Author Archives: pbenedek

Childhood Riddles

Main Text: 

Childhood Riddles 

Background on Informant: 

My informant is a current student who has shared with me his experiences of childhood folklore and traditions that he grew up with. In a series of interviews he has shared with me his knowledge. 

Context: 

He explained: 

“Riddles are such a huge part of my childhood. We were exposed to them everywhere, I remember my school used to do a weekly contest where they would have us compete to solve a riddle and whoever got it first would win a prize. So you can say I might be a bit of an expert on them. 

Some I remember are:

Riddle: If two’s company, and three’s a crowd, what are four and five?

Answer: Nine!

Riddle: What begins with T, finishes with T, and has T in it?

Answer: A teapot.

I don’t know if this counts but 

Why are ghosts bad at lying?

Answer: Because you can see right through them.

Riddle: I’m tall when I’m young, and I’m short when I’m old, what am I?

Solution: A candle.

I could go on for hours but riddles are always good fun, I remember the popsicles used to have them on the stick and the Laffy Taffy candies. See we’ve been exposed to riddles in almost every aspect of our childhood.”

Analysis/Thoughts: 

Riddles are truly a giant part of growing up. From being exposed through family or school, riddles have played a major part in childhood. They are an integral part of children’s folklore and have continued to remain a major part of our childhood past. It was interesting to see the one’s he remembered because I could recall so many as well. Riddles have always been important, especially as society’s means of evaluating cleverness and intelligence, but for me I’ve always viewed it as good fun. These connections to our childhood past are important in order for this folklore to remain alive and continue to thrive for the next riddle experts to experience. 

Szekely and Hungarian Proverbs

Main Text: 

Szekely & Hungarian Proverbs

Background on Informant: 

My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage. 

Context: 

They explain:

“You know a lot of these phrases stem from long traditions of proverbs and jokes, and I can remember as far back as my great-grandparents using these, but obviously many have evolved since then. 

A few I remember are: 

Sok lúd disznót győz. 

A rough translation would be like ‘A lot of geese can fight a pig’. It means that if someone is fighting against another person, if a lot of weaker people team up together they can take down the strongest opponent — hence a pack of geese against a pig is stronger than a single goose standing against a pig. 

My grandfather would tell me this a lot, he always had a fighting spirit. I guess in an American version it would like— united we stand something along those lines. 

Another one is

Itt van a kutya elásva

It kind of means ‘this is where the dog is buried’. We have this superstitious belief in our culture where if someone trips, it means that where they tripped is where a dog under the spell of the devil is buried. They also say that it might also have precious gems buried along with it. 

My mother would use it in a sort of more modern sense, to represent telling the truth, especially when we were younger to warn us about lying. 

Elszaladt vele a ló. 

This means ‘the horse ran away with him,’ it kind of means when people get carried away, it can be in pride or success — anything getting too much into someone’s head. The symbolism is that a good rider can control his/her horse but if they lose control they get the consequences.”

Analysis/Thoughts:

Listening and learning about these phrases allowed me to get some insight into Szekely ‘wisdom’ and expressions. I had never heard of these but even with the context they are very reminiscent of expressions I have heard in my own life. A lot of the phrases are attributed in a cultural context to the typical historical past of Hungary/Romania as a lot of them are associated with farm animals like horses and pigs that are very typical of the ancestral past and even in today’s traditions. 

I like how they all offer different insight into situations and how they evolved over time. I also like how they have been phrases that the person has experienced first hand themselves on several occasions and it was enjoyable to learn about. Overall, it was interesting to observe the cultural context of these proverbs and sayings and connecting them to the ones that I grew up listening to and observing how each culture has the same wisdom just said and established differently. 

Annotations: 

For more examples visit: 

https://dailynewshungary.com/famous-hungarian-quotes-vol-1/

Family Christmas Traditions

Main Text: 

Family Christmas Traditions 

Background on Informant: 

Currently a student, she grew up in an American household with heritage links to her Polish and Irish backgrounds. She has shared with me her many traditions and the folklore she has been exposed to through her experiences. 

Context: 

She explains:

“For Christmas every year, we have a small tradition. 

So on Christmas Eve, pre-COVID, we used to have the entire family gather, extended and all.

So we gather the presents together and they get handed out from oldest to youngest. We don’t open them but they sort of get complied into piles per person, which we’d open in the morning. I’m the youngest in my family and I’m 18 so we don’t do the Santa thing anymore unfortunately, so we know who got who what. 

Then we sit down for dinner and say grace. Grace? Grace died five years ago. We pray basically. Dinner is traditional Christmas food, maybe just for us, I’m not sure? But we eat roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, and vegetables, with small desserts after (it usually varies).

The funny thing is that we still leave out cookies for Santa, it’s a bit outdated for us but I think it’s cute, although my dad usually ends up eating them in the middle of the night. 

I think it’s a very American Christmas for us but I love it and don’t see much changing in terms of our customs any time soon. Although making Santa cookies will continue to crack me up.” 

Analysis/Thoughts: 

I love learning about people’s Christmas traditions and the importance of familial customs that always stand out. I grew up in an Eastern European household so our Christmas was accustomed to those traditions, so I always find it fascinating to learn about the ’American’ way of celebrating Christmas. 

I like how old-fashioned it is, with the traditional Christmas food customs and saying grace before dinner. I know the person I interviewed is not religious but they still adhere in order to continue the traditions. Christmas is so universal and because so many people celebrate it, it is always so interesting to see the variety and various ways it is enjoyed. Overall, I loved learning more about her traditions and always love finding out how Christmas customs are such an essential part of cultural identity. 

Thanksgiving Wishbone

Main Text: 

Thanksgiving Wishbone 

Background on Informant: 

Currently a student, she grew up in an American household with heritage links to her Polish and Irish backgrounds. She has shared with me her many traditions and the folklore she has been exposed to through her experiences. 

Context: 

She explains: 

“Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays we have here in the States, and with that my family and I have our own traditions that have developed throughout the years. 

Specifically we have this thing called the ‘Thanksgiving Wishbone,’ which  obviously comes from the typical wishbone custom but we’ve added a Thanksgiving twist to it. 

After someone finds the wishbone in the turkey, two people (usually my mom and me, or my dad and me) take one side each and then attempt to break it in half. 

The person who gets the bigger half is blessed with good luck for the year and sometimes we do a variation where we make a wish and whoever ‘wins’ has their wish come true. 

It’s very simplistic but it is a huge part of my Thanksgiving and it is something I look forward to every year.”

Analysis/Thoughts: 

I knew before this interview about the wishbone tradition, but I loved how the person I interviewed had her own little family twist with it. I love how Thanksgiving has a standard set of ‘rules’ when celebrating but how everyone that I’ve ever talked to about Thanksgiving has developed their own little side traditions. 

I also find it fascinating how universal the wishbone custom is and how it is practiced so frequently and has remained an integral part of a lot of peoples’ cultural background no matter where they are from. Overall, I find it interesting to see how this tradition has continued overtime and how even if people don’t understand or know its’ origins, it is still something people value. 

Néptánc

Main Text: 

Néptánc

Background on Informant: 

My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage. 

Context: 

They explain: 

“In our tradition, dance is a huge part of our culture. Our version is called ‘néptánc’ or folk dance in translation. 

Where I grew up the most popular form of this dance was the csárdás, which I think is the national dance of Hungary, but we still practiced it in the Szekelyfold. 

It’s known as a courting dance and while it begins slowly by the end it is super fast paced and you need the power to be able to keep up. 

My mother enrolled me in an after school dance program, but it was normal for all of us, our parents wanted us to have strong ties to our past. We also wore traditional folk clothing which includes for me included, a vest, white button up, black trousers, and of course the long black boots (sometimes hats). 

Some kids would go on to join dance troops, but I was never that passionate about dancing. We would perform at carnivals, recitals, and during the holidays for the people in the village. 

I remember some the steps but most of I’ve forgotten, but it is still a tradition practiced today”. 

Analysis/Thoughts: 

After learning more information about Hungarian folk dancing from this interview I was fascinated by how much it remains an integral part of Hungarian culture. Even from my own experience, parents continue to enroll their kids in dance clubs that teach children these dances, as they continue the traditions of their childhoods. It is fascinating how the dance has remained the same over all these decades and centuries and how it is viewed as a performing art. 

I like how dance allows children to grow up with the culture of their parents and grandparents and so forth and serves as a connection to the past and their national culture. In order to preserve this branch of Hungarian culture, these values and ideals have continued to be passed along generations, and will continue to be so as Hungary takes great pride in establishing their connection to heritage. 

Annotations: 

For visual reference:

For more information check out:

Kurti, Laszlo. “The Ungaresca and Heyduck Music and Dance Tradition of Renaissance Europe.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 14, no. 1, 1983, pp. 63–104. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2540167.