When you hear thunder during a storm, it is the angels bowling in heaven
I had heard this myth since I was a child, so I was glad when my informant brought this up. He told me that when he was young, he (obviously) didn’t understand that lightning splits the air and causes a loud displacement that reverberates for miles. Instead, his parents, like mine, just told him that thunder was the sound of God’s angels bowling in heaven. This always made both of us smile as kids because the image of an angel bowling is quite humorous, and easily swats away the image of a scary thunderstorm outside. This is something that my informant and I absolutely agreed that would be a great thing to tell our own children when we get older. To go along with this, my parents also told me that lightning was the angels having a disco party in heaven. When I told my informant this, he laughed and said he was going to steal that to use on his own children one day.
I wanted to include at least one ghost story in my folklore contribution so I asked some of my friends if they knew any good stories of ghosts haunting people today. One of my informants brought up the time he went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras one year and took a tour of the city. He remembers hearing on his tour about a hospital in the region of the city near Lake Pontchartrain that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of some of the elderly patients who didn’t make it out during Hurricane Katrina. He remembers hearing some of the stories of people who have visited the hospital (now abandoned) who heard or saw what they believed to be ghosts. He said that his tour guide mentioned that to this day, no company plans on rehabilitating the hospital because of its gruesome history and what happened to many of the patients in the aftermath of the hurricane. To me, this is an indication that people continue to avoid situations in which they may be confronted with places associated with morose histories.
I have a friend who was on his high school water polo team, and I talked to him a bit about whether the team had any traditions. He told me about a rite of passage that everyone has to go through when they are freshmen and have just joined the team. After one of the first practices, all of the seniors bring the freshmen into the locker room, and each freshman must swallow a goldfish in order to be truly considered part of the team. He said that you could refuse, but nobody ever did. Some people would consider this hazing, others just an initiation rite that everyone has to go through. Having been through initiation rites myself for a separate organization, I will say that this merely appears to be a prank put on by older guys on my friend’s high school sports team. My cross country team had its own rite of passage that we went through when we were freshmen, so I understand why it builds a sense of teamwork through a shared experience that everyone has gone through. I disagree with those who would call it hazing, and I would challenge them to join an organization that has some traditions like my friend’s water polo team, because I believe that they can be immensely satisfying on a personal level.
Alle Vakkera Flikka Skol.
(Translated: My health,
all beautiful ladies’ health.)
This is an old viking toast that a friend of mine from Minnesota hears at family dinners sometimes when he goes home for the holidays. Having come from Scandinavian blood myself, I found myself immediately attracted to the simplicity of the toast. My informant is not learned in any of the Scandinavian language (and he is not even sure whether he is Norwegian or Swedish), but he says that every time he hears this toast, it makes him proud of his Scandinavian background. When he said that, it resonated with me because my family tries to bring out our Swedish heritage whenever we get the chance. My family strings up mini Swedish flags on our Christmas tree every year, and we often have traditional Swedish fare at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners (lingonberries, glug, Swedish meatballs). The fact that I have now collected a toast that I can introduce to my family makes me even more proud of my family’s heritage. My guess for why my friend still hears this toast at his family dinners is that a number of his family members feel the same way.
My friend told me this proverb that his mother used to tell him to emphasize how important his dad was to his upbringing and his development as a man. He said that when he was mad at his dad and wouldn’t speak to him, his mother would talk to him and remind him of all of the good things that his dad had done for him throughout his life. This resonated with me because I realized how much it means to be a dad in modern society. To be a real dad, and not just the father of a child, means giving yourself entirely to your child and being there to raise them and give them advice as they mature. As we talked about the proverb, I realized how even though some dads have different methods of raising kids, they all still want the same thing for their children: for them to grow up healthy and live happy lives that are fulfilling. It takes a dad, and not just a father, to want that for a child.