Author Archives: mcomisar

Seeds Of the Watermelon

My dad once told me that if you eat the seeds of a watermelon then little watermelons would grow in my stomach. I believed this for a very long time and still think about when I see watermelon seeds. My friends all had similar thoughts about eating seeds of fruit. I now know that this isn’t possible, but am still reminded of watermelons seeds from time to time.

Informant: The informant of this folklore is Hannah Vaughn she lives in the Pacific Palisades. Hannah is nineteen years old and heard this from her dad while vacationing in Palm Springs.

Analysis: I was scared for the longest time to eat seeds of watermelons and apples because I heard they would grow more fruit in your belly. This folklore is known across the nation and could have been a way to avoid eating seeds. Maybe the seeds tasted good and as a way of getting people not to eat them they said they would cause baby fruits to grow inside their bellies.

Five Second Rule

I was walking with my two boys Troy and William when I dropped half a pretzel I had just bought. I frantically picked it up the second I dropped it but it did touch the grass below me. As I picked it up I sad out loud “Five Second Rule”. My kids looked at me like I was crazy as I put the pretzel back into my mouth. I explained to them if something you are eating touches the floor and you pick it up within five seconds then its still edible.
Informant: The informant of this piece of folklore is Lawrence Winkenhower. He is in his early fifties and has lived his whole life in California. He spent his childhood in Malibu and later moved to the Pacific Palisades. Lawrence is in his early fifties.

Analysis: The five second rule is very iconic and people all over the country practice this rule. Some people think it is gross to drop food on the floor and then still eat it. I think people’s frustration with dropping food in a long past time caused them to develop this five second rule. The origins of this could potentially be due to people thinking that germs from the floor need at least five seconds to contaminate food. This is obviously not true and if food was on the floor for half a second and five second the germ or bacteria built up would probably be the same. A lot of children use this because they are clumsier and more likely to drop food.


My Aunt Jackie and My Uncle Val would come to our house every Christmas Eve. My Aunt Jackie was originally from Germany and she was married to my Uncle. Every year from the minute she walked in the door holding so many beautifully wrapped presents, she would ask my siblings and I if we were good this year. Aunt Jackie grew up believing in Santa Clause but also believed in his sidekick Krampus. Her parents would tell her the story of Krampus to terrify their children into behaving during the year. Every year on December 5th, the Eve of Krampus, my aunt Jackie and her siblings were on their best behavior, hoping Krampus would not come to their house. Aunt Jackie and her brothers and sisters knew if Krampus passed their house then Santa Clause would come with presents.
Aunt Jackie would tell us the story of the mythical Krampus on Christmas Eve. As children we couldn’t get enough of the same story she told us year after year. The story would always start with the same belief of Santa Clause bringing gifts to us on Christmas Eve. He would come down our chimneys, only if we were good and leave presents around our tree, but if we were bad the story changed to a dark and scary story of the Christmas Terror Krampus. Krampus was Santa Clauses evil sidekick.
She would detail Krampus as a long horned, shaggy goat like monster. It had long horns with an angry face, a long tail and a long hooked like tongue. Aunt Jackie would always say, “I hope Krampus is not coming to our house tonight.” I was so terrified when she said that because even if I was good, I was fearful that he would come to our home to get one of my siblings who were bad.
Aunt Jackie told us that if we were bad, Santa Clause who is always watching us would send his partner Krampus. He would sneak into our homes, kidnap the bad children and beat them with sticks and take them away to a dark scary place for a year. Christmas was supposed to be joyful, but knowing about Krampus made Christmas a scary time to look forward too. The Story always ended with my uncle Val yelling, “Jackie! Enough. Don’t scare them.”

Informant: The informant for this piece of folklore is my Aunt Andrea Formica. She grew up in New York and has Italian/German heritage. She has four children who she has spread her folklore to. My Aunt Andrea is in her early sixties.

Analysis: I saw they made a movie about Krampus but from the commercials alone it looked much different. The story of Krampus would scare my aunt so much that at one point she started to dread Christmas time. Most people grow up with the thought of being bad meant Santa brought you coal, which was terrible. The thought of as a child having to worry about a creature of Krampus coming to my home if I was bad would terrify me. Krampus seems to be a story that is getting increasingly popular at Christmas time.

Italian Wedding Dance

Every Italian wedding wouldn’t be complete without the dance of the Tarantella: The Tarantella is a dance of spinning and dancing filled with traditions and a must at an Italian wedding. This dance originated in a town in Italy called Taranto. Legend states that a Spider “the Tarantula” would bite its victim, “the Tarantata” almost always a woman. The spider’s poisonous venom would put the woman in a deep trance and the only way for the woman to survive this bite is for people to surround her and dance a frenzied dance. The people in the town of Taranto in southern Italy would dance for hours until the poison was completely gone.
When the music of the Tarantella plays at an Italian wedding, it never fails that every Italian will get on the dance floor, joining hands with other dancers and create a circle around the bride and groom. The Bride will dance in the middle of the circle trying to excite her new partner and in turn the man tries to charm his bride with his elegance, love and tenderness. The circle around the new couple takes turns swinging the bride and groom around. The dance represents unity and separation, which the dancers swing into each other’s arms and then to be bound away again.
I can only assume that the reason the tarantella is played at an Italian wedding is because it’s the song of Italy. This dance has become a tradition at Italian American weddings representing the family’s Italian heritage. No Italian wedding would be complete unless the tarantella is played and everyone dances.

Informant: The informant of this was my Grandmother, Rosemarie Formica. She loves the essences of her Italian tradition and although many of her children and grandchildren are married they didn’t do this dance at their wedding.

Analysis: I have never seen this done at a wedding and it seems to make a good point by circling around the couple creating unity, but it could possibly be the change in generations. My Grandma did this at her wedding and felt without this dance then the marriage wouldn’t have been true.

Feast of the Seven Fishes

On Christmas Eve we celebrate the holiday with a huge meal consisting of many types of fish. My family’s tradition is to celebrate the holiday with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This feast is typically celebrated by Italian Americans and until recently I never really understood why we only had fish on this holiday. The night before a holiday was considered a vigil and this meant that we could not eat meat so my family would cook a huge display of many types of fish dishes. My Grandmother told me that the number seven means completions, and that the number seven is the most repeated number in the Bible so seven fishes it is. It is one of the traditions you do every year because that’s the only thing you know, and you have seen your parents and grandparents do this for generations. If you don’t celebrate The Feast of the Seven Fishes, it just wouldn’t be Christmas Eve. You knew the holiday was here because on the morning of Christmas Eve the aroma of fish awakened you. The whole house would smell like fish for days. Honestly, I think my family cooked more than seven fishes but the more fish the better.
Our typical Christmas Eve started with appetizers: shrimp cocktail, fried scallops, stuffed artichokes, fried smelts, baked clams, fried calamari, my grandmothers baccala salad and the best of all Frutti di Mare. Frutti di Mare is a cold salad with shrimp, scungilli, octopus and calamari mixed in lemon and olive oil. It’s to die for!
The work that goes into this holiday is exhausting. The night before Christmas Eve my father and I would cook and clean 2 huge octopuses for the frutti di mare salad. Cleaning this octopus was the worst of all and every year my father found fault with the way he cooked the octopus. It was either to hard, to soft and never just right.
The appetizers alone contained seven fishes but we didn’t stop here. The second course traditionally is Pasta. My mother would make spaghetti with clam sauce and if you didn’t eat it you would get dirty looks for the rest of the holiday.
The main course is the best of all. My father would make stuffed lobster. He would stuff the lobster with crabmeat, breadcrumbs and his secret ingredients and when you took your first bite into that lobster Silence would fill the room. Every year we all complain that there was way too much food but without the traditional dishes it just wouldn’t be The Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Informant: The informant for this piece of folklore is my Aunt Bianca Formica. She grew up in New York all her life and comes from a super Italian family. My aunt loved talking about her Italian Heritage.

Analysis: The feast of seven fishes is a common occurrence on Christmas in many Italian homes. The informant told me that none of this was written down but told orally and practiced every year in tradition. I love this tradition and still practice it in my home and could probably orally name off all seven fishes present in our feast.