Author Archives: pritzker

Norwegian Graduation Celebration

The tradition started in 1905 when Norway got its independence, and it’s sort of a combination of celebrating the end of high school and independence day (17th of May). Basically in their sophomore year or something, very early on in high school, kids get together in groups of like 20-30 girls and 20-30 guys and start saving money to buy a bus (party bus) in their senior year. Basically each group picks a project to work on over the two years that will help them raise enough money to do it (typically about 200,000 dollars per group.)
Not everyone does it, but a lot of kids do. And basically with these busses, you create your own theme so one bus could be called just weird names like sin city or vice city, or one bus could be called champions league and  umm and you renovate the bus create it and decorate it in your own theme by re decorating the whole inside, changing the seating, sometimes adding sofas in the bus, adding speakers, lights, bars, and some people put karaoke machines inside their bus, thats a new thing.
And basically then there are different competitions between busses: who has the best sound systems, exterior, interior, etc and the competitions are regional or countrywide.
I’m from east of Norway and its more of a cultural thing where I’m from, and most parts of the country if they can’t afford it do it with busses so they just do it with like minivans.
So then there’s different festivals around the country- these are called literally translated its called country meet ups and then the name of the place” and at these FESTIVALS (which last for like 2-4 days) have performances and concerts by artists, and the busses are all set up in the same huge space and the best busses usually have a large set up around their bus with light shows and a stage and you can imagine, and they are judged not only on the bus but also the set up. I would say they put a lot of money into the busses. Basically throughout high school each person ends up spending like about 7-12 thousand dollars on the whole thing.
And the festivals happen right before you graduate and they happen from like April 20th through sometime in May but not all at the same time, sort of spread out through that time period and all over the country. And then when the busses aren’t at their specific festivals they just get driven through the cities all month and the kids party on the bus.
Every bus also has a name that goes along with it’s theme and all the people on it have headbands with the name of the bus on it and wear them to the festivals to represent their busses. And each person also orders different colored pants, these are special pants, and you can have pants that could be a one pieces or suspenders like overalls that are called “russebukse” or anything like that and they’re usually either red, blue, green, or black, most popular are red and blue. It used to be based on your major or whatever you were planning to study after high school,  so IT and Media would have blue pants and general subjects would have red, and green would be if you were like doing agricultural stuff and black would be for those who were doing labor subjects (plumber).
I would say that graduating high school is a really special part of a teenagers life even more so than in other places because we have this crazy tradition that is also mixed with our independence day. People that celebrate this holiday
For more information on this celebration see video below or article Norwegian Russ- Silly Season is Here, Life in Norway by David Nikel.
The informant, a fellow peer, told me this story on a long bus ride we were on together recently. While the folklore itself is engaging and definitely meaningful to anyone who has had a high school graduation celebration, the most entertaining part of the story was just how excited the informant was as he was telling me about it. He really did seem prideful about this piece of folklore that is so specific to his country and its culture and traditions.

Vietnamese New Year

Every Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, my family practices some traditions that make the celebration unique and special to me. The night before the new year my dad sets up food, candles, and flowers around a shrine like set up to honor our ancestors. A picture of his grandparents and his father are the center of the shrine. I find this extra special because my grandfather passed away before I was born, so this is my only connection and memory of him. My dad spends the day cleaning the house and getting the shrine ready in various rooms of the house. I never truly understood the importance of placement of the shrines and candles, but he says that they all are in a certain room or space for a reason. My dad takes me and my sister around each of the set ups and we have a silent prayer in our heads. The food left out for our ancestors and Buddha is all vegetarian because he was vegetarian. The following day on the new year my parents say that we cannot clean at all, and we must celebrate. We cannot clean on the new year because it can clean away the good luck. But my dad has also semi-joked that if I clean on the New Year, I will clean every day of the year.
I like celebrating Vietnamese New Year because it is one of the only times that I celebrate my family’s history, heritage, and tradition. I enjoy seeing my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. While my family is not very religious or traditional, I am glad that my parents still try to teach and share their Vietnamese culture and tradition with me and my sister. The only things that I know about my family’s traditions are the things that my parents shared with me growing up. There is a language barrier between me and my grandparents, so my parents have been the main people to share with me their traditions. Practicing parts of the Vietnamese culture and celebrating the new year holds a special place in my heart, and the older that I get the more that I appreciate it.



Spanakopita and Sanka

When I was growing up my mom would always make our family’s spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) recipe. Our recipe called for four things: frozen spinach, cottage cheese, regular dough instead of filo, and a cup of Sanka (instant decaf coffee) on the side. I remember watching my mom make the spinach pie in awe and excitement. In order to make it right, you had to knead the spinach in the sink – for what felt like hours as a kid – to make sure all the water was removed. Then you added all the ingredients and mixed them together in a big bowl with your hands.
We’d both wait longingly for the timer to go off. Finally, when it was ready, we’d eat standing up in the kitchen, straight out of the pan. My moms spinach pie is still my favorite food to this day — and I can’t eat it without a cup of Sanka.
 I decided to include this piece, not because of it’s rich tradition or history, but because I think that this is how family traditions and folklore are started. When the informant told me that she cant eat spanakopita without a cup of Sanka I really thought about the fact that when you become so accustomed to doing something alongside something else, it almost feels empty when the two arent together. I think that the tying together of these two things is what makes this piece unique and interesting.

Anzac Day

Anzac Day is an Australian and New Zealand based public holiday commemorating War time Veterans that takes place on April 25th every year. This public holiday specifically commemorates lives lost in WWI’s battle of Gallipoli. Thousands of Australian’s and their allies were brutally massacred trying to capture the city of Constantinople, and were finally rescued by the British Navy. This experience of war time allies like Great Britain and The US ties into the way we see ourselves as Australians. The image of the white male war time digger is sometimes seen as the ideal personification of the Australian identity. This is becoming increasingly criticized as Australia is a multi-cultural country. For these groups it is hard to challenge this holiday as this is like the Veteran’s Day of America, and is seen as a large part of Australian history. Although this is a celebration of Australia’s participation in war, some argue that it promotes militarism.

Elements of the Anzac myth were deployed to swing people to understand Australian recent intervention on the war on terror. Any marketing that involves drinking and family ties is often linked to this celebration, and is seen as problematic. Anzac representation is used somewhat freely, but the term “Anzac Day” is strictly regulated, and therefore the “anzac myth” continues. Growing up with great grandparents who were “diggers” in the war, my family celebrates this holiday every year by eating a big Australian meal which includes a large roast dinner. We finish off the meal with Anzac Biscuits. These biscuits are only made and eaten during this time, and are related to the recipes used to keep biscuits fresh during war time. We think about our ancestors, and appreciate our military, but there is a feeling that this holiday is more compatible with older generations as we are no longer engaged in any wars.



Songkran is a celebration marking the Thai New Year that takes place every year on April 13th. The festival celebrates the arrival of the wet season, also known as the monsoon season in the region. In antiquity, Thai’s would pay respect to their ancestors, parents, and Buddha, by pouring small amounts of water on their elders shoulders, after going to the temple and doing the same to buddhist monks and statues. This emphasis on water spiraled into what is now a glorified day long nation-wide water fight. I was born and raised in Thailand, so I have participated in this holiday for as long as I can remember. On this day every year, no matter how old or young, rich or poor, the entire country participates. Shops are closed, jobs are put on hold, and people flood into the streets to spray each other with water. When I was younger, my parents would put us all in the back of my fathers pick up truck, and drive us through the streets while we had water fights with all of the locals. Elders would put prickly powder on our faces, and this is seen as good luck for the younger generation. Government officials, policemen, and respected elders who would not normally engage with society on this level throw social norms to the way-side and celebrate amongst the people on this special day. In the north of Thailand, the fight lasts three days due to the attraction of tourism and has become a large part of the tourism economy of the north. Songkran is my favorite holiday just because of the feeling of pride and nationalism that is tied into having pure amounts of fun. There are no codes to abide by, except for the fact that you should try and wet everyone, and there is nothing more exciting than attacking an unsuspecting stranger on this day.



Having participated in a Songkran celebration myself, I really enjoyed hearing what the informant had to say about it. She very accurately described the thrill of the whole festival and how childish it seems, but actually really important to so many people.


So this is a piece of Jewish Folklore that I learned while living in Prague.  Rabbi Loew is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Prague, which I have visited many times, and I have a statue of the Golem which I purchased at a stall outside of the cemetery.  The Old-New Synagogue, built in the 13th century, still has services for the jewish community remaining in Prague.  The Golem story has appeared often in literature and film, including Michael Chabon’s novel written in 2000 called “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.”

A “Golem” is a being formed on inanimate matter, magically animated into a living being.  Many examples of Golems exist in Jewish folklore, including the Golem of Chelm, but the most famous is the Golem of Prague.  In the 16th century, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bazalei  created a Golem to protect the Jews of Prague from antisemitism.  He fashioned the creature from clay taken from the banks of the Vltava river, and animated him using rituals and incantations, and by placing a “shem,” or name written on a piece of paper into the Golem’s mouth.  As long as Rabbi Loew removed the “shem” on Shabbat, putting it back at the end, the Golem would protect the Jews of Prague.  Finally, the Golem became violent, and went on a rampage – there are a lot of stories as to why this happened, one being that the Golem fell in love and was rejected.  However, the accepted version is that Rabbi Loew forgot to remove the “shem” on Shabbat.  He was eventually able to remove the “shem,” and the Golem turned to clay.  The legend goes that the Golem was placed into the attic of the Old New Synagogue, which was then locked, and there he remains.  The attic is still locked, and no one is allowed up there, where the Golem rests until he is needed again.
Coming form Jewish faith myself, I had never heard this piece of folklore before and have actually come to really appreciate it. It kind of reminds me of a piece of Indian God folklore that I once heard while traveling in India. I really enjoy folklore that has to do with magic, I think it is almost childish,  but still thrilling.

Little Burnt Face

Once there was a girl in a village. She lived with her terrible sisters who would burn her. The village called her little burnt face. She had the kindest soul.

One day the village chiefs sister told the Village that her brother the great chief was looking for a bride. That anyone who could “see” her brother he would marry.

So all the women in the village lined up one by one to see the chief who had never been seen before.

One after one, the sister would ask the women- “Do you see my brother?”

And they would reply- “yes”

She would ask then what is his shoulder strap made of-

They would reply- “with a strip of rawhide”

She asked: what does he pull his sled with

They replied with a green writhe

She knew that they had not seen her brother.

Now little burnt face decided to go meet the chief to see what the magical chief was all about.

She bathed and dressed in her best birch bark clothes and tatters moccasins.

She went to see the chief-

The sister asked: do you see my brother-

She exclaimed “yes, I see him and he is magical and amazing!”

The sister asked her the question- what is his shoulder strap made of?

She replied- A BEAUTIFUL RAINBOW! Exclaimed little burnt face

His sister asked what is his bow made of;


the sister said ” you have truly seen my brother.”

The sister took little burnt face to her wigwam where she bathed her in magical waters and all her burns disappeared. She dressed her in the best clothes and she took her seat next to the chief for all eternity.

The end.


For a more extesive verision of the story see Native American Legends: Little Burnt Face, A Micmac Legend

Alabama Football

The Elephant Story  and University of Alabama Football

College Football in the south is quite the phenomenon and Alabama has always had a relationship with elephants.  It happened during a football game and the story was one my grandfather told me as a little girl.  Growing up in Alabama we cheered for Alabama , the Crimson Tide, but my favorite animals have always been the elephant.

The story of how Alabama became associated with the “elephant” goes back to the 1930 season when Coach Wallace Wade had assembled a great football team.

On October 8, 1930, sports writer Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote a story of the Alabama-Mississippi game he had witnessed in Tuscaloosa four days earlier. Strupper wrote, “That Alabama team of 1930 is a typical Wade machine, powerful, big, tough, fast, aggressive, well-schooled in fundamentals, and the best blocking team for this early in the season that I have ever seen. When those big brutes hit you I mean you go down and stay down, often for an additional two minutes.

“Coach Wade started his second team that was plenty big and they went right to their knitting scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against one of the best fighting small lines that I have seen. For Ole Miss was truly battling the big boys for every inch of ground.

“At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity.

“It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size.”

Strupper and other writers continued to refer to the Alabama linemen as “Red Elephants,” the color referring to the crimson jerseys.


Shabbat Khayal

The informant is an Israeli American who grew up practicing traditions from both her Israeli and Persian culture. She describes a custom surrounding the sending off and return of teenagers who are drafted as soldiers. The informant recalls one of these parties that she attended when she was young.

  • Shabbat Khayal is an Israeli tradition having to do with young soldiers. There is a kind of sending off that people do, when they first are um drafted. And so people have you know: goodbye parties, they’ll have um celebrations and then everybody holds their breath until soldiers get through their training which is like an intensive three months that they don’t really see family and its you know really crazy and they don’t really see their families and then there is a homecoming and thats a really big deal. The moms will buy all their favorite food and snacks and cook all their favorite meals and get their rooms ready and its like a whole you know and theres an excitement and build up when the family comes over and everybody wants to hear stories and see how that teenager has changed… so um theres that kind of anticipation and you know people know who’s son is coming home and this home’s daughter is coming home and there is a lot of support in the community around it. And once they’re placed within the army, and they kind of know what they are going to be doing for the next two or three years, then they get weekends off here and there, and those weekends are a really big deal. You know, same thing happens- you know family gets together, everybody comes for shabbat, the soldiers are like center of attention. Again everything with the food, they do their laundry, they make sure that they’re resting, that they’re seeing their friends, its like a whole big thing when a soldier is home. And i think thats in the fabric of pretty much every Israeli family.
  • Sometimes people will take them to see a rabbi or someone for a blessing before they send them back out- depending on their background and culture you know if they’re Persian, Ashkenazi Jews, but some people will take them to someone and ask them to kind of say you know thank God, you made it through this far and then before we turn around and send him back you know give a blessing to make sure that he/she is safe and that God watches over them and that they come back to the family. So a lot of people will set something up like that or take them to Jerusalem or something kind of sentimental like that. 
  • I was apart of one of these rituals when I was a little younger for my cousin- it was such a build up, I mean you don’t really hear from them or have contact with them. I mean I can’t even think about what to compare it to here in America, I mean there is not really much- you’re sending a teenager away, and its a high schooler and they’ve just graduated and all of a sudden they are thrown into this entirely different setting, so I just remember my aunt getting everything ready and going to every different market and getting all his favorites and getting them all together and making sure it was all there. And then him coming home and looking so grown up and different and everybody wanting to hear all his stories and how is was, and what does he think he wants to do in the army, and how did he test, and he becomes that kind of center of attention and it will last all weekend, and people will spend the night, and want to be with them and yeah its very special. 


I think that a traditions such at Shabbat Khayal are really important for families who have loved ones at war or in training. I think the whole celebration an already special occasion that much more intimate and important for both the family and the teenager. Most importantly, I believe that people continue to have these celebrations not only because it is tradition, but because it gives the family and the teenager something to think about and look forward too, instead of the family anxiously waiting around for the teenager to return they have the opportunity to run around preparing and gathering friends and family, focusing on what is most important in life.



Norwegian Apple Peel

Something I learned from my Norwegian grandmother. She made lots of apple desserts, especially apple dumplings, which required whole peeled apples. We used paring knives to peel the apples, and she would tell us that if we were successful in cutting away the peel in one continuous spiral, and threw it over our left shoulder, the peel would form the first letter of the first name of our future husband. I remember doing this in her kitchen at about age seven (after many unsuccessful tries, it is harder than it sounds to peel an apple in one unbroken spiral). The peel formed a “J” which, as you know, turned out to be correct.

I’ve only tried this a few times. I remember the first one because my grandmother was there and shared the story with me. It was Thanksgiving and we were making apple dumplings together. I loved baking with my Grandma – she is the one who taught me how to cook – and this memory takes me right back to her kitchen. Just FYI, it is not easy to have the perfect peel – it takes concentration and time. Usually when I am baking, I’m in a bit of a hurry and none of the peels come off in one piece. Even when concentrating, only about one in four apples will peel whole. Plus, the peel must be quite thin – if it is too thick, it will break on hitting the floor – a null answer. I remember getting a “J” more than once, which is funny because I’ve been married twice and both times the first name began with “J”. Anyway, only single women do this (otherwise the magic would be negative – as if one did not want to be married) so my last time was more than 28 years ago. At the last Thanksgiving, I shared this tradition with Caroline, my daughter. (And no, I will not disclose her answer!)

I’m a little connected to my Norwegian heritage, mostly through cooking and a few traditions, like real candles on the Christmas tree, opening presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, certain songs, and most definitely all the fairy tales and stories (trolls and dwarves and mountains turning into people or vice versa). I have my great grandfather’s hand carved snuff box – woodworking is a big Norwegian tradition. I’d always wanted to visit Norway and last summer, I went for the first time. I stopped in Bergen for a few days – my grandfather emigrated from that city when he was 3 years old. It is a colorful, gorgeous, fishing town. A wonderful country, felt very much like home.
I think a part of many cultures is the yearning to know who you will spend your life with and marry. I know that as a kid I played games and participated in activities that were supposed to signify who I would marry. For example, as a child I used to play a game with my friends where we would twist the stem of an apple and each full turn around that the apple did would stand for a letter in the alphabet. When the stem finally broke off (usually didnt take too long) whatever letter you were on would be the first letter of the name of your future husband or wife.