Category Archives: Initiations

Undie Run-UCLA Folk Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nigerian American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/27/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo

Context: This is a folk tradition that occurs at UCLA during finals week as a means of blowing off steam, my brother learned this tradition as a freshman and gave his opinions on the tradition and its value.

K: So ya….uh. Undie Run is basically a quarterly tradition at UCLA in which the Wednesday of finals week, where….uh at…I wanna say starting at midnight….ya right at midnight. 

Basically, everybody that’s capable….comes to…um…under the bridge…across from UCLA. 

It’s a certain start point at UCLA that everybody gets to in their underwear and then we run from there up until the top of Janss Steps which is at UCLA and basically…uh.. its kind of a..its a way in which you commemorate finals. 

It’s just a tradition…uh… I don’t know how long we’ve been doing it for.

K: It’s important to us because it’s like…it’s just tradition. 

It’s the student experience. I know that like I remember like..um..some of my older friends like they would have their sashes.

Like you would see seniors with their graduation sashes doing it….you know…its..its just a college experience…a college thing…fundamentally it’s a UCLA college thing.

K: Um..why underwear…you know that’s…actually….you know  I don’t ….

Some people can wear like their pajamas….you know..but typically you wear your boxers, wear like….uh..wear like leggings…you know what I’m sayin…if you’re a dude.

You know people are wearing…you know…they..they determine their spectrum as to what constitutes as underwear. 

Thoughts: After interviewing my older brother about UCLA’s Undie Run tradition, it honestly made me laugh at first because I thought it was ridiculous for students to run while practically naked and not get in trouble. When I was in high school they banned having any kind of senior prank or event because of a previous year so I never had the chance to do anything to commemorate my high school graduation. Hearing my brother describe the Undie Run gave me the nostalgia that he must have felt coming in as a freshman and being introduced to this folk tradition. The Undie Run is a unique tradition because its meaning is subjective to each individual person and its something that continues to live on with both the students and the school. As a freshman, my brother’s experience was less sentimental because he had just arrived at UCLA and was getting used to his environment and its many traditions. However, for the senior friends that he described the meaning was different. The Undie Run for them meant that they were not only commemorating their finals being over but were also celebrating four or so years of hard work as they were about to leave UCLA and this run would be there last. I would never have imagined a large group of people collectively running in their underwear, it sounds so strange, but that seems to be the beauty of folklore in this case. A tradition like the Undie Run is something that I view as strange because, as a student at USC, I’m not apart of the culture. As a sophomore at USC, I understand how events like these can be an important feature of the college experience like my brother emphasized. Now that he is a senior, he was finally able to participate in his last Undie Run as a UCLA Bruin and was able to fully appreciate its importance and commemorate all his hard work.

For another version see: Vassar, Ethan, and Ethan Vassar. “Seriously: Undie Run Cancellation Threatens CSU Admission Rates, Sponsors.” The Rocky Mountain Collegian, 7 May 2019, collegian.com/2019/05/category-opinion-seriously-undie-run-cancelation-threatens-csu-admission-rates-sponsors/.

Joint Marriages in Gujarat

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian
Age: 36
Occupation: Homemaker
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/05/2020
Primary Language: Gujarathi
Other Language(s): Urdu, English

Context: The following is an account from the informant, a family friend. She told this during a conversation at a get-together.

Background: This information was regarding the wedding customs of her village in the state of Gujarat in India. She had firsthand knowledge from her family and her own wedding.

Main piece: 

Informant: In our village, it is common and customary to have big joint weddings. Families will get together and plan to have five or six different couples getting married at the same time. 

Me: So do they know each other, or are they just random couples from the village?

Informant: Since most people in the village are either related to each other at least distantly or know each other well, people can coordinate without much difficulty. Everyone gets together to help, and my own grandfather helped cook the food in traditional cauldrons. Usually it ends up working well, and is much more economical since multiple marriages happen at the same venue, and the attendees who would have otherwise had to have been invited separately can all come at the same time.

Me: Wouldn’t there be extra attendees because there are so many families?

Informant: No, most of the villagers will come to any wedding that is happening anyways, so the number is about the same as there would be for just one couple getting married.

Analysis: This is a unique way of performing the wedding ceremony that seems to work well mainly due to the close-knit nature of the village, especially since many of the families of those getting married are actually relatives, whether close or distant. It seemed surprising at first because usually weddings are considered to be a special event for the couple, but this style of marriage seems to have more of a social aspect.

Filipino Money Dance

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 49
Occupation:
Residence: San Diego
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: The informant is my aunt and will be referred to as L.I. She is originally from Hawaii and is of Filipino descent. She grew up in Hawaii, but she now lives in San Diego with her husband (my uncle) and their two children. The following text describes the Filipino Money Dance which was performed at her wedding.

Main Text: “The money dance is a common tradition in Filipino culture and it is performed at weddings. The DJ will call out one line for men and one line for women, and they usually pass out pins. Then one by one people will approach the bride and groom to dance with them. After they dance they use the pins to pin money to the bride or groom as a sign of good fortune as they begin their journey as husband and wife.”

Analysis: It is common for people to give gifts or money to newlyweds to wish them good fortune or to help them start their new life together. This Filipino tradition turns this practice into a fun, engaging activity that expresses the relationship between the guest and the newlywed. It also reminds me of a Polynesian tradition where during graduations, the graduate is presented with a wreath of money that they wear around their neck. It is interesting how monumental life events are met with monetary gifts to help the person find success in this next phase in their life.

Hell week

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 14
Occupation: student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 29
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Transcribed straight from my informant:

Main piece:

So hell week is a time in the summer, like one of the last weeks before school starts. It’s when the fall sports teams basically have an intense week of working out and preparation for the upcoming season. In my experience, it was water polo, but people usually think of football.

Usually, its multiple hours–up to 5 or 6– of working out, in the pool for me or weight training. It’s just really intense, and they’re just testing out our skills, meaning there was nothing to lose if we were sore because there was no season yet. They have always been doing that, and it’s terrible and scary. It’s an entire week of five hours every day, I hate it.

Background/context:

My little brother told this to me as we sat together casually after I asked him about his folklore. He has been playing club water polo competitively for at least 4 years now, and he takes the sport very seriously. He is a jock. He is in an all-boy’s high school that is known nationwide for its excellence in sports.

Thoughts/analysis:

My school also had hell week, and I think it’s a pretty common concept for athletes, at least in American culture. I think the better you are at a sport, the more intense this becomes as it is also intended to pressure the athletes psychologically, bad as it sounds.

Frat Initiation: Fight Night

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 02/28/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: The informant was born and raised in southern California. He is a sophomore at the University of Southern California and joined greek life in the spring semester of his freshman year. The following is a ritual that occurred at the end of his freshman spring semester just prior to his graduation from “pledge” to “active member.”

Context: This piece was collected in a casual setting in the informants apartment. It was a staged interview so it did not come from a completely natural recount of the ritual. We are good friends so the setting was relaxed, although the informant was adamant on retaining confidentiality surrounding his identity. 

Piece: 

The following is a summary of a conversation, including a few direct quotations, so as to protect the identity of the individual and his fraternity.  

After a semester of hazing, pledges (people who have pledged to join a certain fraternity but have not been completely initiated into the fraternity) the pledge masters (who are active members of the fraternity responsible for the hazing/initiation rituals) gather the pledges and any active members who are interested  in participating in a large room in the frat house. The pledges and active members then form a circle. One of the pledge masters then goes into the center of the circle and says, “Pledges, who do you have problems with?” 

The pledges then wait silently until one of them declares that they have a problem with another frat member (active or pledge). At that point, the member who made the declaration along with the member who they declared to have issue with enter the center of the circle along with the referee who is usually the pledgemaster. The surrounding frat members begin to cast bets on who will win while others bang on their chests and jeer. The fighting consists of “slap boxing” for three rounds regulated by the referee. Often if a pledge or active falls during the fight, the surrounding crowd will shout statements like, “Get the fuck up!” and encourage the continuation of the fight. 

While both active members and pledges make up the circle, only pledges are allowed to call upon other members to enter the circle. It is considered taboo to refuse to enter the circle after being called out.

The informant noted that the night was a time to release pent up anger against fellow frat members who had issues with each other. The event occurs in the final week, dubbed “Hell Week,” before the pledges are officially inducted into the fraternity. It is not uncommon for participants to develop broken bones or other injuries during the event.

Analysis: 

I wasn’t very surprised to hear that violence, an action that typically denotes masculinity in American culture, was so deeply intertwined in the tradition considering the heteronormative history of Greek life on university campuses. Although the ritual is violent, the informant was not bothered, often laughing as recounting the event and suggesting that the event is not perceived, at least by him, as a traumatizing event but is rather an empowering event. 

The ritual serves as a brief dismissal from the hierarchy within the fraternity and allows for retribution. By seeking vengeance for abuse (perceived or real) at the hands of other pledges and active members, the pledges are able to gain equal status and regain respect and dignity by evening the score. The taboo on refusing to enter the circle further ensures that pledges are put on the same stage as other members of the fraternity who may have brutalized them. It allows pledges (who are to be inducted very soon) an opportunity to exert power over other members for the first time.

The Heidelmann Lodge

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 57
Occupation: Real Estate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/7/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from dialogue between my self, GK, and the informant DH.

DH: One of my favorite memories as a child was going to the “Heidelmann Lodge” with my family and getting to spend time with them. 

GK: Where is this lodge located?

DH: It is located at the Donner Summit, in Northern California. Trukee California to be exact, which is about a 7 hour drive from Los Angeles. 

GK: Tell me a little about the history of the lodge. 

DH: I think it was founded in 1947 by a man named West Heidelmann. It took about two years to build, and there were originally only 10 members at the time. It has always been a part of the San Francisco Nature Friends and now and days requires a membership for entry. 

GK: How does one become a member?

DH: It’s a pretty straight forward process. First you usually need to get a letter of recommendation from an active member. Then from there, you will be able to submit an application and have it reviewed by the board of trustees. And then if you get approved, you are required to put in five “work days”. This includes either cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the bathrooms, or working one of our special days such as: Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day Weekends. 

GK: What is there to do there?

DH: In the lodge itself, you could play ping pong, cards, there’s a piano, board games, and many other things. However during the day, we are usually outside. Depending on the season, we will usually be skiing, or going down to Donner Lake. Both are only five minute drives from the Lodge.  

Background: The informant knows of this organization through his family. They have been members at the Heidelmann Lodge for over 50 years and have been going during the summer each year. This place means a lot to the informant because it is where he got to spend a lot of time with his cousins and other family members. In addition to that, today it serves as a great place to visit his brothers and sister and get to see his nephews and nieces. 

Context: The informant and I discussed this face to face.

My Thoughts: I feel like this place is so much more than a lodge to the informant. It feels more like a gathering place for families to get to see one another. In addition it also feels like a bridge for different generations of a family. For example, the informant went while he was a kid, and got to enjoy all of the amenities and the fun times with friends. Now, he brings his own son to this place, and I’m sure he feels the same way his dad once felt. I’m sure the two have shared many of the same memories in the lodge, as it has supposedly not changed much throughout the years. 

Swim Team Shaving Party

--Informant Info--
Nationality: White
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Dimas, CA/Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

Informant: When I was on the Dive and Swim team we would always grow out our body hair for prelims, which is the race that qualifies you for finals. So you would grow out our leg hair, arm hair, armpit hair haha. Sometimes boys did facial hair. But, if you made finals then we would have a shaving party. The finalists would have a shaving party, so you were seen as like a star if you were invited. It was an honor to go to this party, so everyone would help each other shave to get ready for finals. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this from?

Informant: It has been going on at my high school for a very long time, probably decades before I went there. 

Interviewer: Why would your team this?

Informant: Shaving helps you swim faster, and I think it was a mini celebration that you made finals.

Interviewer: Did you ever get to go to one?

Informant: I did! At first I was a little weirded out, but when I went it was surprisingly fun. 

Background

My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 

Context

After willing to participate in an interview to collect folklore, the topic of sports came up with my informant and me. She disclosed that she was on the Swim and Dive Team and we began to talk about our experiences playing sports and how some of those celebrations and traditions of sports teams relate to folklore. This celebration got brought up in the interview and the informant gave me more details. 

Analysis

This folklore celebration is akin to rite of passages celebrations, as it is intended to congratulate and prepare the swimmers who qualified for the final races. In another sense, it also promotes unity and cooperation within the swimming team as they are doing something that has potential benefits for their results taking into account the belief that less hair on the body allows swimmers to swim faster. 

After some research, I discovered that many swim teams have similar shaving parties, and some have been documented online. One of these parties is mentioned and written about in the  following article:

Bara, Scotty, and Sapir Frozenfar. “Shaving In Sports.” The Viking Magazine, vikingsportsmag.com/features/2011/10/10/shaving-in-sports/.

“Bottoms Up” Soccer Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean/White
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles/Colorado
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

Informant: Whenever it was someone’s birthday on the team they would have to play “Bottom’s Up.” They would have to stand in the goal, bend over, and grab the net with their head down and closed eyes. Their butts would be in the air facing the field, and everyone else on the team got to take a shot and hit you in the butt. If you were hit, you were hit. If you flinched then the person got to shoot again. It was a fun thing we always ended practice with whenever there was a birthday. I just hated when it was my birthday, haha.

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

During our interview I brought up how different games can be considered as folklore. After I described how games fit these categories he remembered a game him and his high school soccer team used to play which was taught to them by their coach. 

Analysis

This folk game is a great combination of a game, as well as a folk ritual as it occurs on every birthday almost serving as an initiation. This shared experience that everyone on the team had to go through is something they could all relate to and participate in, fostering a sense of unity amongst teammates as well. There is also a great sense of humor about this game where everyone gets a chance to honor the person whose birthday in a more rabble-rousing way.

Ice Blocking

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Oswego, Illinois; Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main piece:

(The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.)

Interviewer: Tell me about ice blocking, if you don’t mind.

Informant: Okay, ice blockiiiiiiiiiiing, is a thing at – I don’t know uhh… Okay. At UCLA we have like a – not really like the typical college quad, but we have Jan’s Hill which is like – not even a central part of campus but just like – the most grassy open place you can sit, and it’s just, like a hill near Royce which is like, the iconic building of UCLA. That’s where people like sit in-between classes during the day and have picnics and stuff, but at night, a lot of people in like, clubs or just like as a group of friends will go and do something called “ice blocking” which is… people will go to Ralph’s and get like a big block of ice that’s like… a foot long and six inches tall and wide – and then you go to this hill, you start at the top – and you sit on it, and you just slide down the hill on the ice as far as you can. I don’t know who thought of this first or where it started but the first time I did it was like, as a part of my sorority, and then – once you like, have done ice blocking it just seems so obvious to do it and you just ask people if they’ve done it and their like “What? No!” or they’re like “Obviously” and it’s just like shows whether someone has really gotten the like full UCLA experience or not. Cause then if they haven’t done it you can be like, “Oh then we should go sometime!” I’ve only ever done it twice, once with sorority and once with ADPI [Alpha Delta Pi]. But it’s… Oh those are the same things – once with sorority and once with my apartment’s – when we first all moved in together. So it’s just like something silly to do. And… it seems kind of hard to sit on this block of ice but – you have to sit on it so that it’s long-ways down and not wide and then you can use a towel so your butt doesn’t get so wet, but then in the summer it’s better to not because it’s hot and you want to be cooled down anyway. And then you just – have to put your feet up in a little like, ball position and then you just slide as far as you can but you have to stop before you hit the bushes or else… you’d be pretty screwed. And with my roommates one tried to do it standing up like surfing and they did like – literally somersaults down the whole hill. 

Interviewer: …Who was that? (laughing)

Informant: (Laughing) It was [name redacted]!

Interviewer: Oh my god.

Informant: And also [name redacted], I think, maybe.

Interviewer: That’s crazy.

Informant: I don’t know what else to say about it really.

Interviewer: Oh no that’s cool, you can just- is there anything like…

Informant: (sighs) it’s not a competition, really, because you only ever have like – well, i guess – actually I’ve seen-

Interviewer: Is it for like special occasions?

Informant: Yeah. Like for sorority, we did it like, as one of our first bonding activities when we all joined. And then for like, my roommates we did it as the celebration of us all moving in to our new apartment. So a lot of clubs do it as like a bonding activity I feel like.

Interviewer: …Is it allowed?

Informant: It’s not not allowed. No one’s ever been stopped for it. Like people also will have picnics where they drink on that hill and that’s not allowed because it’s a dry campus but they still do that anyway- and often… the two activities will be combined. (laughing)

Interviewer: (laughing)

Background: My informant is Senior in College who grew up in Southern and then Northern Illinois. She comes from a family of middle-class background. She goes to UCLA, and therefore has adopted a mix of midwest and west coast folklore.

Context: The informant is my sister, and she gave me this piece in a more research oriented setting, as she was the first person I collected from and I was determining the best way to go about the process still. She was very loose by this point in our long conversation, and our conversations always include humor.

Thoughts: This is a good example of a piece of folklore (specifically a tradition – maybe even an initiation ritual, though that categorization is a little more of a stretch) that seems absurd from the outside. At least, from my perspective, knowing nothing about the steepness of this hill especially, this activity sounds either rather boring and weird or entirely too dangerous. Apparently though, it is a common activity on any given night at UCLA, and I’m sure if I went there I would be all for it.

University of Alabama Bid Day

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age:
Occupation:
Residence: New Orleans
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Bid day at the University of Alabama is like Christmas, Easter, and every other holiday wrapped into one. Every single PNM, potential new member, is waiting with their Rho Chi, or rush, group in Bryan Denny Stadium, at 2pm they open their bids, find out what sorority they have gotten an offer from. Then by sorority, each PNM runs to their house with utter joy. All of a sorority’s active members are present outside of their house waiting for their new sisters to come home to their house. During bid day family members come down to celebrate this news. Fraternity brothers from the university also come to the sorority row and hand out roses to the new members while they are running home. It is one of the biggest celebrations on campus as thousands of new sisters are running down the row.

Context:

EG is a member of a sorority at the University of Alabama and a sophomore. She has been in her sorority for two years and had experienced both sides of this tradition. She finds it is more exciting as an active as you know more people. This piece was taken during a conversation at our home.

Thoughts:

As a member of a fraternity at USC, I understand some of the excitement of bid day. It is a moment is a freshman’s life where they get to join an organization allows them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Greek Life at the University of Alabama is known for having the biggest presence on any campus in the nation. At USC, our sorority’s also have their bid day all at once. New members run down the row from the Village Lawn into their new sorority house. As my fraternity’s house is near several sorority houses, I can say that EG’s description of her bid day sounds similar to USC’s, but on a much, much larger scale. I find this celebration to also be a really rewarding time after having to go through a lengthy recruitment period.