Author Archives: Nicole Rockholt

Predicting Children- A Korean wedding ritual

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean
Age: 21
Occupation: Waitress
Residence: Camarillo, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/11/19
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

Main Text:

Collector: ” You mentioned the clothing of the bride and groom that is traditional to Korean Weddings, but are there any acts that the bride and groom perform at most weddings that you have been to?”

HK: “I do remember one actually. So after the wedding ceremony, the bride has a white cloth that they have to drape and carry around their arms and someone else would have to carry the bottom of it because they are really long. Usually the groom’s parents will toss little ball-like objects into the air towards the bride and however many the bride can catch with this cloth determines how many kids she will have.”

Collector: “Does the cloth have a specific color like the clothes did?”

HK: ” I think the cloth can be any color but usually I have seen it as a white cloth.”

Context:

After I asked HK whether or not there were specific acts performed at Korean weddings she listed out many traditional pieces ranging from the color of the clothes the bride and groom are supposed to wear all the way to this piece about predicting how many children the new married couple will now have has been to family weddings in Korea as well as in the United States and and observed these wedding rituals in practice. When asked about her interpretation about why Korean weddings contain this act she said that children and family are a large part in Korean culture and that once a couple gets married it is expected that they jumpstart the process to conceiving children, so the act of predicting how many children they will have is a sort of precursor to this. I also asked her why she remembers this ‘performance’ specifically and if she would do it at her wedding to which she responded, ” I remember it because I thought that it was a really cute thing to do for a new family and I like to think I would do it at my wedding too because it is a fun part of my culture.”

Analysis:

The ritual that HK is describing is a ritual that is used in many Korean weddings to present day and the “ball-like” objects that the bride is catching are dates (대추), also called jujubes. While the weddings HK described in particular use the dates as a way of predicting the number of children that the couple is going to have this ritualistic act can also be interpreted in another way that is very similar to her explanation. The dates that the bride catches also symbolize the fertility of the bride and her ability to bear many children. As HK explained, children and family are very important to Korean culture so it makes sense to have such an act in the wedding.

Another explanation for this act is that it could figuratively symbolize the “deflowering” of the bride.  Proof of this symbolic deflowerment is that balls are being tossed into a cloth which is supposed to represent fertility or one’s womb and since the cloth is white , it is also supposed to represent purity and virginity. To many cultures, marriage is not necessarily about love but instead building a home together as well as procreating. This being said, the symbolic deflowering of the bride represents this belief that marriage is all about the next generation and establishing a place for your children in society. I think that this wedding tradition continues in traditional Korean Weddings because it is does, as I mentioned before, serve as a nice precursor for the family that is to be built by the newly married couple, which Korean culture places a heavy influence on.

Vaporub Cures a Cough- A Folk Belief

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 23
Occupation: UPS Driver
Residence: Palmdale California
Date of Performance/Collection: 03/23/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Text:

RB: I was told by my mom that if you put Vaporub on your feet and then cover your feet with socks then your cough is supposed to go away.

Context:

RB is a first generation Mexican-American. He said that he remembers this folk belief because every time when he was little his mom would get the Vaporub and socks and rub the Vaporub on his feet to help him feel better. Miraculously he said it works so that is why he believes in it and says he would tell his kids if he had his own to do the same thing.

Analysis:

Although VapoRub is not proven to cure colds, especially but putting it on one’s feet. Its presence in hispanic folk-medicine that I have encountered is a large one. I hypothesize that this belief continues to be passed down because of the context that it is associated with and not necessarily the affect it has itself. For example, most of the time when you little and you get sick in hispanic culture the mother is the one who takes care of you. If your mother is the one who carries this folk belief and she rubs VapoRub on you, you associate the VapoRub with the caressing and soothing touches of your mother. When someone who has experienced this and then goes on to have children of their own, they may pass this knowledge down to their child and rub VapoRub onto them, not necessarily because they believe that it works but because they associate this process with the gentle care and affection that they had received from their own familial member or whomever performed this act for them.

Another way to analyze why this folk belief is still being passed along and striving is the culture that many hispanic people have built around it. I have grown up around many hispanic people, mostly of Mexican decent, all of my life and am currently in a long-term relationship with someone who is Mexican. Having this background I have realized that Vaporub is used for almost any ailment in a Mexican household, even if there is no proof that it works. This is not limited to y boyfriends household either. I have asked many hispanic people about Vaporub and they all know exactly what I am talking about and even more so they usually have a a jar of it sitting around somewhere in their houses. They have built a culture that they share amongst themeselves because they all share common memories of being smothered head to toe in that stuff since childhood. Most of those who I have talked to also continue to use it to this day because of this shared memory that this is what people of Mexican or other hispanic cultures do. The use of Vaporub in Mexican households is such a common occurrence that the online realm has take hold of this belief and practice and have adapted it into hashtags, published poems, telenovela appearances, memes, emojis and even comedy skits. You can also buy t-shirts, paintings, cards and candles that all contain an appearance of Vaporub. These adaptations into the online realm and buyable objects just work together in order to strengthen the culture that many hispanics share with each other surrounding their common memories and experiences with this “magical” topical ointment. This resulting strengthened culture allows for stories and folk beliefs (like Vaporub and socks during a cold) to continued to be shared from family to family and household to household.

Placing Cutlery for the Dead- A Korean New Years Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean
Age: 21
Occupation: Waitress
Residence: Camarillo, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/11/19
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

Main Text

Collector: I know the your family does special acts for the Korean New Year. Would you mind telling me a few of these and what you think is the most important part for the celebration?

HK: “The most important part is that every male family member has to have a different spoon and chopstick. The spoon and chopstick represent the dead person’s utensils so that they can eat the offering of food. What my dad would do is place the spoon and chopstick to each of the dishes that he made each time so that the dead person has time to eat it.”

Context: 

I was in a conversation with Hk in order to solicit information about how her family celebrates the Korean New Year. Before I collected this piece from her she had listed out at least five other customary acts that they perform at the Korean New Year celebration at her house and to narrow it down I asked her what she believes the most important act out of the day is and she provided me with this piece. She said that she remembers this piece because it is a very emotional part in her family and since her dad is a chef, he likes to prepare traditional food and it is of great importance to him that members of his past family can relish in this meal as well to have some happiness and enjoyment after life. HK said that she likes seeing how happy this makes her father so it is a very joyful moment to share with her family which is why it sticks with her. When I asked her if she would share it with her future family she responded that it was a guarantee because she wants to teach her kids the importance of family and sharing these kinds of emotional experiences with each other, especially over a good traditional Korean meal.

Analysis: 

One of the main reasons for celebration of the Korean New Year is not just to celebrate the passage into the new year but as a way to spend time catching up with your family members as well as paying respect to your dead ancestors. Understanding that a large part of the Korean New Year celebration revolves around family and paying respect to one’s ancestors, it makes sense that the custom of setting out utensils for one’s deceased ancestors would be passed down, taught to new generations and vary between family.

Another large part of this piece that needs to be analyzed is why this part of the honoring of the ancestor is centered around food. In Korean culture, food is a way of getting one’s family together and sharing a Korean style meal keeps the family close. Traditionally, eating in Korea is done family style, where main dishes are shared and eating is considered a major social activity for friends and families. The social setting of eating such as exchanging food, taking pictures of food and even talking about food all brings people and family together, especially when eating at a restaurant. I have known many people from China and Korea who all say that a two hour wait at a restaurant is worth it because they get to spend two hours or more there catching up and socializing as a large familial group. In this explanation I have argued the fact that the tradition of placing eating utensils out for ancestors as a way to honor them on Korean New Years is culturally centered around the belief that food really brings family together in a very close and personal setting.

Another reason that this tradition will continue to be passed down is that there is a lot of history behind each dish that Korea has. Food has a distinct impact on the culture itself because of all the history and meaning behind the food that is eaten and the food that gets eaten and cooked even when away from the motherland. Korean food plays a huge part for me because not only they are rich in value and nutrients also because of their taste which is unique and the traditional foods that traced back to Korea arguably all are extremely nutritious. In a way, serving this traditional food to the dead a a way to honor them provides the dead with a sense of connection tho their family and their culture as well as a way to nourish them in the afterlife. The nutrition value of the food and the uniqueness of the textures and flavor that are employed in Korean cooking act as a way to unify one’s family and help them to continue to identify and even preserve their culture when they are away from their homeland. This cultural significance that is put on Korean dishes  in the end plays a large part in why these individuals who celebrate Korean New Years and perform this ritual continue to do so.

The final way that I am going to analyze this ritual performed on the Korean New year is through a religious lens. The main religion in Korea is Buddhism. In Buddhism, ghosts are fairly common and fully accepted, unlike what is allowed for Christians. Because many Koreans have this religious belief that entertains the existence and acceptance of ghosts, it is not so strange or out of the question that folklore involving the placement of utensils for one’s dead ancestors would be passed along and practiced today by Korean families.

In summary, the cultural stance that many Koreans share in family and in food as well as the religion practiced by many Korean individuals serve as an explanation to why the act of placing a spoon and chopsticks out for one’s ancestors is an important ritual that takes place on Korean New Years.

Bedroom Arrangement Superstitions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: UPS Worker
Residence: Palmdale, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 03/22/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Text:

HS: “The foot of your bed can’t face the door because that brings bad luck.”

Context:

HS and I were in my apartment by ourselves rearranging by bedroom so that it allows for more space and when I tried to put the bed on the wall opposite the door she told me this belief that her grandma had always told her. I responded in a sense of disbelief because I thought she was joking because I have ever heard anything like that but she reassured me that she was being serious and that her grandma really used to tell her that. She believes it was just a weird preference that her grandma had and that there is not really anything else to it but she likes to pass it along just in case something were to happen to the person that she did not tell it to. After we finished rearranging the room ( I refrained from putting the foot of the bed facing the door just in case) I had to run and get a piece of paper so that I made sure to collect this belief exactly as I had heard it.

Analysis:

Although the informants grandma moved here from England in her mid-life years, many cultures actually share this same belief. The thing that make the most sense to analyze from this piece is the why the bed cannot be placed a certain way which begs the question that a different arrangement must be better. Because this folk belief focuses mainly on the arrangement of material object I feel that it is appropriate to start my analysis relating this piece to Feng shui. Feng Shui originated in China but many different people of different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs still believe in practicing Feng Shui. Feng shui claims to use energy forces in order to make people more in harmony with the surrounding object and surrounding environment and I think this folk belief has appeared because putting the foot of your bed facing the door is against the Feng Shui because that specific arrangement does not place your bed on a spot of good qi or energy. People and cultures who believe in Feng Shui I believe continue to pass along this folk belief as a way to get people in good energy with their surroundings and as a way to spread the belief of Feng Shui as well.

Another reason I believe that people have passed along the idea that putting the foot of the bed facing the door as being bad luck is a historical one. I have heard that when someone dies in a room, they are taken and passed room to room feet first. So in a way, by putting one’s bed oriented towards the way a corpses would be removed from a room instills bad luck upon that person and symbolized that they are going to die soon.

The last way to analyze this folk belief is that people who believe in spirits are those that pass along this belief. This is because it is also said that if you orient your feet towards the door while you are sleeping, then spirits will be able to drag you out of the room in this way. Although this is another folk belief explaining a folk belief, I think it is important to understand that this explanatory folk belief ties together a group of people who will be ready and willing to pass down the folk belief being studied. This group of individuals all share a common belief in ghosts and this common belief in ghosts and evil spirits is not what only ties them together as a specific group of people but also affects the lore that they tell to other people and their reasons for telling it. If they believe in bad spirits pulling people out of a room if given the right opportunity, then it is logical that they would tell others not to orient their bad in an opportunistic manner towards spirits as a way to protect them from the bad luck of being taken by one.

 

 

Lemonade Hand Clapping Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 11
Occupation: N/A
Residence: Camarillo, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 03/24/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Text:

JM: Lemonade (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Iced Tea (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Coca-Cola (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Pepsi (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Lemonade (Up Down Clap)
Crunchy Ice (Up Down Clap)
Sip it once (Up Down Clap)
Sip it twice (Up Down Clap)
Turn around (Turn around)
Touch the ground (Touch the ground)
Kick your boyfriend out of town!
Pick your nose
Strike a pose
and freeze!

Instructions to play this game:

This game is played with two people who have to face each other. In order to play this game you have to know the two main clapping motions that are employed, the “Up Down Clap” and the “Triple Clap”.

The “Up Down Clap” is done while reciting each line of the song. Players raise their left hands, with their palms down, and lowering their right hands, with their palms up. They clap by bringing down their left hands and bringing up their right hands, until each one of the players’ hands meet those of their partner’s moving in the opposite direction. They then continue in to reverse their hands and clap the other way. For this part the players being with their right hands high and left hands low.

The “Triple Clap” is done between each line of the first verse only. In order to do this, all that the players have to do is clap their own hands together three times consecutively.

At the end of the game is when many forms of variations come in, where you would perform whatever action the song tells you to do. For this variation specifically you would turn around, touch the ground, kick the air, pretend to pick your nose, strike whatever model pose you feel like and freeze for a few seconds.

Context:

This game is played with another person while you are facing each other and it is usually played amongst or with children. I collected this piece from my younger sister who said she learned this game and song at school. She said that she remembers it because at recess there is not much to do so her and her friends use it as a way to occupy themselves.

Analysis:

This game is unique in the sense that is has so many  variations that I have encountered over my 21 years of life and this piece that I collected is vastly different from the one I used to play as a kid. I believe that this variation of the game has formed from combinations of multiple variations of the game. Although the gestures, hand movement and mains structure of the song has stayed the same there are many variations to the words of the song. I think these variations occur over time because people from different regions who move and go to different schools share their variation of the game and then this variation gets adopted by some individuals while the ‘original’ variation continues to be told by others. I think at that point, it is the person who decides which variation they like better and whichever one it is will be continued to be sung and played by them with other people who like the same variations.

One of the reasons that children lore is constantly adapted and formed according to Jay Mechling is as the child’s primary strategy for being antitethical in the world. Although adults play sometimes play is an especially legitimate activity for children which is why they have categorized and created folklore around play and games. Since this play is not for real and not taken seriously by adults most of the time, children are able to explore themes and ideas that they usually are not able to. For example, in this version if you analyze the lyrics carefully there is the mention of one “kicking their boyfriend out of town”. I believe this version was created as a way to address the relationships and bonds with the opposite gender forming and that they may not be able to talk about with their parents. I also believe that this adaptation was spread between children and continued to be spread between children of an older age because with the boyfriend line it deals with undertones of puberty, sexuality and sex which are all things that are epic children are usually forbidden to talk or thing about. Variations in these games and songs also play with this idea because usually a variation would be created as a way to address issues that children may be having to deal with at one point in time that children a century ago never had to think about.

The fact that most children want to be at the center of knowledge with adults also affects the sharing, creation and variation fo children’s lore. When performing children’s lore, children violate the rules that were imposed upon them by adults acting as authority figures as a way to learn say rules. They explore the idea and concept of innocence by creating lore that can be analyzed as having some of the most uncomfortable and even disturbing topics that children are faces with in their daily lives.

To summarize, certain variations of children’s lore like this Lemonade Hand game song are created as a way of addressing the oppression that adults put onto kids at such a young age. Children understand that this is all play and know that adults assume the same, so they feel safe when broaching the “no-go zones” and issues that they would not feel comfortable talking about in daily life or are not allowed to talk about. By also creating folklore and breaking the rules that are not supposed to be broken, children show violation of rules as a way to learn and understand them. All of these reasons can be used to explain why  children’s folklore and games continue to be passed along with each other and why variations of the fames continue to be found over the years of them being played.

For another children folk song that has been adapted into a game (jumprope), see “Children’s Folklore” Folk groups and Folklore Genres An Introduction, by Jay Mechling, 1986, pp. 101–102.

Purses do NOT belong on the ground! – A superstition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 25
Occupation: Waitress
Residence: Oxnard, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/01/19
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

Main Text:

“It is never appropriate to put your purse on the ground because this will bring bad luck.”

 Context: 

DC told me this belief because when I asked her if she had any interesting folk beliefs that she has heard  she said that her mom passed this one along to her and it just stuck with her because she had hear it in other places before too (but she did not name said places). When I asked DC what she believes this folk belief means and why she thinks it has been passed along in her family and culture she responded, “I’ve never really questioned why I shouldn’t put it on the ground, maybe it is just so it doesn’t get dirty or so someone doesn’t steal it”. I also asked DC if she would tell this folk belief to someone else and why, and she responded that she probably would if she knew them well enough and felt comfortable doing so because she would not want to risk someone getting bad luck when it was onto a simple sentence that she had to say to them in order for them not to.

Analysis:

The idea behind the purse on the floor is that it means bad luck but I believe that more specifically this “bad luck” that is references has to do with financial encounters. I think that putting one’s purse down symbolically represents just leaving money laying around and having disregard towards wealth and because of this bad financial luck will be brought upon any person who leaves their purse on the ground. Another reasonable explanation for the “bad luck” part of this folk belief is that leaving your purse one the ground literally makes it available as easy access to thieves who can steal it in an instant, which is the bad luck.

Another saying that is very similar to this one that I have heard is ” A purse on the floor is money out the door” and I think that this saying segue into another reason that someone would say putting a purse on the floor is bad luck. This reason is that purses have fairly high re-sale values and according to what I have heard from my own family and read online it is possible to resell a purse back for more than half of their original value. This however is only true if it is kept in good condition, meaning not places in places that would cause turmoil to the bag or places that carry a lot of diseases, such as the floor itself. So looking at this folk belief from a financial perspective it makes sense that this would be passed along because it helps to save money for individuals who may need it later on and selling a purse back would be one way to get it.

In addition to the three other reasons I have provided for what I think this saying means and why I believe it continues to be passed down, another fair reason would be the pride found within cultures for the items that they have bought, earned, value and/or were gifted. To put this into context, DC is a Mexican woman who came to the United States at a very young age with her parents meaning they had to start in a new country from scratch. Whatever money they had to spend on basic necessities and luxury items such as purses themselves, they earned and this is the case for many immigrant families. It would make sense for this folk belief to be passed along as a way to teach people to take care of the nice things that they have and that they have earned, because if you don’t and the purse gets ruined it is basically like money out of your own pocket.