Author Archives: Tobi Ogundipe

Ritual – German


In order to usher in the New Year the subject’s family eats a meal comprised of sauerkraut, sausage, black-eyed peas at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The meal is supposed to bring good luck throughout the year. The subject identified the traditional meal as uniquely German and that the tradition has been kept up through many generations.

For the subject the meal has become less and less important to her and more of something she feels she has to do in order to not upset her grandmother. However she enjoys the fact that the meal symbolically brings her family together like other occasions (i.e. Christmas, Easter, etc). When asked if she would continue this tradition with her own family she said that it would first be up to her husband and secondly it the continuation of the traditional meal would hinge on if she ever learned how to properly prepare the sauerkraut that is required for the meal.

Black-eyed peas as part of a traditional/ritual meal can also be seen in the Italian culture. The appearance of sauerkraut in the meal, however, makes the meal uniquely German.

Saying – Chinese


The subject acknowledged that she was aware of a variant of a piece of folklore I has collected earlier: “If you put the fingers on one hand together and there are gaps in between your fingers then you will be poor.” This is different from another piece of folklore that makes the conclusion that the person is greedy. The main difference being that one is greedy and one will be poor.

So in a sense, looking at the same saying, the subject argued that the man is actually poor because he can’t ever keep what he has in his hands. The second subject (she) offered this explanation: “If someone always spends what they have in their hands then they will have nothing in the end.” The subject stated that she too learned this saying from her parents and that she had never heard of the variant of the saying.

My conclusion is that the two viewpoint on the (essentially same) proverb can be melded into one by saying that someone with gaps between their fingers will be a greedy poor man.



“Like ship on the harbor, / like a mother and child, like a light in the darkness, / I’ll hold you a while.

We’ll rock on the water, / I’ll cradle you near, /And hold you while / Angels rock you to sleep.”

The subject’s mother would sing her this lullabye every night before the subject would go to sleep. Her mother sang the lullabye every night until the subject was nine years old. The song was a source of comfort to the subject. It is important to note that while the subject had difficulty reciting the songs lyrics and looked online to find the lyrics where she found that the song’s origins are….

The song has inherent mother/ daughter imagery and draws upon comforting images like angles and water.

Upon further investigation I found that the song is actually of Irish origins and that the subjects mother could have acquired the song while on vacation in Ireland years before the subject was born.

Festival – Spain


The subject learned this piece of folklore while on vacation in Spain during the summers of 8th and 9th grade. According to the subject, the whole of Spain observes a day in the month of June called El Dia de San Juan. The townspeople spend the whole day preparing for the event by building a very large bonfire on the beach. At nightfall the townspeople set the bonfire ablaze. “At this point,” says the subject “tourists and other visitors participate in the culminating event where, at midnight, all of the women present run into the ocean and splash their faces with the water” symbolically keeping themselves beautiful and youthful looking longer.

The subject said that even though she, herself, did not participate in the event she was able to understand the symbolic implications of the act, especially after watching the event for a second time.

Upon further investigation the festival of El Dia de San Juan takes place in June every year around the world.

Folk Belief – Nigerian


The Ibo saying goes “Never answer yes to a voice calling you if you are not sure who it is. It may be an evil spirit calling you.” My mother used to tell me this all the time because for some odd reason I always thought I heard people calling my name (my name happens to sound like many things). I would get annoyed and shout “Yes. Yes! Yes!!” until my mother would say “Yes what?” To which I would reply “Weren’t you calling me just a second ago?” My mother would reply “no, “ and add “how many times do I have to tell you not to answer yes if you do not know or you are not sure who is calling you?”

Another take on this superstition can be found in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart where one of the character’s mother calls her from another hut and instead of answering “yes” she says “is that me? (Achebe 41),” which is a way to verify that the person calling you is human and not an evil spirit.

To me, not only is it a widely held superstition in the Ibo tribe but also it is a way to teach children how to answer with a yes and not a what and to properly identify who is calling them because it requires the person being claed to seek out who is calling them by not yelling across the room, yard, etc. to see who is calling them. It is a part of Nigerian culture as a whole to approach the person calling you, especially if they are an elder, by answering yes sir, mamn, mother, father, uncle, auntie, etc.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Thing’s Fall Apart. Anchor Books: New York, 1994.