Author Archives: Bella Karahalios

Midnight Mass on Greek Easter

Text: Well you know, there’s a lot of traditions in the church and such. I mean we don’t really go to church a lot so I don’t remember that well. But, on Greek Easter there’s Midnight Mass. You know you go to church around 11pm and when you get there you buy a candle – it’s supposed to be a donation to the church. They’re usually not expensive. Some people bring their own candles, but not a lot. People also tend to dress up because it’s a big holiday in the church. You go in, there’s a service, it’s usually pretty crowded. They go through it kind of like a regular service, but sometimes with special passages or things they read for Easter. The priest talks about things. And then around maybe 11:45, everyone stands, and they turn off all the lights in the church so it’s completely dark. The altar boys and the priests start lighting everyone’s candles and then you kind of pass the light down all the rows lighting each other’s candles, until the whole church is kind of lit up, bright from the candlelight. Then everyone sings, and the kind of chant you know Christos Anesti, Christ has risen. Alithos Anesti, yes he has. And I think the idea is that Christ is rising at midnight and around midnight they open the doors and everyone files outside with their candles, talks to each other, it’s very pretty really.  

Context: M was born and raised in Southern California. Both his parents are of Greek descent, he is a second-generation American on his mother’s side and a third-generation American on his father’s side. M does not actively practice Greek Orthodoxy, but does consider himself a Christian. 
Analysis: The phrases Christos Anesti and Alithos Anesti are also used as a greeting and a goodbye during Easter time by Greek people. Easter, the day when Christ rises after having been crucified and entombed for three days, is as M notes one of the most important holidays in the church. It is preceded by lent, beginning on Clean Monday, which follows through to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (on which lent ends). Lent is supposed to be a time of fasting and often followers of the Christian faith attempt to give up something which is not good for them, or do something good for them which is typically personally difficult. Each of these holy days have a different service and tradition associated with them in the Greek Church. The midnight mass M describes takes place on Holy Saturday and is followed by an early breakfast after the church service on Sunday to break the fast from lent. The Orthodox Easter midnight mass mirrors the Christmas midnight mass which occurs on Christmas Eve. The candles M describes are often bought for children by their god parents, and represent Christ’s resurrection, or Christ’s light– his transition from the darkness of the tomb to the light of the world.

Red Egg Game

Text: Okay so growing up like we would celebrate Greek Easter, some people also call it Orthodox Easter, and it’s on a different calendar than regular Easter. American Easter? Christian Easter? I mean Greek Orthodox is still Christian, but you know what I mean. Sometimes it’s the same day, but usually it’s different. Anyways, on Greek Easter we do this thing where we dye eggs red, hard boiled eggs. And then we play a game with them. Everyone gets a red egg, and basically you take the ends of the egg, like the long ends, the pointy ones and you crack yours against someone else’s. Whoevers egg doesn’t crack keeps going and cracks their egg against more people’s. Sometimes for little kids they let them do both ends of the egg because they get sad when there’s breaks early. Whoever has the last egg that’s not broken at the end of the game gets good luck for the year. Sometimes my cousins would cheat though, they would break the end off of a fork or get like a toothpick and hide it under their hand where they grabbed the egg. Then they would poke the other person’s egg with it to crack it, but not hit theirs on it. The adults used to say that you don’t get good luck if you win by cheating though. It ruins the game. 

Context: S is 18 years old and was raised in Southern California. Growing up she attended holiday services at the Greek Church in Long Beach, California. Her father is of Greek descent, but her mother is not. 

Analysis: The alternate calendar S discusses in the beginning is the Julian calendar which the Orthodox church uses as opposed to the Gregorian calendar to determine Easter each year. The game typically takes place on Easter Sunday, at the celebrations after the Sunday service has concluded. Bringing the red eggs is usually someone’s contribution to the celebration as opposed to bringing a dish of food or bottle of wine. S also mentioned that often children assist their families in dyeing them. While red has different meanings in different cultures, in the case of the dyed Easter eggs they are meant to represent the blood of Christ and his resurrection. It’s interesting to note that there are also several Catholic sources online that state that Mary Magdalene, one of Christ’s followers, went to the Emperor to beg him to open Christ’s tomb, and that he declared it was as likely Jesus had risen as the egg in her hand was to turn red. However, all of these sources fail to cite a Bible verse. Perhaps, this is a folk story or belief that has been passed down. It is also interesting that S describes some of her cousins cheating to win the game, as in Van Genup’s Rites of Passage he specifies how rituals can fail and must be done correctly. Thus, when the cousins fail to perform the ritual game under the correct rules, they fail to earn good luck for the year.

Birthday Bite (Mordida)


So in like Latin American culture in general, I’m personally Mexican, but we have this thing and you basically sing a person happy birthday on their birthday into a cake. And, it’s called mordida which means bite. So you basically like yeah its mordida, which is bite in Spanish, its m-o-r-d-i-d-a and the whole thing it’s like kinda supposed to be good luck. Yeah, you just kind of shove their face into the cake, and they’re supposed to take a bite of the cake before everyone else, but like with their face. And, the whole point should be like a little bite, but people go a little crazy sometimes. 


Both of A’s parents are Mexican, and she grew up in Texas near the Mexican-American border in a strong Latin American community. She is currently 21 years old and attends USC.

Analysis: The word mordida, which A describes to mean a bite, is also more widely used to refer to a bribe when not in the context of the birthday tradition. It’s also traditional in Mexico to sing the song Las Mañanitas rather than happy birthday during the mordida. Luck associated with the start of a year or new beginnings at a birthday is also a theme in many cultures. Celebrating the year or new age of the birthday boy or girl sets a tone for the next 365 days. In Van Genup’s book Rites of Passage, he explains how rituals are often practical jokes and that in order to change identity (to move from one age to the next), there must be a ritual. Here it is interesting that after attending different birthday parties and their own every year the victim of the practical joke knows what is going to happen, but still allows it anyway. Participating in good humor or being able to “take the joke” is perhaps a sign of maturity. This is also an example of ritual inversion in which the ritual is the opposite of the normal rules of social engagement. Normally, shoving someone’s face into a cake would be rude, but in the Mordida it would almost be rude not to. 

Norwegian Dessert and Prayer

Text: The one thing I can think of really is Lefsa. We always eat it with my Norwegian grandparents on holidays, like Christmastime. It’s like a dessert, like a more bitter tortilla and you put butter and sugar in it. Sometimes we make it, if we have time, but it takes a very long time to bake. You can buy it too. I never found a Swedish or Norwegian market in Atlanta, but most of my family we celebrate holidays with lives in Minnesota which is like where most of the Scandinavian population in the US lives. And there’s this famous Norwegian prayer my grandparents will always say on Christmas or other holidays before we eat it. It’s called I Jesu Navn.

Context: K grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but currently attends USC. She is 22 years old, was raised Catholic, and her parents are of Scandinavian descent. The prayer K mentions, I Jesu Navn, translates to “In the name of the Lord” in English. I was able to find a version of the prayer online,

I Jesu navn går vi til bords

Spise og drikke på ditt ord

Deg Gud til ære oss til gavn

Så får vi mat i Jesu navn.

In the name of the Lord we sit down at the table 

To eat and to drink by the power of your blessing

In honor of the Lord, so we may prosper

We receive our food in the name of the Lord.

Analysis: Lefsa is a traditional Norwegian food usually made with potatoes, water, flour, salt and served with butter and sugar. It’s reminiscent of traditional flatbreads found in other cultures like tortillas as K compares them to, Greek pita bread, or Kenyan japati. It is interesting to see that there can be different oikotypes of food just like there can be with other folklore. It’s also interesting that K associates the prayer I Jesu Navn with holidays, given that it’s a simple table prayer, and could be said everyday. This is likely because K sees her grandparents most often on holidays and this is when they make the most effort to emphasize their culture. Something that might be considered a part of day-to-day life in Norway becomes a holiday tradition in the context of a new country.

Miracle Fountain

Text: “I don’t have a ton of specifics about what he was suffering from, but there was a kid in my class who had some rare leg-bone condition and he had to have surgery to walk. They thought he was going to die and he had leg casts for two years, and he went to this like font of naturally occurring holy water in Mexico. I don’t exactly know where it was, but he went there and went to mass and had a priest bless him and like fine now. He’s cured.”

Context: S is currently a twenty-year old student at USC. She grew up in Orange County, California and attended private, Catholic school for her education. 

Analysis: Water as a healing source is a common belief in many different cultures. In S myth it seems that the water is providing a contagious magic, and that by having proximity to the water or touching it, her classmate was able to be cured. In Mexico there are a few different fonts or fountains which S could be referring to, one is described in this LA Times Story: Healing fountains are often located near or in connection to the Roman Catholic Church for example the In the 18th century it wasn’t uncommon for doctors to prescribe “going to the sea” as a cure for patients with various ailments. This article by the Atlantic,, provides context about how proximity to water alone has been prescribed in many different medical capacities. S myth also relates to the story of the fountain of youth which dates back to the 5th century B.C. and is thought to provide eternal youth to anyone who drinks from it. However, maybe more applicable S’ myth is the healing power of water in the Bible. The Christian ritual of baptism is thought to cleanse “original sin.” Also, the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-14, in which a leper is healed in the Jordan waters.