Category Archives: Life cycle

Family Baptismal Gown – Family Ritual

The family of the informant has used the same baptismal gown for many generations. At least one child in each section of the family wore the gown while being baptized, and many times in the same church. This gown was said to be made from fine linen cloth brought straight from Ireland. The informant wore the gown and their sibling also did, but their cousin on their mother’s side (the side of gown tradition) wore their mother’s. However, the informant said there is now much question in the family as over one hundred people have worn it, but it is currently missing. The informant said that this gown held importance to much of the family to carry on wearing the traditional gown, but now there is discussion of making another one since the first is gone.

Context – Many families will often have a garment or cultural object that holds meaning among the family or a common group. For the informant in this story, the baptism gown is that object and became a symbol of family heritage and carried meaning from generation to generation. This crosses over into the realm of folklore due to the mass of the shared ritual and the commonality that each family may have similar garments or rituals.

Analysis – For those who have a cultural object carrying meaning among a family, there is much symbolic meaning and weight carried by the object. The object no longer is seen as a simple piece of cloth to be worn, but rather a symbol of generational wealth, prosperity, and heritage. In families such as the informant, there is a question created as to where clothing/objects begin carrying weight, and where does the meaning begin collecting deep folklore and meaning among a shared group — it is unclear and decided family by family case whether the object can be replaced or changed at all (such as in this informants family).  

Maile Leaves – Hawaiian Traditions

The informant explains that it is tradition in Pacific Islander culture to wear maile leaves during major life events/luaus. Some examples of times worn are first communions, graduations, weddings, family celebrations, and major commencements. This can be considered a big honor in Pacific Islander families and mostly only worn by male individuals in direct relation to islander blood (either born islander, or married in/accepted). The female version of the maile leaves is the traditional lei; however a male can wear both a lei and the leaves, but females will only wear the leis.

Context – Maile leaves are a very common piece to wear during major celebrations in Pacific Islander culture. As lies are very well known among many cultures and popular culture associated with Pacific Island culture, Maile leaves are not as well known as they are more specific to male participants during celebrations — almost as if it is “closer” to the culture although this may not be exactly correct. Maile leaves are often seen within depictions or pacific culture, however they are not as well noted or acknowledged by those outside the culture. The most common knowledge about gear worn similar to the maile leaves is the flower lei that is used both within the culture and outside among tourists, western culture, and costumes.

Analysis – The practice of wearing maile leaves, particularly in relation to those with pacific islander blood can serve as a way to remember and practice tradition among your heritage. The informant expressed major emphasis on the honor and “rules” of wearing maile leaves which preserves the long practice of pacific islander culture. This is a way in which you can keep the memory and heritage of an area relevant and a part of major moments in a participant’s life. Especially since many of the pacific islands are smaller territories, the practice of culture is important to those with pacific islander background because it preserves and creates space for agency of an area.

Korean story: The Leg Lump and the Monster

Nationality: Korean
Primary Language: Korean
Age: 68
Occupation: retired, former pastor
Residence: Seoul, South Korea
Performance Date: 24 March 2024

Tags: legs, lump, monster, greed, shrewd, lie


Once upon a time, there was a man with a huge lump on his leg. One night, he went out on a walk near the forests, singing a tune along the way. A monster came by, entranced by the man’s singing, and asked the man where the singing was coming from. The man, being keen and knowledgeable of the monster’s evil nature, knew that the monster just wanted the singing ability for himself, so the man lied and said that the singing was coming from the lump. The monster then magically took the lump away from his leg and scurried off. The man was very happy since he didn’t have a lump on his leg anymore, and news of the events traveled through the neighborhood. One particularly greedy neighbor also had a lump on his leg, and hearing the story made him mad and jealous, so he sought out to do the same thing so his lump would also be removed. Thus the following night, the greedy neighbor went out to the woods, singing his own tune. The same monster arrived and again asked where the singing was coming from, and the greedy neighbor lied that it was coming from his lump, just as the other man had done. The monster, however, had already realized the other man’s trickery, so in a rage, he cursed the greedy neighbor and gave him yet another lump on his leg that burdened him further.


H. is a born and raised South Korean citizen, and has had experience with telling stories through giving sermons in his church. This was simply one of the stories he told me when I was young in Korea.


This is a very typical aesop one would see in a Korean storybook for children, which is probably where H. got it from. The aspects of being shrewd and able to read a situation as well as not being greedy are pretty common lessons that still hold up in modern Korean society.

Muslim Tradition: Funerals

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Performance Date: 9 April 2024

Tags: Muslim, Islam, funeral, death, burial, graves


Muslim funerals can be compared to the solemn tradition seen in most modern Western funeral progressions, but with a few key differences. Guests wear all white attire instead of all black, and the body is also wrapped in a white sheet, after having been washed and prayers having been said. Coffins are apparently similar to sarcophaguses (for lack of a better comparison), and the dead are buried above ground because it is seen as very improper to walk over the dead. Gravestones are very clean and do not have much writing on them other than the dead’s name and lifetime, and it is not as common for people to go to graveyards to visit, as the view is that once a person is dead, they let them stay dead.


J is a student studying ANTH 333 in the University of Southern California. She regularly participates in Muslim traditions and cultural activities with her friends and family, which unfortunately includes some funerals in the past.


Small details in the difference between general Western funerals and Muslim funerals might seem insignificant in the long run, but they can reveal large differences in the cultural and traditional aspects of each region’s values and morals. It is through these differences that we can realize how alike we really are, unified under common instances that make each one of us different.

Taiwanese Festival: Lunar New Year

Nationality: Taiwanese
Primary Language: Taiwanese, Mandarin
Age: 46
Occupation: Branch Manager
Residence: Taipei, Taiwan
Performance Date: 19 April 2024

Tags: Lunar, New year, firecrackers, red, family, Asia


Lunar New Year (also called Chinese New Year) is one of, if not the, most famous festivals/traditions in all of Asia. Starting at the turn of the Lunar Calendar (around February in the Gregorian calendar), families from all around Asia come together to enjoy good food, share fortune with each other, and have good times. Various activities before and after the main celebration include cleaning the house to let the good fortune inside, putting scrolls and characters on doors and walls, decorating various places with red, and lighting fireworks. The latter two are in relation to the mythological story of Lunar New Year, about a fierce beast named Nian who would come and terrorize the local people before they warded him off with firecrackers and the color red. Now, elders give the young red envelopes filled with money (usually after a short give-receive ritual of sorts), eat foods like dumplings in the shape of money and other such cuisine that invoke good fortune, and have an overall wonderful time with each other.


C was born and raised in Taiwan, and has traveled the world various times due to her work and studies. She regularly participates in Taiwanese and Asian festivities with friends and family.


I put “Taiwanese Festival” in the title, but really, any sort of Western Asian country would do due to how widespread this particular festival is. Virtually every single action one takes and food one eats can be linked to a specific belief or superstition, making it one of the busiest times of the year for Asians due to how much work gets put into everything. It truly is a showing of how various different people from different backgrounds can come together and share in one traditional time.