Author Archives: DG

About DG

I am a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Southern California. I am from Los Angeles, CA.

Bâū Ća Tôm Cua

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as DD. I am marked as DG.

 

DD: So there’s this game that me and my cousins used to play on the Lunar New Year, and it’s called Bau Ca Tom Cua, and it basically means um Gourd Crab um…it means Fish but it’s referring to a Shrimp, or um and then a Rooster. It’s basically-it’s a simple game where you have a picture of um each of the four items I mentioned, well actually some of them have 6 it’s a fish-a shrimp-, a crab, a rooster, a gourd, and a stag. And you have this little dice where on each of the little sides there’s a picture and you…usually money or candy, usually small change because my cousins and I, you know, small kids you don’t want them gambling with you know, tons of money, and we would put the coins basically on the picture that we thought was going to get rolled. So we would put the dice in a bowl and there’s 3 of them and roll them in the bowl and remove that and the ones on top, if you were right, you got to split the money.

 

DG: Who did you learn it from?

 

DD: Um, I remember playing it with my…cousin, um it must have been something we learned from probably our parents. Yeah its just a pretty common game. And even when I went to the Vietnamese lunar new year festival here, there were a whole bunch of boards.

 

DG: What was the context?

 

DD: It was a game that was traditionally played on the New Year’s, I don’t know if there was a significance for why it was played on the New Year’s… but it makes sense to me that um that at least little kids would have money on the New Year because their relatives would have just given them money.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in a classroom during an assigned period to discuss folklore. However, the context that the game would be performed in would most often be on the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Although she was born in Northern California, her entire family is from Vietnam, and she is one of the first generation to be born in the United States.

 

Analysis:

 

This game is good for cross-cultural teaching, as it is rather simple to teach and pick up. It can be adapted to bet on candy, coins, dice, or more. It is also easily taught to small children, meaning it is highly adaptable and good for bringing up through generations. It is also a quick game to teach, making it good for fairs, etc, where all the players may not be familiar with the game. It also has a specific history, being related to the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Due to this, this is not a game that the majority of the American population will likely know, or have heard of. I personally have learned this game in the past, at a Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration at my university, and found it very fun to play.

Vietnamese Child Numbering

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as DD. I am marked as DG.

 

DD: In a lot of Vietnamese families, there’s a habit of numbering the children from oldest to youngest, in the way sort of like nicknames. So we’ll have, um, sister number two is the oldest sister [sibling], brother number three is the second oldest sibling and oldest brother. And, um, interesting thing about that is that you actually start with the oldest one being sibling number two because there’s a belief that if you called them the first child, the spirits will come take the child away. And it’s actually really interesting in my family because my grandparents have nine children and they were supposed to have a 10th but the first born did actually pass away… right after birth I believe, so it did actually fall into that superstition, and it’s something I know my grandmother always believed. Although with my dad’s family they don’t really number the children, but they give them nicknames to symbolize, like, where they are in the order of children. Like…uh my dad is one of the younger ones so his name is trè, which means young, and his youngest brother is út which means littlest. Út usually refers to like the littlest finger, um, so, and it’s even like I still call him uncle út, which means the littlest uncle.

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in the sun on a bench on a university campus. However, the context that this numbering was used under was whenever a child was born. It would be numbered whilst still in the womb.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Although she was born in Northern California, her entire family is from Vietnam, and she is one of the first generation to be born in the United States.

 

Analysis:

 

I find superstitions to be the most interesting of all folklore items. In this case, the superstition is that something bad will happen if the children are numbered starting at one. The reason I find it so interesting is because although there’s no solid, scientific proof, people still act based upon the belief, just in case. I find myself doing the same in other superstitions. This is also one that I’ve never heard of before, and one that had proof in the believers’ eyes, with the death of their first child. I also found it interesting that they adapted the numbering system to, in the form of “young” and “littlest.” This appears to be a form of an oicotype, where the folklore belief has been adapted to a new cultural zone.

Santa Lucia/Swedish Christmas Traditions

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as PG. I am marked as DG.

 

PG: Every Christmas on like, I think it was December 6th something like that, the uhh the daughter in the house would put on a ring of candles on her head and bring in breakfast to the mom, and it was Santa Lucia day, which frankly I didn’t know much about, but we did it every Christmas. It was a Swedish tradition, and I learned it from my mom. Another one is we opened our presents the night before Christmas. She swore it was a tradition! She might have just been impatient. And every year I try to get you guys to do it but you always say no (laughs).

 

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The context for the tradition is that these are to be performed in the house of the family. The Santa Lucia one is performed in the morning, by the daughter, and the gift tradition was performed in the living room.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 53-year-old father of two, who is married. He grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. He was raised by his mother alone, who is from Sweden. He comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

This is a tradition from Sweden. I find it interesting because although the interviewee’s mother is from Sweden, PG was born in America, so his only experience with Swedish traditions has been the same few that have been carried over by his mother from Sweden. These are not traditions that have been passed down to his children, showing the power of region for folklore. These traditions are fascinating because they are strictly part of the Swedish culture–it’s not like a more popular folklore item that is seen in most places by most cultures.

 

For another version of the Saint Lucia tradition, see Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker (2014).

Horse Thieves and Gambler Descendants

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: One story is my dad used to swear we were descended from horse thieves and, um, gamblers. He had all kinds of tales and he would just swear that all-that the relatives had gotten kicked out of Appalachia? No, Georgia area, the Georgia area, and then the Appalachia area. That must have been Mississippi river because they were supposed to be river gamblers and horse thieves. He also swore that his dad was Jewish, which is how he got the name, but everyone else says no he wasn’t. So I’m not sure.”

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The context for the narrative is that it’s told to the children in the family, usually during bedtime.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

I enjoyed hearing this piece of narrative folklore because most of the other folklore I’ve captured has been part of a larger scheme or culture, whereas this one was very individual to the family that created it. Additionally, it was one of those pieces were it could be true, but the interviewee didn’t believe it to be so, which is what made it folklore, instead of just history. It was interesting to see how the attitude surrounding the piece can make or break the folkloristics of the item.

Devil’s Trail

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: Up around JPL and La Cañada, um there’s different times, even the Indians thought that there were demons, although they didn’t call them that, they called them negative spirits, but because that was known, there was some big name scientists that started an occult up there, and they would have satanic ritual sup there, and there’s a place called the Devils Trail up there. And they would-in fact up in the 50s, a few children disappeared up there in that area, I mean they were running up the trail with their parents, they turned the corner, and they never saw those kids again. Yeah it’s not even really a great trail now, there’s just something funky about it. But um when we went up there hiking that one time up there, and Dad was throwing his knives at the trees, this sort of blood looking stuff was coming out of them. And to this day, I have never ever seen that in any other tree. And I looked it up! I can’t find it. Now Danny [the interviewee’s brother] said he found it but I looked and I can’t find it. So to this day that is not a trail I want to ever go on again.”

 

DG: Where did you hear this from?

 

LG: I’ve heard the Devils Trail from a lot of people, I’ve seen it on the internet, heard it from different people, including my mom, and seen it on TV. It’s kind of like one of those-it’s a warning, but I think it’s also like a lot of the time like egging people to go onto it. But I think it’s mostly like a warning, to parents like don’t let your kids go on there. But they’ve had like um a couple teenagers disappear in that area too. Yeah don’t go there.”

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The context for the tale is to be told to your children, mostly in the JPL/La Cañada area, to warn them about going out on the trails alone.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

This story has one of the marks of a folktale, in how it is most often used to warn young children about the area. Interestingly enough, LG has also heard of it in the context of “egging” on other children to do it. This is a very local tale. Someone from New York would not understand what the Devil’s Trail meant, except maybe in the context of a different trail. Having been on this trail myself, I can attest to how terrifying it can become. My own experience was that the trail suddenly became dark and freezing, during the middle of the day. This folktale is also interesting in that aspect, as it shows that many people can have different experiences of the same item.