Author Archives: mmmendoz

Reindeer food at Christmas

Main Piece:

We sprinkle reindeer food on Christmas Eve. Like out in the yard on the grass. It was a big big deal when I was little, and we still do it for my brother. It’s oats with glitter in it, and I used to think I was feeding them. It’s cute, and I was always so excited.

Background: My informant is from Kansas City, Kansas. She has a loving relationship with her family, and she was raised Catholic. Her family is traditional.

Context: She is a good friend of mine I made at USC. We FaceTimed (quarantine prevents live conversations), and I asked her if she had any sort of folklore after explaining the concept, and she told me this.

Thoughts/annotation:

I think this is a super common idea of leaving out food for Christmas. My own family used to stick carrots and chocolate chip cookies out for Santa, and my mom would take a bite out of each so that it looked half-eaten in the morning. https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/magical-reindeer-food/ is a recipe for this reindeer food, and this variation includes a note. I have heard of leaving a note, but I never did and neither did my friend.

Greek Life Homecoming

Main Piece:

“Okay, so, in USC Greek life there’s this thing called homecoming. Which is a tradition that goes back as long as anyone can remember. it coincides with the homecoming football game that is always at USC. A frat will ask a sorority to go with them to homecoming, and if the sorority says yes, then they do a week of activities together. They have something together every night– so it could be movie Monday, tequila and tacos on Tuesday, wine Wednesday, and it goes on until tailgating on Saturday.

It’s a big deal because it says a lot about what fraternities and sororities like each other at the time, and it’s probably the most high school thing in greek life. Sororities say no sometimes, and fraternities have elaborate ways to ask them in order to woo them. It causes tension and heirarchies. Last year, a frat asked a sorority with letters written in the sky by a plane, and the sorority said no.”

Context and Background: My informant is my brother, who was heavily involved with USC Greek life. He was in a fraternity and participated a lot in it socially, but he also played a major role in its governance first in his own frat then in the InterFraternity Council. He enjoyed it, but was always quick to point out the flaws in the Greek life system and its superficial tendencies. He told this to me as we sat together on the couch.

Thoughts:

Like its name, this tradition is very similar to high school promposals. I have seen it first hand, and I agree that it is quite elaborate.

High stomach means you’ll have a boy

Conversation between me and the informant explaining this belief which she called an old wives’ tale:

Informant: When you’re pregnant, and your stomach is high, you’re gonna have a boy. If it’s low, you’re gonna have a girl. That’s bs, not true at all.

Me: Where did you learn it?

Informant: I dont know…old ladies. People believe it, I guess.

Context and Background: The informant is my mom. She is a white baby boomer from the East Coast, who comes from a very traditional, conservative family. She is very independent and feminist. She brought this up when I asked her about any interesting folklore she knew.

Thoughts:

I think people have a lot to say about babies and pregnancy reveals, but really there is a 50/50 percent chance that you get it right. I think it’s kind of like astrology, where you attribute any coincidences to having truth value, and anytime it doesn’t work out, you essentially consider it to be an exception to a rule. This seems like BS to me, and I don’t know why people would believe it, unless if they didn’t have ultrasounds.

Socks are DIY hair curlers.

Grandma used to curl my hair with socks. They have to be nylon knee socks so that they can be crushed and tied, and you sleep in it. When your hair is just a tiny bit wet out of the shower, you stick all those socks in, and you wake up very curly. I think I did it to you, remember? I kept doing it, because it stayed so much better than regular curlers, it would stay for days. I would do it all the way until I got married. I don’t know anyone else who would do that. I learned it from grams.

Background and context: This was told to me by my mother, who is a white baby boomer. She is close with her mom, who is from the Great Generation. My mom grew up in Pittsburgh.

Thoughts: This is likely from before hair curlers’ existence. I have seen the style, and it looks more old-fashioned. I think this is people figuring out a way to curl before they had the technology, and it could be swapped out easily for another method.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian)

The following was told to me by my informant.

Main piece:

“It’s called the feast of the seven fishes, it is an Italian tradition. A lot of my friends do it too, but there’s a lot of variations depending on what region you are from. Every Christmas Eve, we did this and it was led by my grandparents at their house in Pittsburgh. Basically, it’s a big fish feast, and you had to have 7 kinds of fishes. Usually there were mainstays, like calamari, bakala…it could switch around a bit, but there were always seven fish. We always made a special fried bread with mashed potatoes in it that we called rispelli. Then, the tradition came to our house, and I was more involved then, going to the fish market and helping cook starting in the morning. The entire family helped out, and we would have fun, and drink wine, then enjoy the dinner feast. Nobody’s sure what it symbolizes– Seven sacraments maybe? It’s an important number in the Bible. My dad’s family did it when he was little too. It felt special because we only ate that food at Christmas Eve, and when we were kids, we didn’t really like it. But by the time you grow up, you really like it and enjoy the food.”

Context: This was told to me when my informant came over to my house.

Background: My informant is Italian-American from the East Coast. She is from a big, close extended family who enjoys their Italian heritage. Her grandparents were immigrants from Calabria.

Thoughts:
I participate in this every year, too. I love this tradition, and I find it very true that the food really does not taste good but because you associate it with happy memories you learn to love it.