Author Archives: netrujil

Quinceaneras

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 54
Occupation: Translator
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2020
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English, Italian

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as LT. 

Me: What’s been your experience with Quinceaneras?

LT: When I was growing up, quinceaneras were just like a cute little party you had because at age 15 you’re kind of becoming a young adult, but I never thought it was too serious. It was just a cute day to celebrate you becoming a woman and you also got jewelry. My grandma, though, told that back in the day the qu8ince was very much tied to spanish catholic culture where you’re supposed to get married when you become a woman. Back in the day, my grandma before her quince, was taught how to weave and taught how to cook so it was clearly a set up for her to become a homemaker. But like, as we know now, 15 is absolutely not an age where you can get married but back in the day you weren’t really the one making those decisions, your family was. With that said though, quinces are still very tied to that christian base. You dance with your mom and dad, you go to church, so it’s still very much tied christianity but now it’s not tied to marriage. 

Me: So what do you do at a quinceanera? 

LT: So, you get very dressed up in a fancy gown and you get a tiara as well. But on the way there, I had to wear flat shoes so that my dad could put on my heels at the party, it’s kind of a little tradition. And then there’s food, you get presents, and then you have to do a special dance with your dad. Me and my dad were really bad so it was nothing too complicated but some of them are very elaborate. And then you just have like a regular party and celebration. 

Background:

Interviewee immigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles as a teenager, however, she still returns home near Mexico City frequently. Her entire family is from and lives in Mexico, apart from her younger siblings and stepmother. She works as a translator in both Spanish and Italian. She is my older sister, so we’re very comfortable around each other. 

Context: 

This interview was conducted over a video chat between interviewee and I. Being that we are family, it was a very casual conversation just talking about some things we both did growing up, but her specifically in central Mexico. 

Thoughts:

The quinceanera is one of the biggest days in many young girl’s lives. The celebration varies culturally, but the Mexican version is typically very tied to religion and very ceremonial. Some of the ceremonies are spoken about here, the changing of the shoes and the father-daughter dance. However, depending on how religious families are, there is also usually a church ceremony and other aspects of the event that highlight the transition from young girl to woman. Originally, the purpose was to showcase the young woman as she became eligible for marriage. However, the purpose now is simply to celebrate a big coming-of-age and growing up.

The spiritual meaning behind pinatas

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 54
Occupation: Translator
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2020
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English, Italian

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as LT.

Me: So what were some birthday rituals you used to have growing up?

LT: Well, I’m sure most people now are familiar with the classic pinata that a lot of mexican households have at their kids’ birthdays. I guess, since you’re asking about traditions, I remember my dad telling me that the tradition about pinatas is all about how the pinata represents, supposedly, the seven deadly sins – like temptation. So you having the stick and being blindfolded is supposed to represent like blind faith in god and your struggle not to give into those sins. And, I never did this, but my dad told me that they used to twirl people around to confuse them because that’s how you make it an extra struggle! And I remember my grandma used to even twirl people 30 times because that’s how many years Jesus Christ lived. Also, pinatas were never animals – they used to just be, according to my dad, just like spiky balls with lots of vibrant colors. I guess vibrant colors are supposed to represent sin and temptation.

Me: Ok, so what about the candy?

LT: Oh, and the candy, well he said and I guess it makes sense, that the candy is supposed to represent the reward from god and from faith that you get when you fight and defeat those temptations. 

Me: So, you used to always have a pinata at birthdays growing up?

LT: Oh, yes always.

Background:

Interviewee immigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles as a teenager, however, she still returns home near Mexico City frequently. Her entire family is from and lives in Mexico, apart from her younger siblings and stepmother. She works as a translator in both Spanish and Italian. She is my older sister, so we’re very comfortable around each other. 

Context:

This interview was conducted over a video chat between interviewee and I. Being that we are family, it was a very casual conversation just talking about some things we both did growing up, but her specifically in central Mexico. 

Thoughts:

Pinatas are seemingly well known at this point as a Latinx tradition, but it is interesting the variation by region and country. In her area of Mexico, the pinata is tied to religion and they teach kids very young that they must battle and conquer sins. While this is a very heavy message, they do it as a reminder of the emerging hardships of growing older each year that also seemingly give fruitful rewards, like candy. I, too, always had pinatas at birthday parties but ours were always characters and I never got to meet my grandma to learn her lessons about it. 

The Folk Slang of Gamers

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Lebanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic, French, Spanish

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as SM.

Me: I just burnt my toast. 

SM: GG, my man. 

Me: What does that mean?

SM: It means “good game.” It’s, like, sarcastic and it’s HUGE for gamers like everyone uses this slang on games and in youtube videos. 

Me: So, what does it actually mean then?

SM: Like when someone just lost a game, especially if they lost it pretty royally, to rub salt in the wound you say sarcastically “GG” like “good game, hahaha.” It’s like you didn’t actually play a good game cause you messed up but here’s me being an asshole to remind you of that. It’s probably the equivalent of saying “good job” sarcastically. 

Me: So you just made me feel worse about ruining my toast?

SM: Yes, I just made fun of you and anyone else would’ve understood it because it is very popular slang. And if I wanted to be extra mean, I would say “GG No Re.” That means good game, no replays meaning you can’t redeem yourself. 

Background: 

Interviewee is a gamer, so they know quite a bit about popular slang and lingo and use it in everyday life. 

Context:

Interviewee and I were speaking just after I had made an error. I had burnt some toast, so he was making fun of me for it by using this folk slang. Interviewee and I are romantically involved, so the conversation was very casual. 

Thoughts:

It’s interesting to me how many versions of this slang there are, especially in the gaming community. Many of them typically are snide or sarcastic remarks that tend to get a rise out of other players and make the game more interesting or perk it up. When this translates to daily life, as most have, they are quick wits that rub salt in wounds. They all are typically very short and quick because the gaming world is so fast paced. I learn quite a bit from being around gamers, whenever I can keep up!

Tsougrisma

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Lebanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student/Screenwriter
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/12/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic, French, and Spanish

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as SM.

Me: So how do you celebrate Easter?

SM: Well, not all families do this, but my family plays this game every Easter called tsougrisma, it’s a Greek name but many countries have their variations, like Armenia – which is where I think we got it because our country houses many Armenians. Anyways, the game goes like this: each person picks an egg. And then, in pairs of two, they duel by hitting the eggs on top of each other and the first person who’s egg cracks loses. The goal is to have the hardest shelled egg or like some technique of holding it (but I’m not sure if I believe in technique, I think it’s mostly luck.) But yeah, so if your egg wins then you battle the other winners and you keep going like that until the two strongest eggs battle and the winner of that one is the super egg. Supposedly if your egg wins this, you will have great luck for the next year. 

Me: And do you dye the eggs, like in many other traditions?

SM: Oh yeah, we dye them all sorts of colors but I know my aunt’s families are more traditional in a lot of things they do and they dye them red each year for some reason. Sometimes we do it with their family too, because as you can imagine, the game is much more fun with more people – more eggs to battle!

Background:

Interviewee was born and raised in America, but his parents are both Lebanese. He lived in Dubai during his teen years and has always had very close ties to Lebanon. He visits Lebanon at least once a year and speaks with his parents regularly, where they speak in Arabic and often chat about history. They also all continually practice many Lebanese and Arabic traditions and share folklore. 

Context: 

This interview was conducted over a video call. Interviewee and I are romantically involved, so the conversation was very open and casual. He was very willing to help out and share some of his culture’s lore. 

Thoughts:

This was the first time that I had heard of this Easter tradition. It seems to be quite varied in what region celebrates this tradition because it is widespread, yet isn’t typically celebrated all over Lebanon. Interviewee is from the northern region of Lebanon from a village in the mountain called Al Coura. While it is possible that the tradition emerged from the villagers, because there are other variations of this tradition all over the Middle East and Greek-influenced countries that I think it is safe to say that interviewee’s family was influenced by the Greeks and adapted the tradition to make a fun Easter tradition with some historical significance. In the classic Greek or Armenian game, the smashing of the eggs is supposed to represent smashing of sin. And so, the winner is most sacred. While I’m sure it doesn’t hold the same sentiment in modern times, especially in non-religious families, it is still a fun way to celebrate.

Ukrainian Easter Traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Ukrainian
Age: 45
Occupation: Contractor
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/2020
Primary Language: Ukrainian
Other Language(s): English, Russian

The following is a transcribed interview between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as MT.

MT: We are Greek Catholics, so that’s basically between Greek orthodox and Roman Catholic and so we celebrate on the Greek Orthodox Easter, which is a week after the popular Roman Catholic Easter.

Me: Ok, and how do you celebrate Easter in your village in Ukraine?

MT: There are a lot of things that just have to be done on Easter, it’s kind of a big deal. So, one of the biggest things is this special bread called “Pascha.” My mom, and all the women, typically spend lots of time and make sure they have all the ingredients to make this fresh holiday bread. They also make sausage and jams and all sorts of stuff like that. But the bread is really the main thing – that simply cannot be substituted. And then when the food is done, usually it’s like a day or two in prep, they put a small bit of each kind of food and sometimes some other stuff, depending on how religious your family is, in a basket. Like, just a classic woven basket. 

And then they send one person from the family to the church with the basket so it can be blessed by the priest. Now, this part where us and our food gets blessed by the priest is like a game. So basically everyone waiting to be blessed by the priest stands in a large circle and the priest goes around blessing everyone and their stuff. And everyone makes room for everyone else like a large rotating circle like as soon as the priest blesses someone that spot gets switched out for someone else in the circle if it’s crowded. But no one can leave until the priest goes back to the center and blesses the cross and positions it perfectly. And so sometimes the priest goofs off and like takes his time doing that because everyone wants to rush, I mean like truly run home because supposedly the first one to get back home will be lucky the whole year. So the priest plays with them, if he’s fun, and then everyone fights to be the luckiest man of the year. It’s really funny but yeah we have to do that every year, the whole town gets involved. 

Me: Wow, cool. Do you also do colored eggs like in many other traditions?

MT: Oh, yeah. We do the colored eggs and stuff too, it’s a very busy time of year with lots of running round and food. Just so much food. 

Me: Hahaha

Background:

Interviewee, MT, is from LViv, Ukraine. His family is from a village called Rodatichi in Ukraine. He immigrated to America at age 13, but returns home for occasions. He has lived in Sherman Oaks, CA for the rest of his life thus far and has been happily married to my mom for 11 years. He has been a part of and seen this easter tradition happen all growing up.

Context:

This interview was conducted over lunch at our family home, so it was very casual. He has many stories about the customs of his country that he usually shares with me so it was just like any number of our usual conversations. 

Thoughts:This bread and blessing ceremony is interesting. The bread is pronounced pas-ka and in some languages, it is just the name of Easter. By collecting various Easter traditions from different countries, I’m learning that food and eggs typically play a big part in Easter festivities, no matter the region. What is interesting is that everything in this custom must be home-made. This must be because there have been minimal resources in villages and so women became the homemakers and chefs, especially for holidays. I liked the idea that this custom has grown and changed in order to have humor and recognize the simplicity of being blessed with holiday cheer. I’m sure not everyone can actually know if they were the first person home from church, but I bet it’s nice to think you are.

Ukrainian Wedding Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Ukrainian
Age: 45
Occupation: Contractor
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/40/2020
Primary Language: Ukrainian
Other Language(s): English, Russian

The following is transcribed from an interview between me and interviewee, referred to as MT. 

MT: In my country, when someone wants to get married to a girl, they have to first barter for her with her neighborhood, essentially. Usually the neighborhood people ask for booze and money and then in exchange they’ll let her go and give her to him. 

Me: So do potential grooms actually end up going and meeting the neighborhood people’s demands for their brides?

MT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, at this point it’s usually pretend, like, not serious but because it’s tradition we have to do it, you know? So usually the guy will just go and the neighborhood will play pretend like you have to give me stuff and at this point it’s just an excuse to get some booze and get excited for the wedding. Although, I have seen a neighborhood take it seriously one time and the guy had to actually go home and get money because the neighborhood wouldn’t let her go! 

Me: And why do they do the bartering before the wedding?

MT: Well, the neighborhood is losing a person so it’s like they should get something in return, you know? And it’s also a way to test and see how much the groom wants her like what she’s worth to him. 

Me: What if someone wants to marry her from the same neighborhood, though?

MT: Oh, no matter what they’ll make the guys barter for her. So even if they’re from the same neighborhood, they’ll then separate it by streets and he’ll barter with the people on her street. If they’re on the same street, he’ll have to barter with the family type of stuff. It’s just tradition. 

Background:

Interviewee, MT, is from LViv, Ukraine. His family is from a village called Rodatichi in Ukraine. He immigrated to America at age 13, but returns home for occasions. He has lived in Sherman Oaks, CA for the rest of his life thus far and has been happily married to my mom for 11 years. He has been to numerous weddings and seen this wedding tradition happen all growing up.

Context: 

This interview was conducted over lunch at our family home, so it was very casual. He has many stories about the customs of his country that he usually shares with me so it was just like any number of our usual conversations. 

Thoughts:

There are many versions of these wedding customs, but what I found interesting is that this specific tradition of bartering for the wife is unique to his region in Ukraine. Even in the Eastern part of the country, there are wildly different traditions but they all seem to center around the idea of testing the man of his dedication to the wife. I think this is interesting because in
America, we don’t have many of these traditions where a man has to truly win and earn his bride. It is also very interesting how much variation there is within this custom as far as what the neighborhood people ask for, whether or not the groom actually has to give it to them, and whether he is bartering with the whole neighborhood or just her family. 

Masks As Folk Art

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student/Journalist
Residence: Las Vegas, NV
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/12/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as CC.

Me: How have you been covering your face in public places due to the coronavirus?

CC: I just made a mask out of a bandana and two hair ties because I couldn’t get any other pre-made masks in time. 

Me: How did you do that and how effective is it?

CC: Well, it’s super easy and stays in place nicely so I don’t have to touch my face when I’m out and about. So, yeah, I’d say it’s effective.

Me: And how do you make it?

CC: Oh yeah, ok so basically you just lay the bandana out and then fold it a few times so it’s a long rectangle. Then you like put the hair ties around either end and move them towards the middle until as big as you want the mask to be. And then you just fold over the edges, I try to like fold one edge into the other so it doesn’t come loose but it’s kinda hard to get that part right. And then you just put it on with the hair ties around your ears and adjust if you want it bigger or smaller. I can send a step-by-step pics if you need help.

Me: Yeah that’d be great, thanks! And where did you get this idea?

CC: Not gonna lie, I saw some facebook post about it and copied it but honestly it’s kinda become a viral life-hack! 

Me: Cool, thanks.

Background: 

Interviewee is a long-time friend of mine who attends a school on the East Coast. She is an American who grew up in Las Vegas, NV. 

Context:

This piece of folklore was collected during a video call between me and interviewee during the Coronavirus Pandemic. I have known the interviewee for many years, so the conversation was casual. 

Thoughts:

I have seen many youtube videos and facebook posts about this method of making a mask quickly and without sewing for those who don’t know how to sew or don’t want to. I’ve tried it and I think it works pretty well, too. Going around to the grocery store and such, I see quite a few people using this method of making a mask, and because there are so many kinds of fabrics you can make it with, people get really creative and you can show more of your personal style than with a classic paper mask. 

To see how she makes this mask and with what kind of cloth, see this: https://www.allure.com/gallery/bandana-face-masks-covid-19-coronavirus

Greek Orthodox Easter

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Lebanese
Age: 62
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Al Coura, Lebanon
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/2020
Primary Language: Arabic
Other Language(s): English, French

The following is a transcribed interview conducted over a video chat between me and interviewee, hereby further referred to as WN.

Me: So when do you celebrate Easter?

WN: We celebrate Easter following the Julian Calendar, or the traditional calendar. This means that our Easter is one week after the non-Orthodox Easter, the one popular in America. This year we celebrated April 19th.

Me: And why do you celebrate it one week after?

WN: Oh, because there’s a huge feud of the calendars between the Orthodox Church and the modern church. The argument is that we should be celebrating on the actual day it was supposed to be celebrated on than the day that fits with the Pagan calendar. 

Me: What do you mean that the other Easter fits with the Pagan calendar?

WN: Well, once there started getting many popular religions, there was a split between the Roman Catholic church and the Greek Orthodox. The Catholic church altered and adhered to a different calendar while we stuck with the original Julian Calendar. 

Me: Ok, cool thank you!

Background:

Interviewee was born and raised in a village called Bechmezzine in Al Coura, Lebanon. He is the Uncle of a close friend of mine who was gracious enough to speak with me. He is a fluent English speaker and has spent lots of time in America, as some of his family lives here, but he currently lives in Lebanon. He is a christian and his native language is Arabic. 

Context: 

This interview was conducted on a video call. Because he is my dear friend’s uncle, we had spoken some before this conversation but not often. That being said, the conversation was really casual and he was very willing to share some of his folklore. 

Thoughts:

This is an example in some of the variations on holidays, especially Christian holidays. Each region celebrates their own versions of holidays – especially religious holidays. The variation is endless and it was nice to hear exactly why Lebanon, in particular, celebrates the Greek Orthodox Easter. While some other countries do, each one has their own reasoning. The reasoning here is clearly that they believe they are being truer to the religion and the purpose of the holidays by honoring Easter, as is customary to determine the Greek Orthodox. So, in short, they are just being extra cautious and traditional when celebrating on this day, despite being not as traditional in many other ways. 
For more explanation on why this holiday is on this day, see here: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/common/orthodox-easter-day

The Dabke Dance

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Lebanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student/Screenwriter
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/15/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic, French, Spanish

This interview is a transcribed conversation between me, interviewer, and interviewee, referred to as SM. 

SM: I’m from Lebanon and in Lebanon and many other Middle Eastern Countries along the Sinai Peninsula, we commonly do this dance we all refer to as the dabke. I always see it at family weddings and other celebrations like birthdays.

Me: So what does this dance look like?

SM: So this dabke dance is done with both men and women, and it’s basically when people line up together and hold hands or link arms and then in a circle begin to dance and stomp their feet in synchronization. They also, like, sway their bodies from side to side in synchronization. Everyone dances and, oh, everyone sings as well in the circle. The circle rotates and people just keep swaying and dancing and stomping.

Me: Ok, and why do you do this dance?

SM: I was told by my dad, and other family members, that the dabke actually originates in Lebanon when we as Phoenicians used to make our homes out of stone and would put straw, wood, and finally mud on top. My dad said they used to have to stomp on the mud to pack it into the straw and be sturdy. Apparently the only way to do that on the roofs of the homes was to have men line up and stomp in synchronization.

Me: Have you ever done the dabke?

SM: Yeah, I’ve done it at a couple weddings and stuff – usually it just breaks out and everyone gets swept into it.

Background:

Interviewee was born and raised in America, but his parents are both Lebanese. He lived in Dubai during his teen years and has always had very close ties to Lebanon. He visits Lebanon at least once a year and speaks with his parents regularly, where they speak in Arabic and often chat about history. They also all continually practice many Lebanese and Arabic traditions and share folklore. 

Context:

This interview was conducted over a video call. Interviewee and I are romantically involved, so the conversation was very open and casual. He was very willing to help out and share some of his culture’s lore. 

Thoughts:

It is interesting to hear a young person’s rendition of a traditional dance that clearly is still prevalent in Middle Eastern culture. His recollection and the version he knows is only one of many – many different dabkes emerged in different Middle Eastern countries. The interviewee explained the history of the dabke quite well – it is adapted from a roof dance. I greatly enjoyed learning about this and would love to see it in person. 

For a different version and more history of the dabke dance, refer to this link: https://www.arabamerica.com/dabke-cultural-background-preparing-arab-american-wedding-season/

Folk Medicine in a time of crisis

--Informant Info--
Nationality: African American
Age: 22
Occupation: Food Service Worker
Residence: San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/06/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French

The following is a transcribed interview between me and interviewee, MH.

Me: How are you protecting yourself against the coronavirus?

MH: OMG, well I’ve been crushing up garlic and taking it like a shot in the morning with some hot black tea with honey in it to chase it. And all our stores are getting completely wiped out of garlic because everyone is upping the garlic to boost their immune system. Our stores are also getting drained of all our kombuchas because everyone is upping the probiotics. But I thought it was pretty surprising how fast the garlic has been going, it is like never before.

Me: Thanks so much.

Background:

Interviewee works for Trader Joe’s, a supermarket chain that has been providing food services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trader Joe’s, along with many other supermarkets have been essential businesses during the pandemic and the community of food service workers have been impacting daily life because they are one of the few who are still working. Further, supermarkets are one of the only in-person businesses still running, where many people will interact. 

Context:

This piece of folklore was collected from a quick phone call when interviewee had just gotten off of work. The setting was very casual, as we were just talking to catch up and share some folklore.

Thoughts:

Garlic is a well-known and established folk medicine for colds. However, I think it is interesting how popular this remedy has gotten with the coronavirus since there aren’t any known medicines that work for it yet. I think that it is the lack of medicines for the virus that is leading to a large surge in natural medicine and ancient eastern remedies. However, most popularly is simply raw garlic cloves being ingested or eaten. And, even more interestingly, since the interviewee works in a supermarket chain, she says that their stock is diminishing across America. And so, maybe it is possible that all over America, people are desperate and trying anything that may help them fight off this virus. Their first source of medicine seems to be reaching for the tried-and-true garlic cloves. 
For some more history on this remedy, here’s a quick, easy-to-read source with some interesting information on the growth of this remedy: https://home.howstuffworks.com/garlic3.htm