Author Archives: William Morse

Christmas Costumes

Context: Subject of interview is a middle-aged man and father of three. The family in question celebrates Christmas. 


“Every year, on Christmas eve, my daughter and I go out and find costumes so that the family can participate in a night of celebration. It could be Christmas related, it could be funny, but it needs to be festive. It’s always a surprise at some point during christmas dinner we will sneak out and put the costumes on and surprise the family” 


The following is an example of folklore based in a familial tradition, one that can be passed down from generation to generation. Additionally, the tradition is tied directly with a holiday, a common trait for familial pieces of folklore. This tradition in particular is one that seems to make sense for the subject’s situation and their relationship to Christmas. Context was given that the subject celebrates Christmas, but not in the religious sense. This seems like a very fun and celebratory alternative to partaking in the religious side of the holiday.  

Hell Week

Context: The subject of the interview was a student at UCSB and was a member of a fraternity while in attendance. 


“And the pledge class had something called hell week, which was one solid week of the pledge class being asked to do and being forced to do all kinds of manual labor around the house. Clearing the windows, clearing the bathrooms, clearing the volleyball court, all done to develop a sense of comradery amongst the pledges. And since everyone else ahead of them had gone through this, it was kinda a right of passage. What we realized early on was that drinking was a huge part of this, and the people that were running this were trying to get you to be drunk to provide humor for all those running this”. 


This is just one of the countless examples of the culture and folkloric initiations surrounding the fraternity process. Much of these rituals are rights of passages that mark an entering into a new group. These specifically show that you are now accepted by that group. 

Festival of the Cow

Context: The subject of this interview was a student at UCSB and conducted many trips abroad while attending the school. 

“And so we were in the last throes of our stay in Kathmandu, Nepal. One day of the four guys that I went the second year as an adult advisor. So I was the advisor and there were four juniors in college with me, four males. One of the guys that was one of our students and I decided we need to see Kathmandu, the main city of Nepal, wake up. We should get up really early and like 330 in the morning one morning and go into the city and see how the city wakes up. See who gets up first, who does what in the city, how do they do it, how do they communicate, and what happens at that hour in the morning. So my friend and myself got up, and as Kathmandu was waking up that day there was a parade developing along the main part of the town. And these are really really old cities, almost medieval cities with temples and its just a gorgeous setting. People were walking through the town playing their instruments and they had animals and they all had a cow. We kept thinking, what is this? And we didn’t necessarily speak much of the language, and the people in Kathmandu didn’t speak much English. We just had to watch what they were doing. They were preparing meals and also doing things near the temples, with it obviously a festival or something. We eventually found out it was the annual festival of the cow, and they would take five or six people to get a cow and walk through the city. In the other direction, four or five other people would take a cow in the other direction. And this was the festival we stumbled upon that morning” 


This piece of folklore is a long running important cultural festival in Nepal. According to Tibet Vista, a tourist site trying to attract people to come to the country, the festival is also known as Gai Jatra and “is one of the most important festivals in Nepal”. The festival takes eight days and “is mainly held by the Newar community in Kathmandu valley to commemorate the dead in the last year”. 

Jigme , Catherine. “Gai Jatra, Gai Puja, Nepal Festival of Cows.” Tibet Travel and Tours – Tibet Vista, 19 Nov. 2019, 

The Hole in One

Context: The subject of the interview is an older man who grew up in southern California 


“When I was in high school at some point, I turned to my dad one morning and asked “hey dad is there something you could teach me to cook”. He said that he doesn’t cook much but he could teach me how to cook a hole in one. And I said no I didn’t say anything about golf, I said cook. He said I know, it’s called a hole in one. I asked, what’s that? So he said he’d teach me. He said get that piece of bread and butter it up on both sides. He said now take a little knife and make a circle in the bread. And so you’re cutting around the circle in the bread. Now take that little circle out of the bread. Now go over and put a pan on the burner and turn the burner on and put the piece of bread in the pan. It will start to cook. So what’s next? So now get an egg out and crack the egg into the hole. When you crack the egg and the egg starts to come out the shell, make sure it goes in the hole. All of a sudden it starts to cook and within about five minutes it starts to look done. Now take a spatula and you’re done. And finally, as my dad would say, yokes on you”. 


This piece of folklore is an example of folklore that is passed down through culinary activities. This genre of folklore in particular is greatly rooted in cultural and familial practices. It is usually in a familial setting that someone would be cooking, and food usually has ties to a greater culture. 

Crazy Towel Guy

Context: The subject of the interview is an older man who has been a fan of Duke basketball and in attendance for most of their games for the last 30 years. Additionally, the subject worked at the university. 


“Crazy towel guy is an older gentleman in his 70s who happens to have been a fan of Duke basketball for the last 50 years. And he would come to games, never ever would miss a basketball game. And everytime he would come, he would have the same seat and in the middle of the game when it looked like Duke wasn’t playing as well as they should or they were a little tired, he would grab his towel he had on his shoulder and stand up and waving the towel. What that meant to the students at Duke in the stadium, everybody would see this and start going crazy. They would raise the emotional level in that stadium from like below zero to over a hundred”. 


This piece of folklore is indicative of all the folklore existing within an athletic environment. Additionally, this piece of folklore goes under the category school specific folklore, the urban legends that can develop in and stay specifically within that one environment.