Author Archives: Rebecca Southern

Russian Wedding Traditions

My informant is from Lipitsk, Russia. She moved to the United States for graduate studies, and is a graduate student at USC at the age of 33. I collected many superstitions from my informant, and also wedding traditions, using her own wedding as an example. My informant gave me many Russian wedding traditions. My informant is married to a man from the United States. Their wedding was in Russia, with the traditional elements. I asked my informant why she did all of these traditional things and she explained the importance of tradition in Russia. “Tradition is important to the family. There are certain expectations and you do not wan tot upset everyone. The structure is always there, and it works well. Russians are very traditional, it is just the way things are done. At my wedding, I wanted to show my in laws the Russian wedding and show them my culture. The M.C. brings the two families together. Like they have to do this special dance with each side of the family. One tradition is at the wedding receptions where when someone means a word translated to “sour or lemons”, the couple has to kiss.”

I thought this tradition was interesting because at my aunts wedding reception there was karaoke and anytime a song had the word “kiss” in it, a couple had to kiss.  My informant told me about an M.C. that is hired to run the wedding. There are many weddings games to play, and the M.C. facilitates bringing the two families together. My informant’s parents in law liked how involved they were able to be, as the groom’s parents.

There is another Russian superstition that says “if it is raining on your wedding day, you will be rich.”

Another tradition that I found especially interesting was that the bride will be “stolen” and the groom must buy her back. This is very similar to my informant from Bangladesh, where the groom’s side of the family had to pay to get in to the reception. Similarly, in Russian tradition, the bride’s shoe is often stolen, just as the groom’s shoes were stolen in the wedding from my informant from Bangladesh. My Russian informant said that the stealing of the shoes symbolizes a “loss of virginity.” It is interesting that these themes of buying back the bride and stealing of shoes come up in countries across the world.

Cinderella Jump Rope Song

My informant is the same as the nose game entry. Setting is outside in my yard over spring break, and the weather was very cold. She is 8 years old, from Jacksonville Florida. She attends a small Catholic school there. My informant plays this jump rope game on the playground with her friends. She sang the song for me and we also went outside and she demonstrated how she plays the game.

“Cinderella dressed in yella went upstairs to kiss a fella. By mistake she kissed a snake, how many doctors did it take? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5..”

My informant demonstrated the jump rope game for me. A long rope is used and two people hold one end and one person is jumping to the time of the rhyme. My informant had me and another person hold the two ends while she demonstrated the jumping. I asked her who plays the game and she replied that her and her friends play. I asked her if boys played and she said no. One time a boy in her class tried it but was really bad at it- boys usually play kickball at her school. The girl who is jumping will either start standing next to the rope, or will “jump in,” if they are more experienced. The swingers chant “one, two, three and over,” swinging the rope over the jumper’s head and they begin singing the song. The alternative way to start is where the rope is swung to a beat and then jumper runs in at the right time and starts jumping. My informant showed me both ways, but had a little more difficulty running in. My informant claims to have learned the song in first grade (she is now in third grade) and has been playing ever since. This collection was interesting for me because I sang the same song when I was growing up, even though I grew up in a different state. It was interesting to see that the song is conserved across the country. However, when I played we did not chant “one, two, three, and over” to start a game. This was a game predominantly played by girls when I played at recess as well.

The Nose Game

My informant is eight years old from Jacksonville, Florida. She is 8 years old, and is in third grade at a small Catholic School in her area. Her father is in the Navy, who works at a Naval base nearby and her mother stays at home. She has three sisters, all of which are older than her. While her family moved around a lot, she has lived her entire life in Florida.

The Nose Game

Me: The nose game is where if you don’t want to do something…then you put your finger on your nose real fast and the last one to do it has to do whatever the thing is

Me: do what?

Informant: whatever the people don’t want to do. Mostly answering the phone or getting off the couch.

Me: where did you learn that from?

Informant: Lisa and Bri and Katherine [informant’s sisters]

Me: who do you usually play with?

Informant: I play at school a lot. For who has to clean up at recess. I’m usually the first to yell “nose game!” and point on my nose

I have also heard the version, “nose goes,” as in the person who doesn’t notice that everyone has their finger on their nose must “go” and do whatever task, usually something that no one wants to do. In my home in Minnesota, the nose game is used a lot for who has to go back outside to get something from the car when it is freezing out. It is also common for someone to just touch their nose without saying anything, and the last to notice is the loser. Sometimes this can take awhile, and it is always a little joke or point of ridicule if they didn’t notice.


Annotation: In an Episode of Scrubs, the nose game is used to decide who will help Dr. Perry Cox write a will.

Coffee and Tea jump rope song

My informant from Jacksonville, Florida gave me a second jump rope rhyme:

“I like coffee, I like tea, I like [person’s name] to play with me. [that person jumps in and their name is spelled in rhythm to the song.”

Unlike the Cinderella rhyme, I had not heard this version. When I was growing up, the rhyme we sang was “I like coffee, I like tea, I like boys and they like me. Yes, No, Maybe so. Yes, No, Maybe so… [kept going until the jumper messed up]”. Both rhymes have the same beginning and same rhythm, but the outcomes are different. In the version collected from my informant, a second person who was called on had to jump in with the first. In the version I played, the jumper kept jumping while everyone playing chanted yes, no, maybe so. Whichever one was being said when the person messed up their jumping or got caught in the rope, was the fate of the person. I played these jump rope games when I was in third grade, the same age as my informant. These games were important to me because it helped build friendships. I had certain people that I played jump rope with on a day to day basis. It was also a big part of “recess culture” to know the songs, and not different versions. I came across this a lot when I moved around from state to state when I was in elementary school. I found that different regions of the country have similar songs, but are slightly different. Knowing the songs being sung during jump rope was very important for a girl’s ability to participate in the games. Jump rope culture also developed as there were certain groups of girls that always played jump rope and there were certain jump ropes that were “better” than others, so girls would race to our bucket of toys to claim the best jump rope as recess was starting. These collections were interesting because I was able to compare them to my childhood experience and compare the songs and the actual performance of jumping rope as my informant demonstrated to me. I also found how difficult it is to swing the rope exactly right when out of practice, and my informant had to correct me a lot in my technique of rope turning.

Countering the bad luck of a black cat

My informant is from Lipitsk, Russia. She moved to the United States for graduate studies, and is a graduate student at USC at the age of 33. I collected many superstitions from my informant, and also wedding traditions, using her own wedding as an example. This collection is a counteraction of the bad luck of seeing a black cat. You must spit three times and knock on wood to reverse the bad luck of the black cat.

Continuing the woman with buckets story:

Me: Is there a way to counteract or undo this? [the bucket story]

Informant: with the woman and the buckets no, but with the cat, you got to spit 3 times and then knock on wood 3 times [informant demonstrates]. Sometimes people cross themselves so there is this weird blend in Russia of the Orthodox religion so Christian Russian orthodox and Pagan traditions. So we’re mixed of boths because on the one hand we got the.. so when you see the superstitions they are technically pagan. So they come to this pagan, prior to Christ. Because there shouldn’t really be Christian traditions. But then they counteract the tradition of the black cat they cross themselves. So they are using the Christian way to counteract the pagan belief. So in the Russian mind, both of the m coexist.

It was interesting to see that the black cat comes up in other cultures besides our own. A black cat seems to be the universal symbol of bad luck. Additionally, in the United States people knock on wood to reverse bad luck, just as in this Russian folk belief. The spitting, however, is something that is not commonly accepted in the United States. The idea of spitting could be seen as a way to get the bad luck out of your system. The comment on the fact that the Church who does not allow superstitions,  yet crossing is used as a way to counteract them, shows how the two religions are mixed in with the folk beliefs.