Author Archives: Nicole Rockholt

March Madness Kentuckian Folk Belief

Main Text:

JE: “During college basketball season, specifically March Madness, we will all go over to Jordan’s Aunt’s house ad watch the University of Kentucky play basketball. Grapes are like a staple for when watch basketball games so we eat grapes during the game because it is almost like a good luck thing. And then at the start of the season wherever you sit in the house, that has to remain your seat during march madness. Also, if you go to one game you have to go to all of them. You can’t just go to one game. And if we win a championship, like a March Madness championship we have to burn a couch as a celebration and good luck for the next year’s season. Another thing is that if you go outside for any reason and the score starts going up for any reason in Kentucky’s favor then the person who went outside has to stay outside until the game is over. If we start to lose and we did not do anything to make it happen, you have to start eating like snacking. For example, if for every single game you go in and eat except for one and that game the Kentucky’s team starts losing then you have to go eat in order to undo the loss of points.”

Collector: “Is there any reason that you eat grapes specifically?”

“No I don’t think so, my aunt just always has them out on the counter.”

Context:

When I collected this folk belief from JE I asked him why his family passes down this belief that they all have to sit in the same seats for March Madness in order to provide luck to their team and he said that this process has been passed down ever since his grandma was little… so for like three generations so it just makes sense for them to continue doing. He also said it acts as a way to remember and celebrate the life of his grandma who had passed away. I also tried to get his opinion on why he thinks that they eat grapes and he said that it was because my his aunt just always has them sitting out on the counter.

Analysis: 

This folk belief can be explained by analyzing the region in which it is centered around and performed in. This belief focuses mainly on March Madness and even more specifically on the University of Kentucky’s performance in the tournament. According to JE, in Kentucky basketball is probably the most watched and biggest celebrated sport for college. Adding on to this, since the University of Kentucky is the most watched basketball team by many Kentuckians except for those found in Louisville, it is understandable that his family generations ago created a tradition upon the belief that where they sit will provide luck to the University of Kentucky during their games. Based off of the content that I collected from JE, when one is in Kentucky, it is like a state identity to always root for the University of Kentucky unless you happen to live in Lousiville where you would then root for the University of Louisville.

Putting this together, this folk belief was created as a way to provide support for one’s state basketball teams and also to be used as unifying one who practices it as a person of Kentucky (in other words as an identity marker).

Thunder Over Louisville

Main Text:

JE: “Thunder Over Louisville is a 30 minute firework show that takes place over the Ohio river in Louisville, Kentucky. It is the biggest firework show on this side of the planet and the cool thing about is that all the money from the fireworks and that is raised for Thunder Over Lousiville is donated to Kosair Children Hospital. The main reason for the firework show is that it acts as a kick-off to all of the festivities that go on before the Kentucky Derby. It is always exactly a month before the derby at 9:30 to 10:00pm and they also theme the fireworks to music. Like this year it was Disney and then it went to some Dubstep bullshit.”

Collector: “So who goes to this firework show”

JE: ” Well the location in Louisville that this firework show takes place is called Kentuckyanna which is basically the divide between Kentucky and Louisiana marked by the Ohio River division. So the two main states that know the most about this is Kentucky and Louisianna and it is pretty big in both of these places.”

Context: 

JE lives in Mount Washington, Kentucky which is located about 20 minutes from where this firework show takes place in Lousiville. When I asked Jordan why he remembers the show and why it keeps going on every year he said that a lot of people remember this show because it is such a massive firework show and there is nothing else like it in the United States. He also said that

Analysis:

The analysis of this regional lore is going to focus on the area it takes place in and how this piece then functions in response to being preserved over time. The first thing I would like to analyze is why this firework show continues to be put on and I will do this by describing regional and economical demands for it.

Regionally this firework show continues to strive and be put on because people in Kentucky and Luisiana have such a high demand for it. This demand stems from the shared culture amongst those who attend. This shared culture not only acts as a unifying force between two different states but it also allows for people to reminisce at all of the good feelings and times that they have shared together at this place. Thunder Over Louisville also serves as a sort of identity marker for Kentuckians and Louisianians because almost everyone in those states knows about the show, even if they do not attend it. If someone were to go to Kentucky when these festivities for the derby were happening and not know what “Thunder over Lousiville” is, then those people from Kentucky and Louisiana will be able to identify them as an “outsider” or “other” ( which also aids in unification between the people of those states). The music that the fireworks get set off to also can act as a unifying source among individuals at the show who know the music and can share this experience of reminiscing on their childhood and past memories with each other. For example, almost everyone knows at least one Disney song, so putting the fireworks to the melody and beats of Disney songs allows for people in the audience to experience the show in a different way with each other. These unifying forces between this regional group of individuals and their ability to share moments that would not have otherwise been shared leads to such a high demand for the show that it keeps being put on year after year. The people have adopted it and made it their own so that they could enjoy it in only a way that Kentuckians and Louisianans could.

Because the Kentucky Derby is so expensive to go and see, the only people who can really experience the Derby themselves are wealthy, mostly white people, most of whom happen to be in the horse business. By aiming the show to a certain selected subgroup of people, this discriminates against middle and lower class people of all races which causes a huge divide between the amount of Kentuckians and Louisianians who are able to attend because of there large lower class and black population. In response to the expense of the show and that most common people of Louisiana and Kentucky can not attend then the firework show for them serves as a stand in to the Kentucky Derby. This firework show is where people know that they can congregate and celebrate their region with each other and the derby itself, even though they are not at the derby.

To summarize, the unification that Thunder Over Louisville provides for those who attend the show (more specifically to those from Louisiana and from Kentucky) coupled with the “common” people’s only opportunity to experience the excitement of the Derby without attending it in person keeps this regional show surviving and thriving year after year.

The Devil in your bed

Main Text:

“My Aunt always told me that if one of us in the house did not make our beds then the Devil would come and play in them. The only way to protect ourselves from the Devil was to make our beds before we left the house.”

 Context:

I collected this piece from a hispanic male whose family is Catholic. When I asked him why he remembered this piece and why he thinks he learned it from his family he told me that he remembers it because he used to have meltdowns when he would leave the house after forgetting to make his bed and that he also thinks that his Aunt only told them this as a way to get them to clean their rooms.

Analysis:

I agree with the informant’s explanation that the reason that his family was told to make their beds was not because the Devil would actually appear in an unmade bed but as a way for the children in the family to get in the habit of cleaning their rooms and making their beds. I think that one of the reasons this is passed down is as a way to teach children their manners as well as discipline and it is done in a folkloric way so that the kids will remember and abide by it.

Another explanation for why this folk belief has been told and continues to be shared by that family has to do with religion. Many western people’s religions all agree that there is a Devil and that the Devil is someone you meet in hell if you sin and do not repent for your sins. I think that this has a very strong affect on children who are just learning about religion and beginning to attend church because it equates their uncleanliness to sin and something that they have to repent for in order to protect themselves from finding the devil in your bed. Naturally, when a child gets in trouble for doing something that they are not supposed to be doing they try to apologize and find some way to not be punished. In this case, the punishment is coming face to face with the devil and the only way to avoid this is to make one’s bed- which is a pretty dark but effective way to make children more disciplined and clean.

I would also like to analyze this folk belief by seeing the choice of diction and how this would affect kids specifically and allow them to remember it. This folk belief  does not just say that the devil will appear in your bed but that the devil will play in your bed if you leave it unmade. The word choice here is directly targeted towards children to whom the notion and action of playing was natural ever since birth and that is what they are used to doing. When they hear the word play, I feel like they connect to it in a different way than an adult would because that is what they spend most of their childhood doing so it resonated with them in a different way.

A Plane Crash Riddle

Main Text:

JM: “There was a plane crash. Every single person died, who survived? The answer would be every married couple because every single person died.”

Context: 

This riddle was collected from my 11 year old sister who is currently in fifth grade and about to go to middle school. When I asked her where or when she would tell a riddle/joke like this, she told me that she would usually tell it to her friends on the playground at recess. I also asked her if it was every common for her to tell jokes or riddles in the classroom and she responded that she usually does not because then the teacher would get mad because it is teaching time and not play time.

Analysis:

One reason that children are passing along a riddle with such content can be explained by analyzing the environment that children are faced with at school. In elementary school all the way up to high school, many young kids and young adults are preoccupied with finding a boyfriend or girlfriend and all of the adolescent urges that are associated with this. The riddle plays off of the idea of there being a difference people single people and married people and for this to be a topic of discussion amongst young people is not really surprising. As said in chapter 5 of the book Folk Groups and Folklore Genres An Introduction, Jay Mechling says that people, especially children make jokes or base their folklore off of things that it has been taboo for them to talk about. Kids around 11 years of age are entering puberty and exploring new things about their body that come with puberty. In other words, one reason that this riddle is being passed around by 11 year olds and other kids in elementary school is that it takes about relationship status which kids themselves find as a constant preoccupation at school which is treated as taboo by most parents. It is also important to note that this riddle was collected from an 11 year old fifth grader who understand that this riddle is an example of a play-on-words and this kind of riddle would probably not be passed around by younger children due to its complexity.

Another main part of this riddle that can be analyzed is its focus on dark humor. Although the answer to the riddle has more to do with the play-on-words than on the subject of the plan crash itself, it is important to analyze why a plane crash would be the plot in the riddle in the first place. According to Peter Narvaez, the author of Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture, many jokes and riddles are made to be dark humor. This means that the plot of the jokes and riddles are centered around many dark aspects of life like genocides, death, rape etc as a means to act as a release to those telling the jokes. People have been made to believe that they can not talk about dark experiences or occurrences, so as sort of a way to fight this oppression of speech per se, these jokes are created.

Coupled together, these analyses produce the idea that this joke was created and told among children as a way as addressing the topics that children have been made to believe that they are unable to talk about as well as a release of people’s beliefs on some things that are considered ‘dark’ in the form of humor. These forbidden topics hidden in the form of a joke/riddle allow this riddle and people to continue addressing these oppressed needs without repercussion from adults or other individuals, allowing the riddle to survive and continued to be told hopefully for years to come.

12 Grapes for the New Year

Main Text:

DC: “On New Years at 12:00 am you are supposed to consecutively eat one grape each second for a total of 12 grapes in 12 seconds for good luck in the new year.”

Context: 

Although I collected this from a Mexican woman who is my boyfriend’s sister-in-law, I also witnessed and performed this tradition on New Years of this year while at a New Years celebration at my boyfriend’s family’s house. To give context, we all counted down along with the timer on the T.V. and my boyfriend’s mom was rushing around trying to give us all 12 grapes off the vine. It ended up being a mess with everyone dropping grapes and stuffing our faces while trying not to joke, but it ended with us all laughing and enjoying the company of each other. I asked DC why she thinks this tradition and folk belief has been passed aline within her family and others and she speculated that grapes is some cultures must be seen as lucky.

Analysis:

Recent articles say that the practice of eating grapes on New Years goes back to as old as the 1880s. In the 1880s, the bourgeoisie of Madrid were said to have celebrated the ending of the year by copying the French tradition of eating grapes and drinking champagne. This tradition then grew over time and led people tp believe that they needed to eat 12 grapes to have luck for all of the 12 months to follow in the New Year. Over time, this practice was used in order to mock the wealthy bourgeoisie and the ‘common’ people of Madrid began eating grapes to make fun of the practice that was performed by the wealthy middle class. Subsequently, this custom caught on and more and more people began to do it because they thought it would bring them good financial like if the Bourgeoisie of Madrid were doing it.

With the known history of grape eating as way to celebrate the end of a year being revealed, the belief in financial gain was probably a big pushing factor to many and encouraged them to share this belief and continue the custom. I feel too that media coverage also has encouraged the adaptation of said belief by larger parts of Europe, people in the United States and Even people in Mexico City. On New Years, the camera for the main national tv centers on the clock tower of the 18th-century Real Casa de Correos in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Announcers then tell the instructions to all of the people in the audience and they then begin eating the 12 grapes. Centuries ago, TV was not around and these traditions had to be purely face to face, but that feudal folkloric model. With the introduction of tv and the Internet, people are now able to share cultures and practices all over the world in a way like never before even with people they have never met and will never meet in person. This new folklore model creates a world in which folklore can be spread all throughout the world to those with access to TV and internet in such ease that more and more people begin adopting and creating variations of other people’s traditions, like what I believe has happened here with the eating of 12 gapes on the New Year.