Author Archives: Shea Lenniger

The Christmas Pickle

“We have a pickle Christmas ornament. This has been part of a tradition in our family since I was a little girl, and now I do it for my daughters. On Christmas Eve, after the kids go to sleep, I hide the ornament on a Christmas tree. We usually have a few trees set up around the house besides the main one in the living room and you can hang the pickle on any Christmas tree in your house. On Christmas morning, the rule is that no one mentions the pickle or prompts the kids to look for it, they just have to remember. Often everyone gets so caught up in opening presents that they completely forget about the pickle until later in the day. Anyways, the first person to find the pickle gets another little Christmas gift. For me though, I just end up getting the same little gifts for all my daughters no matter who finds it, but the one who did find it first gets bragging rights for the rest of the year.”

The informant is originally from the East Coast and has been carrying on this tradition from when her parents did it for her. She doesn’t know where it originally came from, but says she didn’t know of many other people who practiced it. She has also passed on the tradition to her family friends and now they partake it it as well.

This is a tradition that I assume is only followed by various Christians since it involves a Christmas tree ornament. It is a yearly tradition that occurs on Christmas within the home and among friends and/or family.

My family also partakes in this tradition and it has been in my family since I was a little girl. It was always fun on Christmas morning to wake up and see who could find the pickle first. There were many times were Christmas Day would go by and my sisters and I would forget all about it until our mom had to say, “Are you forgetting something?” Then of course we would all scramble over to the Christmas tree. I have to say I have been the pickle finding champion for about 3 years in a row now I think.

Here’s a possible reason for the Christmas Pickle becoming a popular tradition: https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/christmaspickle.shtml

Birthday Cake Icing Wish

“So for your birthday, obviously you have to have a cake! It has to have your name on it written in icing. Like normal, you get a wish when you blow out the candles. But in my family, you get a second wish when you wipe your own name out and lick the icing off from your name. That second wish is more special. This tradition came about when I was younger. I don’t really remember it exactly, but my parents told me that for one of my birthdays, my brother was jealous. He was jealous of the party they threw for me, my huge cake with my name on it, and of course he wanted attention. So after I blew out the candles, he wiped my name off the cake, ate the frosting, and said, “It’s not your birthday anymore!” Most of the people at the party were laughing about it. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny but now we’ve made it a tradition and just made it into a good luck type thing. It’s something we laugh about every year.”

The informant shared that this tradition was unique to her family, so it’s not a widespread custom. I think the story is very humorous, especially with how the tradition started. She even said that she tells other people to do it as well. When she buys a cake for her friends, she will get one with their name on it just so they can lick off their name and make their second wish. Many times, occasions like this do turn into family traditions. Sometimes during the first time it happens it seems inconvenient or upsetting, but later on it becomes something to laugh about. I think it’s a fun tradition and clever as well. It’s a cute custom that I want to incorporate into my birthday celebrations.

Ghost in the Guest Room

“So we have this room in our house, which is what we use as the guest room. Except, we usually never let anybody stay in there or go in there at all. We always keep the door shut nowadays. I’ve always been convinced that my house was haunted but this room especially is..well…weird stuff has happened in there. When I was little it was kind of like my playroom. I had all my toys in there and would leave them all over. My mom told me that one day I was playing in there and she came in to get me for lunch. No one else was home. After lunch, when we went back to my playroom, a few of my toys were up on the bed. We didn’t have any pets at the time, so we’re still confused at how that happened. Also, for people who have stayed in there, a few had said they would see things in the mirror…so I mean eventually we just took down the mirror. Oh and also, you can’t light a candle in there. Everytime we try to, it just goes out. Everyone will say, oh it’s just a draft blowing out the candle, but seriously, we’ve tried putting it everywhere without fans or open windows. It doesn’t light. It goes out like someone blows it out. The room creeps me out so much, I don’t think I’ve gone in there for years.”

The informant told me these stories based on personal experiences or what she heard from others. She has lived in the same house her entire life, until she came to college, but she occasionally goes back to visit. I asked her why they didn’t move out due to this obvious paranormal activity, and she said because it really was only confined to that one room. No one ever got hurt, so her family likes to think it’s just a friendly ghost. In my opinion, I would move out of there. I’m a firm believer that ghosts are real and friendly or not, the paranormal presence scares me.

Cats Can Harm Fertility

“My mom believes that cats have these…well I don’t know….but if you have a lot of cats, it just affects women’s ability to have kids. I don’t know why, she just says that. I think it has to do more with cat litter. Something about the chemicals in the litter can harm your fertility. It’s not necessarily the presence of the cats themselves, but they’re linked in a way. When my friend brought over her kittens to my apartment, and my mom saw pictures I posted, she freaked and thought I bought cats. She said that I would need to get rid of them and deep clean the apartment. I mean, they weren’t my cats, but I don’t believe in her superstition so I didn’t really care.”

The informant was born in Ventura, CA but her father is from Mexico City and her mother is from Guadalajara. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and partakes in many of the Mexican customs.

She originally heard this superstition from her mother. Apparently, her mom’s friend owned a bunch of cats when she was growing up and later when she wanted to have kids, she couldn’t. Her mother figured it was because of the cats. Therefore, she has never allowed her family to own cats, but they have had dogs before. 

I personally don’t believe in this at all. I myself own two cats. It’s possible that cat litter has chemicals that aren’t very beneficial to one’s health but if you’re not ingesting it, I don’t see it as a problem. Many people are afraid of cats as well, and think they are generally causes of bad luck. This could be the case as well, as seen with the black cat superstition.

 

Context:


My thoughts:

Shooing Away the Devil

“Then there’s like the spitting thing, like shooing away the devil. So if you wanna make sure that the Devil doesn’t get to you, your mother or grandmother doesn’t literally spit on you but they make the motion and that type of sound. It’s like a “tsoo tsoo” spitting sound. It’s to make sure the Devil stays away, and not just when you’re a kid. So like my grandmother will say to me now, “You’re so pretty” or “Your hair is so pretty” and then she’ll do the spitting type thing. You can’t be vain, you need to stay humble and not let those kind of comments inflate your ego.”

This is a cultural practice that is widespread throughout the Jewish religion and many others. She explained how commonly used it is throughout her whole family, and her grandmother is very adamant about upholding it.

Family members and friends will often partake in this. Whenever complimenting or praising someone, they do this to make sure that they do not become egotistical and prideful, which would make them susceptible to the Devil’s influence apparently.

I’ve heard of similar actions in other cultures or seen it in films even. When discovering the reasoning behind it, it does seem to make sense, especially if one truly believes they need to protect someone from the Devil’s clutches. It’s similar to the evil eye, as they both refer to remaining humble even when people admire you or praise you.