Author Archives: meganfol

The Baby Jesus gave me my presents

Background

The informant spent the early years of her life in Venezuela, but her family moved to the United States when she was 9 years old. She only remembers some of her life in Venezuela.

Context

The informant shared this story while having a lunch break during a leadership retreat. People were discussing when and how they discovered that Santa Claus wasn’t real and she laughed and explained that at the age we were finding out that Santa wasn’t real, she was just learning that the idea of Santa even existed.

Text

[I was unable to get a direct transcription of what was said]

The informant said that she had never heard of Santa Claus until she got older when talking to other American children. Instead, on Christmas, her parents told her that her presents were given to her by the Baby Jesus himself (Niño Jesús). She would have to place her shoes in front of the nativity scene, and the next morning her presents would be on top of them.

Thoughts

The informant talked about this tradition as if it was humorous because of how different it is from American tradition, but in a way that celebrated that difference rather than making fun of it. It seemed like she is able to use her Venezuelan Christmas traditions as a way differentiate herself from her purely American peers and connect herself with her Venezuelan upbringing, even though she seems very much American now, having spent over half of her life in the U.S.

Soles must face down

Background

The informant has a lot of different parts of her background which influence her. Her family is Haitian and Comorian (an island off the coast of Africa) and she is still close with family who live in those places and visits often. She grew up for the first 10 years of her life in the U.S., but then spent the rest of her life living in Paris, France until she decided to come to school in the U.S. She likes to say that she’s a hodge-podge of different identities. She learned this superstition from her mother who she says has tons of different superstitions about the world.

Context

The informant first explained this superstition to me and the seven other people we live with after one week of knowing each other. We have a communal area near the front door where we keep our shoes. She told us about this superstition and asked that we make sure the soles of our shoes are never facing upwards on the mat.

Text

So, my mom taught me, uh… so, my mom, who is from Comoros, taught me that in Comoros, um.. she was taught that you can’t have your shoes facing… Uh, the sole of your shoes facing the sky or the ceiling, because when they’re– when you’re walking, generally, you’re walking on the ground and you’re doing it normally. And, uh, but when your shoes are facing up, they’re walking on god. So, they shouldn’t be facing up.

Thoughts

When the informant discussed this superstition, she prefaced it as if it were a silly little thing that her mom always thought. However, the informant still does avoid the behavior that the superstition describes as bad luck and even went so far as to tell the people she lives with to heed the superstition, as well. In this way, it appears that there is another reason she is performing this folk belief other than actually believing it. As she consistently mentions her mother when describing the superstition, I would guess that performing this folk belief, for her, has something to do with the connection to her mother.

 

Two socks or no socks

Background

The informant has a lot of different parts of her background which influence her. Her family is Haitian and Comorian (an island off the coast of Africa) and she is still close with family who live in those places and visits often. She grew up for the first 10 years of her life in the U.S., but then spent the rest of her life living in Paris, France until she decided to come to school in the U.S. She likes to say that she’s a hodge-podge of different identities. She learned this superstition from her mother who she says has tons of different superstitions about the world.

Context

The informant brought up this superstition when she saw one of our friends walking around with only one sock on. She freaked out a little bit and said that she should take off her sock or put on another one immediately. Everyone was laughing as she described it, including her.

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So, my mom always taught me that, um.. You’re never supposed to walk around with one sock or one shoe on and not the other because it means that, your — that one of your parents is going to leave, or die, or.. something. Basically, you’ll be– you’ll have one parent away, because you have two shoes like you have two parents and if you get rid of one of the shoes that you’re supposed to have, just like you’re supposed to have your two parents, then something bad is gonna happen.

Thoughts

When the informant discussed this superstition, she was laughing about it. However, the informant still does avoid the behavior that the superstition describes as bad luck and even tells other people to heed the superstition, as well. In this way, it appears that there is another reason she is performing this folk belief other than actually believing it. As she consistently mentions her mother when describing the superstition, I would guess that performing this folk belief, for her, has something to do with the connection to her mother.

 

Your belly button will shrink

Background

The informant is Chinese-American where both of her parents are from China, but she has never been there herself. She said that her mom had several superstitions that she would tell her as a child. The informant seemed to feel fondly about this habit of her mother’s.

Context

The informant described this superstition that her mother held following the description of a similar superstition that her mother held. In this way, it was among a list of funny superstitions the mother held that made her seem somewhat quirky.

Text

You should not run or exercise, or whatever, after you eat or else your belly button will shrink… and you won’t have a belly button… and you might die or something

Thoughts

The informants mother probably initially performed this superstition for her daughter either because she actually believed it or to warn against doing strenuous exercise immediately after eating. While it likely won’t shrink your belly button and kill you, it can still cause stomach cramps. The informant seemed to perform the piece of folklore somewhat ironically, laughing at the strange repercussions even as she told it. However, it is still something that stuck with her and that she shares with others as a way of exhibiting her fondness for her mother with her friends.

Put a cactus on your sunburn

Background

The informant is a first generation Mexican-American student. She said that she spends a decent amount of time in Mexico still (she usually visits a couple weekends during the school year and goes for slightly longer periods during the summer). She visits a lot of family in Mexico, including her grandma, a lot of cousins, and aunts and uncles. She learned this folk remedy from her grandma during these visits.

Context

The informant said that her grandma would use this folk remedy every time her or one of her brothers or cousins got sunburnt. She said that this was a fairly regular occurrence around her grandma, as she lived in a part of Mexico which was much closer to the equator where the sun was more intense.

Text

When we would get sunburnt, my grandma would take the green goop from the inside of the cactus and rub it on our skin. I don’t know if it actually helped or anything… I think it might have… Anyway, uh, she.. It was, like, very slimy. And she did it all the time.

Thoughts

This folk remedy for sunburn seems to come directly from the terrain of Mexico, where cacti are very prevalent. It makes sense that her grandmother would learn and perform folk medicine that is readily available in the region where she lives. Furthermore, when I was collecting this piece of folklore, I realized that the informant seemed to look very fondly on what good be unpleasant memories of sunburnt skin. For the informant, this performance of folk medicine probably also recalls for her some of the comfort her grandma provides to her.