Author Archives: JudyTsai

Winter Solstice Festival (冬至)

冬至
dōng zhì
Winter Solstice Festival

“The Winter Solstice Festival is very important to the Chinese culture.  It is celebrated around December 21, the shortest day of the year.  This festival celebrates longer daylight, which means that there’s more positive energy.  For this festival, families get together and eat tangyuan.  Tangyuan are glutinous rice balls that represent reunion.  It allows families to reunite.”

My informant learned the item when she grew up in Taiwan.  It’s an important Chinese tradition that most people participate in.  My mom has been celebrating the Winter Solstice Festival ever since she was a little kid, and now my family celebrates it every year.
My family celebrates the festival on December 21.  We have a huge family reunion with my aunts and uncles.  We go to a Chinese restaurant to eat a delicious dinner, while catching up on everybody’s life.  After dinner, each family separates and goes home.  At home, my mom cooks tangyuan for my whole family.  Usually, she makes several stuffed tangyuan and many small plain ones.
My mom enjoys this celebration because she loves family get-togethers.  With the busy lives that everyone leads now, my parents do not get to see their brothers and sisters often.  This festival is a chance for everyone to reunite.  This celebration is particularly important to my mom because of the fact that we always have a family reunion on this day.  This day also allows my mom to sit down with my family while eating tangyuan.
I think that this festival is significant to Chinese culture and Chinese families.  I agree with my mom, and I think that families really don’t have very much time to sit down and talk to each other.  Even family dinners are becoming so rare in American families.  Parents are always working and children have extracurricular activities and large amounts of homework that keep them from eating at a set time.  Also, this festival shows Chinese values.  Chinese people value positive things, so the fact that after the winter solstice is over and there will be days with longer daylight is relative to their beliefs.

Flatulence Game

“When person A farts, it is person A’s duty to call “safety” before person B calls “doorknob.”  If person B calls “doorknob,” person B can punch person A for his sinful act of farting in public.”

Duke learned this game from his friends sometime in high school.  It became a very popular game among the boys at his high school.  Boys tend to fart a lot, so this game provides them with a punishment for farting in public.
Since Duke and his friends have a habit of farting numerous times when they’re with each other, they play this game a lot.  Whenever someone farts, it’s an immediate reaction to hear the word “safety” or “doorknob” following the fart.  Duke claims that he plays this game to get a cheap-shot off of a friend’s fart.  It also provides them with entertainment as they laugh about farts and punching each other.
Even though Duke thinks that this game is stupid, he still does it.  It has become something that all of his friends know.  This game is their way of reacting to farts.  They think that there has to be a consequence for farting in public, so a punch suffices as a punishment.
I think that, in a way, this game is good for boys.  It forces them to take the blame for farting in public.  Farting in public is very disgusting and immature.  Boys need to learn to keep their gas in until the appropriate time.  With this game, maybe boys will avoid farting whenever they choose to.  However, I don’t think that boys should have a game to prevent them from farting in public.  They should know not to do it.  The fact that they need a game proves that some boys are just immature and rude.

“You have an eyelash on your face, make a wish!”

My informant learned this superstition when she was very young, so she doesn’t recall when she learned it.  She has been taking part of this superstition ever since she was in elementary school, where she probably learned it from a friend.  Whenever she sees a stray eyelash other people’s faces, she takes the eyelash, puts it on their finger and tells them to make a wish and blow the eyelash off.  She puts the eyelash on her finger if she finds an eyelash on her face and follows the same procedure.
She said that she does not believe in this superstition, yet she does it anyway.  According to her, there is no validity to this superstition, so she doesn’t believe her wishes will come true.  She believes that this eyelash superstition exists because losing an eyelash is more unusual than losing strands of hair.  Wishing with a strand of a hair would definitely not be as special because people lose many strands of hair everyday.
She tells this superstition because it has become a routine if she sees a loose eyelash.  It has become embedded in her that she has an automatic reaction to tell it.
Like the superstition of making a wish at 11:11, I do not necessarily believe that blowing an eyelash off my finger while making a wish will make my wish come true.  The willingness of a person to make his or her wish happen is what makes a wish come true.  Usually people do not rely on an eyelash wish, so they take action and make it happen.  I believe that eyelash wishing does contribute to making a wish become reality, but a person’s actions are what makes it become reality.

Luaus

“Luaus are gatherings that you can find and go to, especially in the touristy areas of Hawaii.  Basically, people eat Hawaiian food like lomi salmon (tomatoes and smoke salmon), lau lau (meat-like chicken of fish or pork-wrapped and cooked in taro leaves), long rice (clear-looking spaghetti noodles in a soup), poi (ground up taro made into a mush), and kalua pig (traditionally cooked in a hole in the ground).  Luaus are a time to celebrate the Hawaiian culture.  Not only is there Hawaiian food, but there’s also Hawaiian music, which is usually performed by a local band or singer from the islands.  These bands and singers perform Hawaiian songs with ukuleles and other instruments.  Also, hula dancing to slow Hawaiian songs is a popular form of entertainment.  Another type of dance, the Tahitian dance, involves women who dress up in a really big skirt and wear coconut bras and move their hips around really fast.  There are also fire dancers, usually men who spin around sticks that are lit at the ends and toss around a baton thrower.”

By living in Hawaii her entire life, my informant has been exposed to luaus all the time.  Luaus are always going on and there aren’t any specific dates as to when a luau is held.  Luaus occur in hot tourist spots like the Waikiki strip or in the countryside on the North Shore, where people hang out at the beaches.  There’s also a Polynesian cultural center at the North Shore that holds luaus for tourists.  Luaus have become so popular that they’re popular among both Hawaiian natives and tourists.  She doesn’t attend luaus whenever she wants.  People hold luaus as parties, so she goes whenever she’s invited.
    Antonette thinks that luaus are great.  She considers them as parties that she attends to see her friends and family, only everything in a luau is about the Hawaiian culture.  If anything, it’s also a cultural experience, so the main idea is to celebrate the Hawaiian culture and spread it around to others.  She likes going to luaus when she has the chance because of the food, music, performances, and dancing.  Luaus allow my informant to eat Hawaiian food because she doesn’t normally eat Hawaiian food on a daily basis.  Also, she likes some of the bands that play Hawaiian or reggae music because she doesn’t listen to that type of music often, so it’s cool and exciting to see live bands and to dance on stage with friends.
When I traveled to Hawaii on vacation five years ago, I was able to experience an authentic Hawaiian luau.  Of course, the luau was staged for tourists, but I witnessed actual Hawaiian activities, food, and music.  I can definitely see why both natives and tourists enjoy going to luaus.  I was never bored during the luau because there were so many activities going on.  The Hawaiians even allowed tourists to participate by learning the different types of dances.  In addition to observing, tourists are able to learn part of Hawaiian culture.
Everything that my informant described to me was there at the luau that I attended.  I was able to observe a very entertaining Hawaiian tradition that I think is important to maintain.  Hawaii has such an incredible and unique past, and it is extremely different from the rest of the United States.  It’s important to continue the tradition so that future generations can take pleasure in attending such a distinctive custom.

La Malinche

Es la montaña Malintzin de un aspecto bello y hermoso que se levanta implorando lluvias de los altos cielos.  Y no es raro presenciar nubes que arrebata el viento, pero las de la Malintzin son seguros aguaceros.  Una vez consumada la conquista, los aztecas, al saber que Marina había muerto, trataron de recuperar su cuerpo.  Cuando lo tuvieron en su poder lo escondieron en muchos lugares tratando de evitar que cayera en manos de los españoles.  En una montaña descubrieron una cueva gigantesca, y en el caballo que le había regalado Cortés la montaron y la subieron al cerro y la internaron en el fondo de la cueva que sellaron con grandes rocas.  Apostaron guardias en puntos estratégicos para cuidarla.  Desde entonces los nativos de la montaña la llaman Malintzin y desde su cresta nos manda aguaceros.  Se mira una silueta que describe su cuerpo que dormido pide las lluvias del cielo.

Beautiful is the “Malintzin” mountain that rises above the clouds imploring the heavens for rain. It is not rare that the presence clouds are stirred by the wind, but the clouds of “Malintzin” are a sure sign of rain. Once the conquest had been accomplished, the Aztecs, having known that Marina had passed away, tried to recover her body. Once they had it in their possession, they hid it in many places in an attempt to avoid it from falling into the hands of the Spaniards.   In a mountain they discovered a giant cave, and on the horse that Cortes had given her, they mounted her body and they carried her up the mountain and placed her at the end of the cave and sealed it with giant rocks. They placed guards in strategic places to watch over her. Since then the natives of the mountain call her “Malintzin” and from the peak sends us rain. It is said that the silhouette that describes her body can be seen asleep beckoning the heavens for rain.

My informant learned the legend of La Malinche from his grandmother.  When he learned to speak at the age of three or four, he started asking many questions and becoming inquisitive.  He asked his grandmother where the rain came from, and she replied with the story of La Malinche.  This legend is not only known in his family though.  It is a common legend in Mexico and Central America.
My informant does not actually tell this story to others.  He usually hears it rather than share it with others.  He has no reason to tell others because in most cases, people already know about the legend.  Caleb considers this a legend that older people tell younger generations.  They use this legend to explain the reason we have rain.
My informant does not think that this legend is true.  The story of La Malinche and what happened may be true, but as far as the reason for rainfall, he does not believe it.  Even though he does not think that La Malinche is the reason for rain, he thinks it’s important.  In the future, he wants to pass it on to his children because it’s part of his culture.  To a certain extent, it’s even a part of him.  The legend identifies his people because of the struggle between early Americans and Spaniards that conquered the Aztecs.  It sets them apart from the Spanish because their beliefs are different.
I agree with what my informant said about the legend.  The legend, although it may not be the reason for rain, gives children an explanation for why we have rain.  Through this story, children from Mexico and Central America are able to learn about the hardships that the Aztecs had to endure when the Spaniards invaded their land.  Maintaining culture in a society is extremely important, especially since cultures are starting to mix and die out.  People need to know their heritage, the history of their people, and how they got to where they are today.  Culture is one of the few ways that we can still connect to the past.  These legends allow people to learn about historical figures that are important in a culture.