text: “So I went to boarding school in Rhode Island, and we have one really big rival school. Before we play that rival in football and every fall sport, which is one big weekend in the fall, the night before we’ll have a big banquet to kick of the Middlesex weekend. In the tradition, our school makes a cake of a zebra, which is the mascot of the other school, and the headmaster will cut the head off the zebra cake at the banquet dinner. This is basically the start of the weekend and chopping off the head of the zebra shows that we will beat them in all of the competitive sports coming. Also, the school’s art department creates a giant paper mache zebra and burns it in the middle of campus. These are like a good-luck tradition and gives our school an annual spirit holiday/festival weekend.” -Informant
context: The boarding schools of the Northeast all have a very competitive rivalry between one another. Therefore when they play each other in sports they have different traditions and rituals in order to give them good luck. The informant stated that the school has done this ritual for decades and it continues through the present. This tradition only happens once a year, when they play the rivalry school in the fall.
analysis: This tradition reminds me of USC’s rivalry with UCLA. When we play them in any sport we say things like “Beat the Bruins” or “kill the bears.” We don’t burn down anything or cut the head off of a fake bear, but we do have someone dress up in a bear costume and we cake them with whipped cream. I think this is a huge tradition between any school and their rivals, and gives them a sense of pride for where they attend.
text: “My grandma carries a dried up banana leaf at all times, because when the Japanese invaded her island during World War 2, her family would hide under banana leaves. Now, she carries one around to give her protection and hope wherever she is, serving as a reminder of her culture, when she moved to the US when she was 30 years old.” -Informant
context: The informant’s grandmother is from Mindoro, Philippines, and during World War 2, her island was invaded. The informant is very inspired by his grandmother for having so much bravery, and now hangs banana leaves over his door to serve as a means of protection. She lived in a very remote area, on a rice farm with hundreds of banana trees. These trees have given her so much, so to this day, she still uses them to give her protection.
analysis: Similar to a Folk-Object, like an evil-eye, these banana leaves serve as protection from negative things. The superstition that she has, that these banana leaves protected her once, so they will protect her for the rest of her life, has been passed down to the informant. The story of the dried banana leaf being carried by the grandmother serves as an example of how folk beliefs can be passed down through generations and become deeply ingrained in a person’s cultural identity. It is a manifestation of the human need for protection and the desire to hold onto one’s cultural heritage for decades. It was her way of coping with the situation she was in, and now preserves that cultural memory.
text: “Every New Years Eve, my family puts a $100 dollar bill in their pockets before the clock reaches midnight. We do this because it brings prosperity in the New Year and the hope that you will be rich. My grandparents on my Filipino side put round objects in their pockets, such as coins or grapes, which also will bring wealth and good fortune in the New Year” -Informant
context: The tradition and superstition of these comes from both his Italian side and his Filipino side. He is 50% Italian, and 50% Filipino and has multiple traditions for every holiday. On his Italian side, his mom introduced putting a $100 bill into his pocket, maybe to just give him a hundred dollars, or maybe to bring him good fortune. On his Filipino side, his dad would make him put grapes, coins, or anything round also in his pocket to bring wealth and prosperity in the New Year.
analysis: What’s interesting about the combination of both of these New Years rituals, is that the informant will probably pass down these traditions to his kids. It will be a combination of them and be his way of passing down his culture to his kids. These New Year’s Eve superstitions and rituals serve as a prime example of Jame George Frazer’s theory of sympathetic magic, in specific, homeopathic magic. In his theory, he explains the belief among folk groups that certain practices can be carried out on a smaller scale that then produce major effects on a larger scale, that if which affecting the future.
text: “Every Christmas eve, on my Italian side, we eat seven kinds of fish. My mom is Italian and her parents came to the U.S. from Italy. They taught her that eating the seven kinds of fish combines their old Italian traditions and unites them with their new ones in America. The fish we eat are, clams, mussels, halibut, shrimp, calamari, etc.” – Informant
context: This is a yearly tradition on Christmas eve done by his entire Italian family. Even when they’re traveling, if they have no access to all of these fish or any of them, they will jokingly buy Swedish fish candy in order kind of fulfill the tradition. The informant learned this from their mother, who is Italian, and she learned it from her parents, who moved to America from Italy.
analysis: This is a holiday ritual but also a cultural food tradition done yearly by Italian people and immigrants. Done by a lot of Italian/Americans, this tradition combines their old culture with a new culture.
text: “In Filipino culture, when you move into a new house, you put coins in the corner of every room in that new house. This supposedly brings prosperity and good fortune for your new chapter in life.” – Informant
context: This superstition/ritual was learned from the informant’s grandmother on his Filipino side. She learned this from her parents whenever they moved houses and passed it down to her son, the informant’s father. It is a huge part of Filipino culture, and the informant stated that superstitions are also huge in his culture. In Filipino culture, money is the biggest part of becoming successful, therefore, putting coins in the corners of rooms can act as a way of helping one achieve that wealth.
analysis: This is both a tradition and a superstition because it is passed down from generations, but also used to supposedly bring prosperity. When moving into a new house, it seems like a way to make it your own and ward off any negative energy. Everyone wants to be successful and there are coins are a huge motif to display that.