Author Archives: Melanie Grindle

Holiday Belief – Serbian

“On our Christmas, we make bread, and the mom puts one coin in the bread and she bakes it. And she doesn’t know where the coin is. On the lunch when she puts it on the table, everyone is getting a piece of bread. And the person who finds the coin will have luck for the whole year—luck will be on his side.”

“It’s tradition every religious family does in Serbia. Christians.

“I think that it is true because  every time that someone from my family found the coin it has come true. He did something big in the year, It was really really… seriously like it’s happened every single time. He will succeed on his goal or whatever.”

The informant is originally from Serbia and currently attending school in Los Angeles. She has been in the United States for less than one year.

The Winter Holiday season can be seen as a liminal time period as we move from one year to the next. The ritualization of baking the bread every year as well as the focus on divining the next year’s luck are results of this characteristic. The coin refers to fortune in money, as well as success in other aspects of life. Over all, the act of finding the coin is a success in itself. In this way, it is also a loose version of homeopathic folk magic; like causes like. The success of finding the coin will cause success throughout the year. The fact that the magic lasts for the whole year is a result of the cyclical time as the ritual will be repeated once the holiday occurs again.

Folk Belief – Polish

“When your ears burn we say that someone’s talking about you.”

“That may be true actually. Kind of everyone believes in it.”

“I think I learned from my parents like during primary school.”

The informant is from Poland. She is currently attending university in Los Angeles, CA. She has been studying in the United States for the past four years.

The belief that when your ears are burning when someone is talking about you is in some ways an example of homeopathic magic. The fact that its their ears that are burning implies that they want to hear what is being said. Also, when people are embarrassed when they hear something about themselves, they often blush or their ears turn red. In this case, a person talking about whomever makes his or her ears burn from a far distance, like they may have done in person.

Folk Gesture – American

Pinkie Promise

Two people grasp each others’ pinkies and shake them. Similar to a hand-shake, but with only the pinkie (little) finger.

“It’s a hand gesture made between two people and it signifies that the promise that is verbally spoken during this hand gesture has to be kept. If a pinkie promise unfulfilled or broken, the guilty the party can no longer be friends with the other person, as per rules of the pinkie promise.

“I only really do them with a couple, because it’s like not really social acceptable for people my age, but it was a big deal in elementary school. It’s cute. If you ever used them as a kid you understand the implications that go along with it, and even as an adult you wouldn’t break them. It’s a binding contract because your friendship is on the line.”

The informant is a 19-year-old Caucasian student in the Los Angeles area, originally from Northern California. She follows the Jewish faith. She also comes from a very large family with 8 other siblings.

The pinkie promise is a piece of children’s folklore. Children’s folklore forges an informal folk group. This is demonstrated in the fact pinkie promises are typically made from one child to another. The pinkie promise also can align with the children’s interest in secrecy (Oring 102). Often children pinkie promise to keep a secret. Also, the informant’s remark that pinkie promising at her age (in adulthood) is no longer socially acceptable demonstrates another hallmark item of children’s folklore: once one passes from childhood, the folklore is no longer applicable.

Oring, Elliott. Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: an Introduction. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 1986. Print.

Folk Belief – Polish

“If you sneeze while talking that means you are saying the truth. [when asked if she thinks its true] Mmm I don’t know. It happens sometimes and that’s just what we say—‘truth’.”

As to where she learned, the informant could not cite a specific source, but said, “My parents or friends probably sometime during primary school. A lot of people say it.”

The informant is from Poland and has been studying at a university in Los Angeles, CA for the past four years.

When asked if she knew any reasoning behind it, the informant said “No, it’s just something they say.” The idea that someone is speaking the truth when they sneeze is potentially related to the fact that the person is not focusing on lying, or potentially that if they were lying when they sneezed they would be distracted from their lie. There is a similar belief in Serbia–it states that when you drop something while speaking, you must be telling the truth.

Folk Belief – Polish

“If you sit on the edge [corner] of the table it means you will never get married. It’s cause you’re on the outside—excluded.”

“I laugh at it. It’s really funny. But at the same time, I avoid it.”

The informant is from Poland. She is currently attending university in Los Angeles, CA. She has been studying in the United States for the past four years.

The superstition may stem from the fact that you’re not directly sitting next to anyone. It is typically the man and woman who sit at the heads of the table and those single who sit at the longer edges to mingle. By positioning yourself at the corners, you are not in either of the social categories; it places one at a liminal space which is neither single nor taken.

It falls into the category of homeopathic magic, for sitting at the corner of the table is said to result in one not getting married; like causes like.