Author Archives: gerobins

Christmas Ferries (Holiday celebration)

“Something that happens at my town every year right before Christmas – usually like mid December – and there is this ferry company in Washington State, and every year they hire a group carolers, and the carolers come on this boat and then they turn on the boat’s PA and loud speaker and they drive around to nearby beaches or coasts and people from towns nearby will walk toward the public beaches and sit there and do a concert.”

“[My] town, called Yarrow Point has a bond fire with it every year, so usually it’s a combination of people who live in the town or people who work nearby, but everyone helps with the bonfire – everybody comes out and listens, it’s really fun, I’ve grown to appreciate it more, cause when I was little [I hated the cold].”

My informant joyfully recalled this annual tradition to me, and while they originally seemed to hint toward their connection with this tradition as being innocent and community building, they also had this to say-

“The cool thing is, the Christmas boat, it’s the same boat every year, and other people who have their boats out will decorate them with Christmas lights and drive all around, and its Washington State so there’s a large population of people with boats. Usually people will just follow the Christmas boat around so when you come to the concert on the shore they will all pul up with the main boat and you can judge how much effort people put into their boats. It’s really pretty.”

Not only does this event include a large community coming together to appreciate music and decorum, but it also serves as a grounds of judgement and competition. Though it may seem negative, I recognize how this community may inadvertently have added this layer of competition as a way to bring their community even closer together. They want to impress each other and build upon the excitement of the holiday.

“It’s all very light-hearted.”

Angel Signs (Folk belief)

“My mom does this really sweet thing where when she goes on walks she’ll pick up things that catch her eye and puts them on this shelf in her room and she calls them her angel signs. She’s picked up feathers, rocks, pinecones, stuff like that – but not just regular ones, ones that are special looking, like if they have an interesting color to them or shape or something. They make her feel like angels are watching over her. She thinks this about a lot of things, like signs from nature mean someone or something that’s passed is looking out for us – like when our pet rabbit died, she starting saying every rabbit that came into our yard was an angel sign that the rabbit was still with us. She likes to take the objects with her to bring us more protection by those angels I guess.”

My informant spoke very affectionately about her mother as she recalled this folk belief/ritual that she often partakes in. While I find complete validity in her assumption that her mother brings home these objects as a way to bring protection to the household, I wonder if she does this knowingly. My informant was quite specific about how her mother felt about these items, that they were signs from angels, but she wasn’t certain about her mother’s intentions upon bringing them home. I wonder if it is partially due to a fascination with the objects in general, mementos so that she will never forget a moment when she felt seen, protected, and closer to something spiritual.

One present (holiday celebration)

“Every year my mom lets my sister and I open one singular present of our choosing, the night before Christmas. We loved that she let us do it. Been doing it as long as I can remember, so like my whole life. I’m actually not sure if it was to make [the holiday] more fun for us, but it did – it was probably just because we were being impatient once as little kids and my mom told us we could do that to try and get us to stop annoying her, but its become a tradition for us.”

This informant told me about how she finds meaning in a tradition she doesn’t even understand the origins of. Though she recalls it joyfully and seems grateful to her mother for keeping it up, I find it interesting how she assumes it may stem from a fault of her own or her sister’s own.

If her assumption is correct, that would mean that this holiday celebration came from a place of necessity from her mother, and yet it developed and changed into something joyfully and disconnected from its original intention.

Family Reunion (life cycle celebration)

“Growing up [my family and I] always went to [our family reunion]. We usually met in a church. Mom’s dad and all his brother’s and sisters, and all of us, we’d gather to eat and see each other – fried chicken, cream corn, corn bread, green beans, etc. We’d all just catch up and [my mom] and her sisters would sing for everyone – something folky – and then we’d take pictures. So me and granddad and grandma and mom and dad and me and my brothers, and all my first and second cousins were all in one picture, and then other sides or groups of thee family would take their own.”

My informant told me all about the family reunions he attended annually as he was growing up. He doesn’t attend them anymore, as many of those family members have passed away or become busy with their own families.

When I asked him what the reunion meant to him-

“We did it every year, in the summer – usually August. It was nice out, it was nice to see each other. We’re usually all scattered about. I love my family, I like talking to them, catching up with them.”

He is from North Carolina, part of the southern United States, he recounts, but couldn’t specify folk music shared among his family, and the food he described distinctly stuck out as traditional southern comfort food. As his family is not normally all together is this larger collective, it must feel quite nostalgic to come together and share these songs and classic food together.

He also speaks about the photos they always took, and though he didn’t speak on this himself, I wonder about how each picture changes through every passing year and how the image of their family dynamics change. It sounds like his family, whether it is intentional or not, were preserving this knowledge and part of their families history through photography.

“The Mothman” (memorate)

“When I was a kid my dad used to warn me about this thing called the ‘Mothman’, he’d tell me a story about kids that went out at night alone and we’re snatched up by a half man, half moth creature.”

My informant has never met anyone else who grew up with this narrative, but she stressed to me that kids shouldn’t go out alone or else “he’d get ya.”

“If you see red glowing eyes in the dark, then you’d better run, that’s a warning he’s there.”

Her father would tell her this as an encouragement to not wonder off alone as a child, especially when the sun went down. “I was such a little shit back then” she told me. Her dad was never sure what antics she would get up to, so he stressed this story to her in order to prevent any runaway thoughts.

As opposed to telling her about the true dangers of wandering off alone in the night, he instead decided to tell her about a make believe creature. I find this interesting cause the reality of what could happen is just as scary, if not more frightening then a “moth man” (in my opinion), but I also agree that these kinds of narratives, ones with outlandish concepts, are more effective than ones rooted in reality with children.