Category Archives: general

Pickle in the Tree

Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She started participating in the tradition after she was married and her three children were born. Since her children are now older, she also has her children’s romantic partners participate in the children – and grandchildren one day.

Context: The context of the piece was in the informant’s house. The information opened a cabinet and found the pickle sitting inside – leftover from being taken off the tree back in December. She gave a sound of surprise, laughed, and mentioned how it always happens each year without fail.

Text:

TC: “Well, every single year we hang up the pickle on the tree. Typically, me and my husband will wake up early in the morning, around 5 or 6 am, and spread a while trying to find the perfect hiding spot. We make sure nobody can enter the living room [where the tree is] to make sure there is no cheating in finding the pickle, until everyone is awake.

Me: Why did you start hanging the pickle?

TC: I never did it when I was younger but I heard about from friends and thought it would be a fun way to start Christmas morning. As a lot of my traditions, I think it’s Germanic but… that was an accident [laughs]. I wanted to… do a little more than just opening presents and stockings, and it brought the kids in for a game.

Me: Will you keep doing it?

TC; I want my children, their partners, my grandchildren – everyone to participate in it. So, yes, I do plan to keep hanging the pickle up, though we may have to get a bigger tree.

Me: That sounds fun. So, what does someone get when they find the pickle?

TC: As with hanging the pickle, my husband and I always shop together and find the weirdest gift we can and buy it as the “pickle gift”. Let me think, one year, we had something with My Little Pony; we had a spiky rubber ball; this year it was a mind game, where you had to figure out how to get all the colors on the same side, similar to a Rubik’s cube. It’s honestly a fun tradition for us also to go shopping for the pickle gift.

Analysis:

Informant:  To the information, the pickle is a sign of family strength. The pickle adds a fun element to the beginning of Christmas and allows her to have fun as well.

Mine: The pickle emphasizes globalization and how traditions can widely spread, even if their original root is unknown. I don’t believe traditions can only be celebrated if they stick true to their origins but can change and evolve as time passes, they aren’t supposed to be stagnant. As in the case of the pickle, it has evolved to fit modern times – it’s utilized to bring families together, inspire sibling friendship, and it’s meant to be utter fun. Also, it showcases how one tradition can inspire other new ones. The informant finds it a yearly ritual to go shopping with her husband, an event that strengthens their bond. Each tradition, in this way, is connected in a spiderweb in inspiring and creating other ones. 

Apple Harvesting with the Family

Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She lived in Pennsylvania until she was 10 years old, but would go back every year to visit her grandmother. Her grandmother lived in a small Pennsylvania town in a house surrounded by an apple orchard.

Context: The context was the story was shared over the phone, brought up during a discussion about foods. The informant seemed happy to share old stories.

Text:

TC: I’m reminded of, when I was growing up, my grandmother lived in a big house surrounded by a huge amount of apple trees, basically an apple orchard. Whenever the apples came into season, the entire family and some neighbors would come over and pick all the apples. After we were done, my grandmother would make apple cider by herself, that’s why I love apple cider to this day. Oh, also, all of us would help her make plain doughnuts. You know, that’s why I always order plain doughnuts whenever we’re out at a doughnut shop. All together, we would feast on a meal of apple cider and doughnuts. 

Me: So, you did this every single year?

TC: Yes. I remember, even when some of us started moving away, my grandmother would still continue on the harvest. She would make her apple cider and doughnuts and share them with whoever was there with her… I forgot to mention, my grandparents were farmers, which was why they had many many trees on their property. They owned a huge area of land and it was the center, or the focal, point of where my family would gather.

Analysis

Informant: She views the tradition fondly as a time of her childhood. She didn’t think much of the roots but was focused on it being a time of familial gathering and a feast of sweets.

Mine: The family gathering together to pick the apples is reminiscent of old harvest traditions and festivals. It’s an excuse for everyone to gather together and bond through mutual work. Typically, whenever the harvest would be done in the past, apple cider would always be prepared and a feast would be waiting at home for the farmers. Given that the informant’s grandparents were farmers, they were likely aware of this tradition, even if they didn’t explicitly tell their family members. The meaning behind the cider and doughnuts didn’t matter, it was only needed to share time with family – it served as a gathering place. To this day, apple orchards are still used as a prime gathering place, many times field trips used as outings or friends go apple picking as an activity. Typically, sweets and apple cider are still served, emphasizing that while the tradition has changed in terms of farmers gathering the harvest of the year, it still remains to be a community event. 

To see another version, TIM STONESIFER. (2009). Celebrating an apple tradition The National Apple Harvest Festival begins this weekend. 1–.

The Alma Mater Joke

Background: The informant is a 58 year old man living in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, where he attended the local high school and elementary school. He went to college at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (currently UIUC – referred to as U of I by the informant). The informant always likes to tell jokes and mentioned one that was prevalent during his time at college. 

Context: The context was while eating, the informant and his son began talking about U of I, as they both attended the school. The informant suddenly appeared to remember a joke he was told as a student. 

Text:

BW: Yeah,  I remember this one joke I was told at U of I. It was really popular around all the students. I remember my friend group would always share it. So, there’s the alma mater statue at U of I that all students take pictures at when they graduate. Remember we took a picture with [son] there.

Me: Yeah, it was a statue of a woman, right?

BW: Yep, a motherly figure, and she’s standing up. Okay so it goes,

Everyone at U of I takes a picture in front of the alma mater statue and, um, if there is a picture of a virgin in front of the statue, then she will be sitting down instead of standing. But, see, there are no virgins at U of I, because everyone has been fucked by the University. [laughing].

Me: Oh, wow. Was there any ill will toward the University?

BW: I think it was like the usual anger of students towards their schools. Maybe it be the cost or the classes or being failed in a class, or something like that.

Analysis:

Informant: The informant, laughing at his own joke, shows that it retains its humor for him throughout the decades. It clearly brings back memories of his time at the university and of good humor between him and his friends.

Mine: The joke, while short, represents a few things. First, it directly mentions a graduation tradition done at the school, of taking a picture with the alma mater statue once someone graduates. However, this tradition is turned on its head for vulgar means – more so because the statue is depicting a motherly figure. However, moms have long had their share of mom jokes, notably “your mom” in response to a statement. The statue sitting down upon a virgin being there is almost like the motherly statue sitting down to protect the virgin, as if a mother’s embrace. But then, the punchline hits, and while it’s meant to be funny, it serves to actually highlight how the students felt about the university. While not sure if the joke is still being told, it clearly is a symbol that this time of history, in the 80s, was a period where the university was clearly mocked.

Clothing Superstitions in Sports

Background: The informant is a 22 year old male currently living in San Luis Obispo, California. He attended CalPoly-SLO and is currently working as a manager for a boy and girls volleyball club. He played volleyball and basketball throughout high school, and played and coached volleyball while in college.

Context: The informant shared the information over the phone when talking about his new job and was asked about superstitions in sports.

Text:

Me: So, throughout your career with volleyball, did you notice any superstitions that followed you?

WC: Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s a lot of good luck charms in sports. For example, like, players will wear the same clothes for every game. A lot wear the same jersey every single time, instead of switching out for a newer one, Also, they, like, wear the same socks for every game.

Me: Why would they do that?

WC: It’s believed that if you, someone, wins with a certain piece of clothing then that will bring them good luck in the upcoming games and season. So, like, if you take off that piece of clothing, you will be bringing bad luck onto yourself.

Me: Did you participate in it?

WC: Yeah, most people I know do. I always wore the same jersey for every game, and if I played different sports, I would try to get the same number for good luck. It reminds me of, like, if a sports team is doing really well, and then you turn on the TV and start watching them, and then they start doing bad, it feels like “Oh, I caused them to do bad” so you’ll turn off the game. Or, like [friends] attended a few baseball games and the team lost every time. So, it felt like they were the bad luck charm for the team and that they shouldn’t go to games anymore. 

Analysis:

Informant: As the informant has both participated and heard about the tradition, it is clear that he believes in the good luck superstition placed onto the objects.

Mine: The function of the jerseys and the socks is basically a lucky charm for the team. It’s interesting because it shows how a piece of clothing can be obtained with no meaning, but once the team starts winning, the clothing slowly gains the lore of being good luck. And, the object doesn’t solely affect the individual wearing it but affects the whole team, like it’s a large net of good luck. It likely provides a sense of safety and solace for the players, especially if they are heading into a nerve wracking match, at least they have their good luck charm to rely on. It’s similar to how people may pray to God before a match, but in this case, it’s “praying” to an object. In addition, good luck and bad luck can be imbued into a person. However, it seems more like assigning blame to someone else, rather than the team itself, who was the one performing in the game. Yet, this does keep morale strong in the team.

Beginning a School Wide Chant

Background: The informant  is a 22 year old male currently living in San Luis Obispo, California. He attended CalPoly-SLO and is currently working as a manager for a boy and girls volleyball club. He played volleyball and basketball throughout high school, and played and coached volleyball while in college. His story is from his time in college.

Context: The context was the informant was, after a sporting event, the informant was reminded of his time in college when he and his friends started a cheer. He performed the cheer.

Text:

WC: In college, since I was on the club volleyball team and was a coach for the girl’s team, I would always attend the volleyball matches whenever they were at home. So, my friends and I thought it would be funny to start a cheer, or a chant, at the games, as we knew all the players. 

Me: What was the cheer?

WC: Every time, someone got a block, we would say “booboo” and then clap twice. [does it]

Me: Was there significance behind it?

WC: Uh, not really, it was more to show the girls that we were there and we were supporting them. I mean, cheers in sports are really just to build morale and boost the team’s spirit so that was all that we were trying to do.

Me: What happened to the chant?

WC: Actually, since we did it at every D1 game, the other people around us started to pick it up. And then, the girls on the team started to do it after every block. So, what started as just our little firendgroup chant became a CalPoly-wide thing.

Analysis:

Informant: He was clearly very happy with the chant becoming a sports-wide occurrence at his school, especially that the girl’s themselves started using it. His intention was simply to have a morale boosting chant, but it did much more than that.

Mine: Cheers have long been used in sports in order to reveal a certain community of people. Typically, cheers are created in groups and spread through word of mouth, at least initially. People spend time in order to create someone that will stand out and boost morale. While initially it was simply something between friends, it became a much bigger thing, spreading to other fans and the players themselves. It demonstrates that folklore starts from the people, no matter who they are, and that anyone can contribute to the culture of the group they are in. The main form of communication in sports is cheering from the sidelines, and anyone should be able to contribute to that. There doesn’t need to always be people leading the cheers; instead, the cheers can start on their own.