Author Archives: Jordan

Swedish Festival

A Swedish friend told me about this festival now held throughout Sweden: “This is very, very Swedish. We have this things called the ‘kräftskiva.’ So, um, what are they called…lobsters, a direct translation would be lobster dinner. You celebrate with family, bring friends, this can start at like 2 in the afternoon and you sit around and around eating and eating these fucking lobsters, and you drink Swedish schnapps. Swedish schnapps is very, very different than Americans’ version. It’s very clear, and tastes like ethanol – even the good ones, and it’s always clear. Right, so you can spend like 7,8 hours sitting around drinking schnapps. Some people drink beer, but, you know, it’s not really the traditional thing to do. This is typically during the midsummer time, but it doesn’t have to be a specific date. It has become so traditional that it’s like as traditional as Christmas. Its origin probably has something to do with fishing, but I’m not sure. So, cities all over Sweden have this now. So many people get wasted. Sometimes there are silly games like tying shoe laces together, hopping in bags – adults play them too. I guess it represents a time for us to have fun and act differently than normal…but by eating lobster as a way of acknowledging the sea and tradition of seafood in Sweden.”

This is interesting in that is does provide a depiction of the society’s values and that which provides their sustenance. The lobster symbolizes their connection with the past, the food of their ancestors, and is celebrated during a liminal stage in which people can act differently than normally ascribed behavior. This is indicated with the hearty consumption of alcohol and the playing of “silly” games even among adults.

Swedish Graduation Custom

“When people graduate from high school, it is one of the most important days in someone’s life. It’s called ‘studenten.’ The idea is in Swedish if you are a ‘student,’ you are a graduate that year, and ‘studenten’ is ‘graduation.’ Alright, so, there is kind of a framework for that day: it starts early in the morning at about nine, everyone has a hat that looks exactly like a captain’s hat. It even has the small shield in front and white puffiness. Everyone’s dressed up…guys in suits, and girls in white dresses. This is when you are 18 or 19, so you will generally be old enough to drink. So after the pictures, there is a champagne breakfast. Then you eat strawberries. That’s usually at school, the drinking part. Parents are not there yet…just classmates. Then we go to a park in the city, and other graduates from other schools are also there. It can even carry on for days and days,  that is the period when different schools are ending at different times. You continue drinking at the park with these other students. And then, for lunch, you usually go have lunch with your teachers. It’s usually held at a nice venue. Everyone’s together drinking together and eating lunch. The lunch usually last 2-3 hours, and people speak about the last 3 years (high school is 3 in Sweden.) You kinda joke around…it’s basically joking about nostalgia. Then you go to the bar, or park…whatever it is, you’re drinking. So you continue drinking until ‘utsläppet,’ which is when students run from inside the school out onto a stage outside, where everyone is gathered (not just parents or immediate family, but the extended family, the whole sha-bam. And so you basically stand on this elevated platform or whatever for 3-4 minutes just shouting and still holding champagne glasses. After, you get flowers and gifts, and thin ribbon in blue and yellow…everything is blue and yellow (Swedish flag.) Then you go home, where the parents have generally been preparing dinner all day. All the students take off to ride around the city…at any given day during this period, traffic can be stopped. And people have all done this before, so they’ll walk up to you and scream, and you scream back. After the ride, there is dinner…at mine there were about 35 people. Then you get more gifts, usually more expensive gifts. By this time everyone is just wasted…parents are celebrating that their child made it, you are happy because you are now an adult, and everyone is just happy. Those dinners usually last from 6 or 7 until 9 or 10pm. Then you go to night clubs with other graduates. When you are done, you have been pretty much been drinking for 24 hours. There is saying, ‘If you remember your studenten, you didn’t do it properly.’ By the time you get home from the night club, the family is gone, and you crash. It’s the most important day of your life.”

The informant and I had completely the same views of this tradition. It is definitely a part of the life cycle and partaking in the liminal stage of transition from childhood into adulthood. The details of the celebration reveal the values held important to those partaking in the tradition. The Swedish colors represent nationalism, the pride of being a Swedish citizen and fulfilling your duty after having been educated to the social well-being of the country. In the United States, a very capitalistic country in which the individual surmounts the community, we do not celebrate graduation adorned in red, white, and blue, but rather with what we want to wear, or what identifies us with our classmates and school (school colors). Finally, this level of celebration indicates the importance placed on education and one’s ability to contribute to society as an educated adult.

Baganda Tale

“Two friends, Leopard and Hare, decided to grow some millet one day. Hare, knowing Leopard would try and take more than his fair ration, made a deal with Leopard.

‘Just plant the millet, and I will weed when it is time to weed, I will harvest when it is time to harvest, I will cook when it is time to cook, and I will prepare a meal when it becomes time to enjoy our work,” Hare offered. “All I ask in return is that I get a fair portion of the meal.’

Leopard agreed, and set about planting the millet. As months went by, Hare fulfilled all that he promised to do, and soon it was time to enjoy their meal. Hare called for Leopard, and the two sat down to eat. Once Leopard tasted the millet, he immediately wanted more. He used his great strength to overpower Hare, and ate all that had been prepared for both of them, leaving Hare with nothing to eat. This story is used to show the bad effects of trust…or, uh, not tru…of trusting someone too much.”

In my opinion, this tale exerts the idea of reality and how the strong can ultimately obtain their desires over the meek. However, the roles of Hare and Leopard are reversed from what they are in other Hare and Leopard tales. Similar to Coyote in the lore of Native Americans, Hare is versatile within the Baganda culture. Kizza writes of Hare, “…very few collections of folktales would be complete without [H]are…that survivor, ever ingenious, at times annoying, but an often loveable small creature.” [1]

[1] Kizza Immaculate N., The Oral Tradition of the Baganda of Uganda, pp. 161

High School Graffiti Tradition

The following is an account of a high school tradition: “At my high school in Arlington, Virginia, the boys’ bathroom has graffiti in the cracks where there is…it has something to do with grout. They write something that has to do with grout or rhymes with grout on the walls. I haven’t seen it, but everyone knows about it, and a friend told me there is one writing that says ‘Grout Gatsby.’ I’m not sure how it started. Every bathroom has writing, I mean, usually on doors in stalls, but it’s interesting that it’s allowed at the school – the janitors don’t get rid of it. So I think it’s about keeping the tradition and leaving your mark at the school, leaving a piece of your identity to signify that you were there.”

This is an example of the prolonged liminal space which high school occupies in one’s life. It is a time of transition from childhood to, four years later, adulthood. As such, there is a felt need to create identity and also leave part of that identity behind, to ensure that one’s mark is left. This is illustrated with the above example, showing also the remaining tidbits of antithetical, anti-authoritarian behavior demonstrated by children via the very act of writing on the wall and the ways in which the writing is utilized (to mock one of the standard novels of high school literature.)  In this way, the gap of authority and student is tactically lessened by the students.

Folk Remedy for Chili Peppers

A classmate of mine informed me of the following folk remedy for curing the pain of intense spiciness: ” I heard this folk remedy from my nanny when I was like 7 – we lived in Texas. There were a lot of chili peppers around, and I ate some – too many – and then started drinking a lot of water to help with the spiciness. My nanny put salt on my nose, and said that putting salt helps to get rid of the spiciness…I don’t think it worked. Let me see…I uh really don’t know that this means…it just shows tradition I guess and what people will believe to be true. I really don’t know what to make of it.”

This example falls within a larger spectrum of folk remedies and the utilization of nature in contrast to produced medicine. While it is arguable whether this situation would have even necessitated the use of medication in the first place, the idea of relying on traditional ways of doing things still stands. And its importance is made apparent. The example illustrates the connection we have to modes of activity and performing a tradition that we may even acknowledge does not work. It is a reminder of where we came from and creates a sense of identity. If we see our parents or grandparents perform such an activity, then we are inclined to do so as well. It comforts us to practice what has been done before, and in doing, close the gap the distance of our past and our present, connecting us with those with whom we identify.