My informant is the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh. She told me about a phrase that her mother would often text to her as a gesture of affection:
লবণের মতো আমি তোমাকে ভালোবাসি
Labaṇēra matō āmi tōmākē bhālōbāsi
The phrase translates into “I love you like salt”. This phrase references the fact that food is flavorless and drastically less appetizing without salt, meaning that the recipient brings joy and meaning (aka “flavor”) to the expresser’s life. This phrase actually originates from an old Bengali folk tale, which my informant described to me:
“There is a pretty popular folk tale in Bengali tradition, and from that folktale this phrase, um, ‘I love you like salt/āmi tōmākē bhālōbāsi’. And it comes from this tale where, um, a king didn’t appreciate his daughter enough and his daughter always cooked his food for him. So, his daughter stopped putting salt into his food. And then he realized, ‘Oh God, why is my food not tasting good anymore? What is this?’ and she was like ‘I took away the salt’ and her dad was like ‘You did what now, my daughter?’ and she was like ‘you haven’t appreciated me enough so I can’t- I’m not putting in enough effort into seasoning your food correctly.’ *laughs* And he said ‘I’m sorry. I love you… um… I hope we can reconciliate[sic]’ and then she started putting salt back into his food, and they lived happily ever after *laughs*”
I personally find this expression to be rather beautiful and I love that it comes attached to a narrative.
My informant comes from a very interesting small town in Oregon, and she told me about a local movie theater that just about everyone in her town knows is definitely haunted. The theater itself, like most things from my informant’s hometown, has a bizarre origin.
The Palace Theater in Silverton, Oregon was created by a previous mayor (interestingly, this person was the first transgender mayor in the United States. This has less to do with the theater being haunted and more to do with the fact that it is really odd that this small country town would have accomplished such a progressive milestone). The theater burned down years ago due to a fire started by an unknown cause. It was eventually rebuilt, but now the residents of Silverton believe it to be haunted.
My informant gave me a memorate from her friend who worked at this movie theater. Supposedly, one night when she was closing up, she heard a young girl asking for help despite the fact that nobody else was in the building. On another occasion, a light shattered right when my informant’s friend walked directly underneath it.
Whether or not one truly believes in the existence of ghosts, it is worth noting that the residents of the town seemingly all have their own supernatural experiences with the Palace Theater.
My informant is Jewish on her father’s side of the family, and celebrated Jewish holidays for the majority of her childhood. She continues to do so now, just not as frequently. She told me about the Jewish holiday Purim, and recalled to the best of her ability its significance and customs.
The holiday Purim is based on the story of an evil man named Haman who wore a triangular hat. The traditional food at Purim, a triangular cookie called Hamantashen, is representative of his hat. People gather together, usually at their local temple, and tell the story of the evil Haman who was defeated at the hands of a brave hero. Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned during the story, the audience boos and spins noisemakers.
Another key element of Purim is that everyone dresses up in wild costumes, which is why some people refer to it as “Jewish Halloween”. However, there is less of a focus on monster-based costumes and more of a communal understanding that costumes are meant to be clever or amusing.
I find it interesting that Purim is such a fun and colorful holiday, yet it is so unappreciated and underrepresented in mainstream American (predominantly Christian) society.
My informant is the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh. She told me about a folk belief from when her mother was a teenage girl in her home country.
Occasionally, one will find small white marks on their nails. According to this folk belief, this mark appearing on a girl’s nail means that she will receive a new dress. This has particular significance around the Muslim holiday of Eid, where it is customary to wear many new outfits when visiting different relatives. This is also significant in Bangladesh because there is more widespread poverty and new dresses are more difficult to come by. Because of these reasons, young girls in my informant’s mother’s neighborhood would become ecstatic when they discovered white markings on their nails.
This is interesting to think about when learning of the scientific reasoning behind these white markings, because all they indicate is that there was previous injury to the nail bed. However, folk beliefs are often used to explain things that are not widely understood, and most people are not aware of the true meaning of these marks.
My informant’s mother is heavily involved in local professional theater, and my informant spent a great deal of time from a young age in theater communities. She shared with me the concept of a “ghost light”.
Essentially, there is a superstition that a light must be on in the theater at all times, otherwise the darkness will attract ghosts. Therefore, there will usually be a solitary light fixture set up on the stage when all people are absent. This is known as the “ghost light” because its purpose is to scare away any ghosts that might be drawn to the theater.
I am curious as to how ghosts are more attracted to theaters than other establishments. I am also fascinated by the fact that there is so much folk superstition surrounding theaters (such as the infamous issue of “The Scottish Play”).