S is 54, he lived in England where his mother is from for the first ten years of his life before his family moved to California. He is soft spoken and pauses thoughtfully while speaking. He told me about this tradition of receiving an orange in his Christmas stocking and carrying it on with his family.
“An English tradition I like is that you would always get an orange in your stocking at Christmas time… because oranges were exotic I think… especially during the winter. That was something my mom shared with me and my siblings. And it was just for the kids, so… that made us feel special… I still do it… only it’s a chocolate orange now… Terry’s chocolate orange because I like chocolate! It’s a good feeling from my childhood…it’s a good memory from my childhood… and even though my family is diabetic now, I feel happy giving the chocolate orange now because it reminds us all of happy Christmases.”
According to an article in Smithsonian magazine (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-we-should-bring-back-tradition-christmas-orange-180971101/), the tradition of an orange in Christmas stockings started in the 19th century and may be related to a legend about the real Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra and three gold balls (bags, bars, or coins?) known as “the Miracle of the Dowries.” The orange was an affordable stand in for the gold, yet still a rare treat. In the early 1900s, the citrus industry incorporated the tradition in marketing campaigns featuring a cartoon Santa offering oranges as a healthy alternative to candy. Later, during the Great Depression, oranges took on renewed importance as an exotic and rare treat during hard times. The trajectory of this tradition reveals interesting intersections with the focus of Christmas moving away from a religious focus to a consumer one.
T is 70 years old. He is a retired teacher. He was born in Southern California and raised in Hawaii. He was 7 years old when his family moved there in 1959. He is very animated and speaks very quickly. He told me about the bad vibes he gets at Cahuenga Pass in conversation.
“There was a battle uh… like in the 1800s… something like that, I always have weird vibes in the Cahuenga pass. I think it was the battle of Cahuenga Pass, it changed the leadership of where the valley was going at the time… the end of where like Universal Studios is, that’s the haunted part. A Mexican governor, no one liked him, and a wealthy landowner, no one liked him either… they were fighting over it. Only two people were killed, not the governor or the landowner go figure, but the two that died, they’re the ones that haunt the place. I always got bad energy from the pass. I feel I attract ghosts too easily.”
There were two battles for Cahuenga pass in the 1800s, T’s story refers to the original Battle of Cahuenga Pass, the second was known as the Battle of Providencia (or the Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass) There are stories about the pass being cursed. Apparently, parcels of stolen treasure are buried somewhere along the pass but everyone who’s ever come close to finding it has suddenly and mysteriously died! So maybe it is cursed and haunted. For more information see https://bizarrela.com/2016/11/cahuenga-pass/.
T is 70 years old. He is a retired teacher. He was born in Southern California and raised in Hawaii. He was 7 years old when his family moved there in 1959. He is very animated and speaks very quickly. He shared this piece with me in conversation.
“The legend of Pele used to frighten me as a child. She was always seen before a volcanic eruption… someone would see her… she was very regal, tall, long flowing black hair, flaming red dress flowing behind her… she was elegant. She would appear walking somewhere… This was in 1960, what happened was the volcano did erupt and we lived on Kailua at the time, the eruption was on the big island, I forget which volcano it was, but the pumice, that’s when the lava flows on the water, anyway the pumice flows onto the beach… people use it to scrub their face, anyways people said they saw her walking through the wall in the Hawaiian Village hotel. She’s not happy about how the island is going, you know… what’s happened to the native Hawaiians and the Polynesian culture… So I was really scared of her and I used to think I would see her walking through my bedroom but I never did. So if you see her walking around, that means a volcano will erupt pretty soon. They call her the goddess, Madame Pele.”
Pele is part of Hawaiian mythology but interestingly endures in contemporary times through many sightings, sometimes as a hitchhiker, sometimes dressed in white with a white dog, and sometimes as a beautiful young woman dressed in red or as a female figure within lava itself. These contemporary iterations of Pele take the form of ghost story figures. The version T told me coincides with accounts documented on websites such as https://www.hauntedrooms.com/hawaii/haunted-places/haunted-hotels & https://frightfind.com/hilton-hawaiian-village/ and does seem to serve as a cautionary tale or lesson particularly in light of the fact that the sighting happens in a tourist hotel and that Pele is not happy about native land dispossession and the display of Polynesian culture as tourist attraction.
S is 54, he lived in England where his mother is from for the first ten years of his life before his family moved to California. He is soft spoken and pauses thoughtfully while speaking. He told me about the Blarney Stone, which he learned about visiting Ireland.
“One I heard about visiting Ireland… it’s like a rock that’s sort of like a cliff’s edge and if you hang upside down and kiss the Blarney Stone, you’ll be given the gift of the gab… meaning you will be able to speak well extemporaneously… and so during the day, the tourists come and lay back and kiss the stone but the locals pee on it at night.”
A is 54 years old. She was born in Ft. Waldon, Florida and moved to Sylvania, Georgia at 2 years old. She’d been there all her life until last year (2021). A has a thick Southern accent that’s very pleasant to listen to. She told me about this omen of mockingbirds carrying messages of impending death.
“If you have a mockingbird that keeps coming up to your house trying to get in, it means someone close to you or in your family is going to pass soon… It’s just a message, there ain’t nothing you can do about it.”