. We used a cloth.”

Informant:

Informant B.F. is a middle-aged man who is of Ashkenazi Jew descent. He grew up in a low-income, divorced parent family and lived in many different locations growing up. He worked hard in school to become successful and does not have a deep cultural connection with his past, though is grateful for it because her believes it has shaped him into the man he is today. Although he had a Bar Mitzvah and his grandparents and other relatives are practitioners of Judaism, he personally does not practice the religion anymore.

Context:

I asked B.F. to briefly sit down for an interview for my folklore collection project. When asked about wedding traditions, B.F. recalled this from his own.

Interpretation:

While B.F. is not a practitioner of judaism and was not at the time of his wedding, he still found the tradition breaking of the glass to be something he needed to do at his wedding because it was a traditional thing the men of his family had done. He is actually not even sure what the breaking of the glass symbolizes. He is not a traditional man but finds that certain traditions make him feel closer to his family. B.F. is not sure where he learned about this tradition, but remembers it from jewish weddings growing up. I think this folklore piece is important because it shows that a person does not have to be a believer in the beliefs behind folklore to practice the folklore. Folklore traditions can be more than just the beliefs that started it, and can take on a new meaning of familial ties and heritage. While this is a popular wedding tradition, B.F.’s unique take on the meaning stood out and was significant to me as a collector.

Annotation:

Mazel Tov – End of Ceromony – Seth breaks glass. Produced by Karen Orly, 2010.
Youtube, Karen Orly, www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sXl1Bbe4Yk.

The Eagle with Brains Hides its Claws

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 75
Occupation: Retired
Residence: San Jose, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/14/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese

Piece:

Interviewer: “Do you have any advice or something that your parents told you that you still remember?”

I.N.: “Well… kinda… your mom’s Bachan was so mean to me. I would call my mother crying… crying. She would say to me ‘the eagle with brains, hides it claws.’  I think she meant that no matter how mean someone is to you, don’t let them provoke you, you know. So I was always held my tongue when she was around!”

*the informant is elderly and does not speak Japanese as fluently as she once did. Although the original proverb was in Japanese, she could not recall how to speak the proverb in Japanese*

Informant:

Informant I.N. is an elderly Japanese woman. She was born in a Japanese Internment camp and grew up with second generation Japanese American parents who spoke primarily Japanese. She was raised in south Los Angeles in an area that was mostly filled with Japanese American Immigrant workers. She came from a middle class family. Her mother ran a boarding house and her father was a gardener. She moved to northern California in her twenties and raised her family there. She still resides in Northern California today and spend much of her time volunteering at the San Jose Japanese Town Yu-Ai Kai Senior Center and Buddhist Church.

Context:

Informant I.N. and I were sitting at a restaurant for lunch and I thought I would ask a few questions for my folklore project. She recalled a time from her past when she was struggling with maintaining civility but ultimately was able to overcome hardship by following the advice of her mother.

Interpretation:

I.N. interpreted this piece of advice to mean that despite the anger she felt towards her mother in-law, it was better to hide her passionate emotions and be kind because it would lead to a more pleasing relationship. She learned this folklore proverb from her mother and it stuck with her because she found it to be a relevant and intelligent piece of advice. I think this reflects on the Japanese cultural trend of not wanting to be overzealous or create tension. Generally, Japanese people are known for their polite nature and this proverb that tells its listener to hide their feelings essentially is a great example of that.

 

 

Don’t Get the Cheese Touch

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Saratoga, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/14/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece:

Interviewer: “What about games? Any you remember from childhood?

L.F.: “Lemme think…. Oh yeah haha the cheese touch.”

Interviewer: “What is the cheese touch?”

L.F.: “It was kinda like the elementary school bully version of tag. Basically when someone had the “cheese touch” no one would speak to them out of the fear of getting it.”

Interviewer: “What was it though?”

L.F.: “hahahaha… I don’t know… It was just like cooties. No one knew what they were but you definitely didn’t want it.”

Informant:

Informant L.F. is a teenage boy who recently became an adult. He is half Japanese and half Jewish and has spent his entire life in Northern California. During the summers, L.F. likes to attend away summer camp, and had attended the same camp for the past five summers. The camp is ranges from three weeks to 2 months and L.F. will be returning this summer as a counselor.

Context:

I asked informant L.F. to sit down for a formal interview on young adult folklore and if he remembered any weird games from his childhood or now. This is what he thought of.

Interpretation:

To L.F. the cheese touch was a childhood game used to ridicule and scare kids into bullying one another. And, while her has fun memories of playing the game, he admits it was a representation of childhood bullying. L.F. does not remember who he learned the game from, but it was the sort of game that never really ended and all his school friends were apart of it. It reminds him of simpler times and of his youth.

 

Stomach Ache? Try a Needle in the Thumb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Seattle, WA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/11/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Korean

Piece:

Interviewer: “Do you know any folk medicine?”

R.B.: “…oh my god… actually yeah. My mom used to tell me if my stomach hurt to stick a needle in my thumb and the it will go away.”

Interviewer: “R.B, what that makes no sense… did it work?”

R.B.: “… I mean I guess. It lets out all the bad blood”

Informant:

The informant is  half-Korean, half- caucasian young adult female, who grew up in Seattle, Washington. Her mother is an immigrant from Korea and spoke to her frequently in Korean growing up, but was not surrounded often by her asian family as they lived in Korea. Her father is white American man of European descent who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She spent a lot of time with her white side of her family growing up because they lived nearby.  

Context:

Informant R.B. and I were at dinner when I was interviewing her for the folklore collection project. When asked if she had any weird medicines, this is the folklore she remembered.

Interpretation:

Informant R.B. took this piece of folklore very seriously. And, when asked later if she would still use this method of treatment, she responded yes and that she would tell her friends to because it worked. R.B. received this piece of folklore from her mother her learned it from her own mother in Korea. For their family, this folklore represented more than a cure, but a lasting family tradition. I found this piece to be very interesting because it showcased how different cultures treat their illnesses.