Author Archives: Kayla Bowens

Thanksgiving Tradition (the year I learned the true meaning of Thanksgiving)


My informant is my father who comes from a southern family, although he was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I asked him for any holiday traditions he could think of aside from the ones that I am a part of and I thought of a story he told me about one of our family members a while back and thought it would be perfect. So here is what he said:


“At 16 years old, I didn’t fully understand the meaning of Thanksgiving. To me, it was just a day of eating lots of food with family and friends. But when I moved to Connecticut, my grandmother Ruby showed me the true meaning of the holiday. On Thanksgiving Day, Ruby spent a whole week preparing dinner and wrapping several plates of food in foil. I didn’t understand why she was doing this until she explained that we were going to give the food to people who were less fortunate than us. We drove to a city building where Ruby distributed the plates of food to people living on the streets. Seeing their gratitude and smiles made me realize that Thanksgiving was not just about feasting with family and friends, but also about giving back to the community. From then on, I made a commitment to give back every Thanksgiving, and the lesson my grandmother taught me stayed with me for life.”


From what I know about the origins of Thanksgiving, it started with the Pilgrims in the 1600s. During this time a harvest feast was shared between two groups of people to celebrate an expedition. I am not sure where the turkeys came into play, but that’s not the point of this story.

I too had the issue of not truly understanding the meaning Thanksgiving, but then my father told me this story and through movies and everything else its a time to show others you are grateful towards them and to openly express kindness to others. I enjoy this holiday for the food especially, so it is sad think about the people who do not get to enjoy it. Over the years, I feel Thanksgiving has strayed away from its roots a little bit, but I think the true meaning behind the holiday is to put aside differences for a day to celebrate being grateful and kind to each other.

Something that also comes to mind is the fact that this was my fathers grandmother who if I’m correct is from Texas. I say this because I think of the phrase “Southern Hospitality”. That and maybe things were different and there was more of a community dynamic, something more old school. People are still kind today, but I believe it is important to see more of that during Thanksgiving.

A Day in my life on Christmas


My informant is a college student who lives in the same apartment complex as me. He is a communications major, 23 years old, and he is from Chicago. I asked him if he had any holiday traditions and mentioned what his family partakes in during Christmas. I was interested to see how similar his traditions are to mine and any other traditions I have heard, so here is what he shared with me:


“Okay so each Christmas my sister and I open our stockings first because when we were babies my mom bought us embroidered stockings with out names on them, then the presents are divided under the tree and everyone opens their gifts in order one person at a time, then we eat around noon, usually honey ham, green bean casserole, potatoes, and wine. Then we watch a Christmas or hallmark movie and then the day is pretty much over. But my sister having two kids has definitely changed things up.”


From the sound of it there are many Christmas traditions that families from all over share. My informant, as mentioned previously is from Chicago, but my family and I from California partake in a similar tradition. I think the main point of Christmas is to make each other happy and share a day with family giving to each other and enjoying the month leading up to this time. Christmas is the biggest holiday celebrated in the sense that stores will have sections dedicated to this time, and music will be played there are tree lighting festivals and little light shows you can go to to see the decorated houses and lights. Although there is a lot of history surrounding Christmas, the traditions that I have heard and the ones my family practices are not far from normal. These are all classic examples of holiday traditions that are practiced all around the world, even in different cultures. This kind of folklore can be seen in movies, shared from previous generations, and even researched in history books or music.

After further research, it could be examined that people would decorate trees in their homes with lights and colorful toys as far back as the 1500s. This goes to show that because these traditions have been documented and passed from different cultures and generations it still lives on and might even slightly change.

Ghost Story


My informant is my father, he is 55 years old and he is born and raised in California. He has traveled a lot in his life as he was in the navy for some time and comes from a long line of people who are from Texas and other places. He decided to tell me about a ghost story that he experienced as a kid while he was visiting his grandmother and this is what he said:


Dad: “When I was about 10 years old, I used to take a trip to Texas every summer. I would fly to Dallas to visit my grandmother, and eventually make my way to Marshall, where my cousins lived. One year, while I was sitting on the couch in Marshall, the rotary dial phone started dialing by itself. It was like someone was using the phones without actually touching it. “

Me: “Was this the first time something like this has happened to you?”

Dad: “Another strange occurrence happened when my cousin and I overheard my aunt talking to someone in her room. But when we went to check, no one was there except for my aunt, who seemed startled to see us. We noticed that there was an indention in the mattress as if someone had been sitting there next to her, but it disappeared as soon as we entered the room. “

Me: “How did this make you feel?”

Dad: “These unexplained events left us puzzled and wondering what could have caused them”


In my analysis, the story that was told to me from an experience my dad had could be considered a memorate. By definition, a memorate is an oral narrative from memory relating a personal experience or a personal narrative involving an encounter with a supernatural being. Although this encounter was unexplained, many supernatural encounters can be unexplained. Additionally, because this happened in Texas, I believe Texas is filled with a lot history and it could be common to experience these types of things there. In terms of folklore, in an article from the Journal of Folklore Research by Ulo Valk, titled “Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore,” Valk elaborates on ghosts as a way to “provide meaning in a chaotic social environment”. Although this interpretation may not make complete sense, it creates an opening for further exploration on the subject of ghostly encounters like this one that happened to my father. As mentioned in this article, ghosts want to maintain traditions and culture, so maybe this space was special in some way.

Metaphorical saying for “Doing Bad”

  1. “Screwed the Pooch”
  2. I did an interview with a classmate in my Anthropology class, with an emphasis surrounding folklore and he revealed to me a saying he heard from a friend in high school. “My buddy in high school, this guy I know Jake Harris he really fumbled some science work, something in this class we had together and he’s like man… I really screwed the pooch and I thought that was hilarious. He’s from Simsbury, Connecticut. And I don’t know where he got that or anything, but I heard that and thought it was pretty funny. [How old were you?] At the time, we had to be freshman or sophomores in high school, 15 or 16. ”
  3. My interpretation of this metaphorical saying is that it is simply comedic. I have heard this before, I think I’ve even heard in a movie in the 2000s. It is often times, in my view at least, something that would be said in a stereo typical high school movie. Additionally, from my interpretation and knowledge of this saying it means to mess up something or make an embarrassing mistake of some sort. Moreover, I believe this saying has been around for quite sometime now, but I have not been around many people who say it, so there could be an Northeastern thing.

Fraternity Term


2. “To fade…oh I’m fading that or I’m fading you, that’s a term in my frat and its commonly used. To fade means to like leave or disengage from. If we are hanging out and I walk out of the room.. I’m fading you, I’m leaving you. Or if its like I’m fading class, I’m skipping class.”

3. For my interpretation of this term, I associate fading or being faded to a term that is associated with marijuana. I have heard people say they are faded when they are high, but I have never heard of it in this way, so that’s interesting. Because this term is common in fraternities, I could gather that because fraternities are not new, this term has been around for quite some time and is not just used at USC. By the google definition of the word fade, it means to gradually disappear or come in or out of view. With this in mind, thinking historically, in the fraternity environment I would think it is common to come of with slang like this. Moreover, throughout history the word fade has been used and changed in so many different ways, but seem mean the same thing. For example, when getting a hair cut, one can ask for a fade and basically the length gradually gets thinner and thinner to create a fading sort of look. I think this is cool to think about.