Category Archives: Childhood

Girl’s Day


On March 3 in Japan there is a festival called Hinamatsuri celebrating young girls primarily under the age of 10. This unofficial holiday prays for the health and prosperity of all young girls. Traditionally the festival made young girls dress up in kimonos and make dolls out of straw or paper. Then releasing the dolls in a small constructed boat on a river, allowing any bad luck to float away with the doll. To celebrate families will display porcelain dolls dressed in decorative robes to imitate the ancient imperial court.


M.S. celebrated this festival growing up in Japan and continued to celebrate it once she moved to the United Sates, but instead for her daughter and not herself anymore. She and my mom (M.S.’s daughter) participated because they thought it was fun and didn’t exactly believe the meaning that releasing the dolls down a river will get rid of their ”bad luck”.


I think the dolls are a form of both contagious and homeopathic magic because the dolls are supposed to mimic the girl making the doll, in order for any bad luck lingering around the girl to transfer to the doll. The girl creates the doll forming an instant connection which tricks the bad energy. As the doll floats down the river it imitates the negative energy attaching to the doll leaving the young girl. The holiday date is also important to note, as March 3rd is the third month of the year on the third day of the month. That is no coincidence as women and girls are a very important part of society, they need a special day. This day ensures that young girls are healthy enough to grow up and create the next generation.

Tayoon: A Botanical Blessing






There is no translation

The informant is a family member of mine that has lived in Lebanon for the entirety of her life and has grown up learning the significance of certain rituals and traditions with the world around her. 


The informant describes this medicine as a plant that is seen very traditionally “in many Arabic or Lebanese homes”. Although the plant has an original term and transliteration, it does not have a direct translation to the English language and is “similar to the leaves grown on herbal plants”. The plant is used to heal most wounds that include “deep cuts, scrapes and other physical injuries that required care” and is done by cutting up the leaves and making it into a “paste-like texture” and rubbing it into the wound. She states that it must be wrapped on the wound and left with no other ointments or medications as it is said to “clear the wound of any bacteria and also help it heal with the nutrient provided. The elder of the family, “usually my grandmother” my informant states will usually rub the plant into the wound and say a religious prayer to accompany the physical healing for general health and prosperity.


Although it is believed to have physical healing properties similar to aloe vera, it also holds religious significance as the plant was believed to have been the “Arabic blessing from god onto [their] gardens.” This is due to the plant not being seen anywhere besides the Levantine region and is seen as a gift that is only presented to them with its supposed healing powers physically and religiously. It is seen in most elders’ gardens as it was believed to have been the most “beneficial plant for bodily treatment”. The religious prayer was usually from the Islamic book, the Qur’an and would denote speeches from there to “help the kids who get hurt from their everyday activities”. The informant states that “it was important for me to do the same for my children and grandchildren because I still believe in this plant’s medicine and how god will listen to us” conveying its importance on her family and bloodline.


The plant is seen as more than a healing alternative to modern-day medicine as it seems to be still used to present the significance of culture on the healing and growth of children who get hurt and are treated with this plant. Religiously, the implications of the medicine being a gift from god allows the elders of the family to be seen as authority figures performing the acts of god on the children, healing and removing their worries from a situation through the use of plants grown in their garden. This blessing of the medicine in Lebanese culture plays a larger role as my informant still believes that it is the most suitable for most cases of harm, presenting it as a sort of ritual. It signifies the transferring of culture from one generation to another as she still uses it today on her grandchildren whilst teaching them the benefits. The life cycle of a plant may also be used to depict the human life cycle as it is also religiously associated and presents connotations of healing, allowing younger generations to feel connected to this certain folk medicine for the rest of their lives and offering them protection.


The informant is one of my Pakistani friends who has lived in many different countries, yet is very attached to the culture of his heritage and is very involved in the rituals, ceremonies and overall traditions that are tied to his roots in Pakistan.


The informant describes this dance, the Luddi, as a “circular formation that people dance to”. This dance entails the “clapping of their hands and spinning in circles as they are still moving in a circle.” Although the dance is not usually performed for a certain scenario or moment, it is “usually done at celebrations and ceremonies like weddings and dinners with the family” who are brought together and dance to specific songs that link to the informant’s culture. He describes his times watching the Luddi as a “coming together when [they] have not seen each other in a long time” and celebrating the family or a certain event happening at the time. It is always performed in Pakistan when the entire family joins, his family always visits to “celebrate their cousins, aunts, uncles and all the elders that have given us the privilege we have” conveying the importance of the dance in Punjabi culture.


The Luddi is typically done with “the group of women in the family that are important to the celebration or occasions” and this can range from “family of the groom or bride in a wedding or the parents and siblings of the birthday person.” The joining together of the women in a circle gives them a chance to “celebrate in a space without the men involved”. Although it is usually performed by older women in the family, younger women around the age of the bride and/or person of significance are able to join the dance and “learn the significance of what it means to become an adult woman” in the family that has their culture embedded into their daily lives. Luddi is msot typically seen in the winter and spring when all the family members come back from their travels for the wedding season, therefore, it allows the women to not only celebrate the occasion but also the family and other women.


The formation of a circle as part of the dance highlights the cycle of their culture and the generations that come together to form a chain that connects. It is creating a personal connection between the women of the family in that certain moment, growing as the girls grow and join the dance to celebrate each other. The clapping of their hands emphasises the celebration of the occasion and also creates a unified sound that the woman can sing and dance to, establishing their heritage and Punjabi culture in the form of performance and expression of their joy into feelings. The incorporation of this dance at weddings, which is also presented to be an important and momentous part of the culture in South Asia, highlights how the family is the base of their culture and even the women have their own traditions and rituals that create unity. Furthermore, the circle growing highlights the chain of Punjabi women in the family growing and the representation of the elders teaching the younger traditions to keep the culture alive.

Thanksgiving Ornaments

The informant is a student in university who has spent the entirety of his life in the United States, starting various different traditions that she has the ability to experience due to family members building upon their values.


On Thanksgiving, the United States’ annual national holiday, the informant, her family and extended members join together to “share [their] love with one another by bringing [their] Christmas earlier in the year.” The ceremony that takes place accompanying the traditional Thanksgiving feast and activities includes the “exchange of an ornament on Thanksgiving because we often won’t be able to be together during Christmas but we get to carry a reminder of them on the tree.” This is typically done “after the meal ends, giving each other the ornaments, symbolic of our love on Christmas eve and day, is mainly for the extended family members who we don’t get to see on the most chaotic days of the year”.


The informant states that this tradition has existed in her family since “[her] brother was 5 so that was 13 years ago” and was a very important ceremony that played a “unique part of Thanksgiving day” as it was “more symbolic than the turkey was to [them]”. She had also expressed that these ornaments were usually personalized according to each family member and their interests, specifically over the course of that year. Examples of this in her family exist through an ornament that she received years ago that was “Nemo themed because it was my favourite movie as a child” and that resonated with the rest of the family as they put it on their tree for that Christmas season. Ornament ceremonies had a certain dynamic and were typically done between specific individuals most of the years with an exchange of “the older generations giving the younger generations personalised ones” and the entire family giving the elders “a collective personalised one” from their descendants. This can be seen through her family giving their grandfather a wooden ornament because of their “family memories and love for nature.” She summarises her experience with the ceremony as a “matter of how we can share our love with unfortunately not being able to be in the same space as each other” on Christmas day.


This unique ceremony being done during Thanksgiving presents a different approach to the traditional holiday by implementing the effects of the religious/community holiday of Christmas together. The mix of holidays in a familial setting embraces and highlights the true impact of these holidays on the informant and her family, placing her family in an important position in their lives. Although it is not a generational tradition that has existed for decades, it emphasises the significance of this tradition to the informant herself and her siblings. The personalisation of the ornaments presents the beginning of a narrative of sorts as she is able to collect the personalised ornaments she has received over the years to show the growth in her persona and values as a human. Besides this allowing the family to celebrate the family essence that they do not have on Christmas with the ornaments received on Thanksgiving, it also supports the ideology of feeling extreme gratitude on Thanksgiving. Spreading the “love and family joy” all year round as they prepare for the year ahead of them, with the ornaments piling up over the years symbolizes the impacts of implementing this ceremony onto Thanksgiving. It allows the informant to have grown up feeling connected to her extended family which is evident in the manner she has expressed the importance of family in her life, missing the ones who are not there for Christmas Eve.

Laila and The Wolf

Original Text:

ليلى والذئب


Laila Wil Th’ib


Laila and the Wolf

My informant is from Lebanon and has experienced this narrative many times throughout her childhood and has passed it on to her own children.


The story describes Laila, the little girl, “preparing Kaa’k, a Lebanese type of bread and Shaye, a certain Arabic tea to take to her grandmother’s home as she is not feeling well” Once Laila is lectured by her mother about the rules of arab generosity and taught that she “must not listen to the words of others, specifically, not family” as they do not have the same values as their household and may hurt her” Laila is at an intersection in the path and has to choose whether to go down one covered with beauty and the other with darkness. “A hyena emerged from the bush and told Laila to take the path of darkness because there will be a surprise and that she must listen to her elder.” Yet, she continues to her sick grandmother in hopes of curing her with Laila’s love. Once she arrived, Laila had approached her grandmother’s bed and “kissed her forehead to show her love, but noticed it was fur, and that she had big eyes and ears.” Laila uncovered her ‘grandmother’ and revealed a wolf that had eaten her grandmother whole. Once Laila screamed, she alerted a watchman who then killed the wolf and cut open his stomach to save her grandmother” However, the hyena was the wolf’s friend a watched all this, as he planned how he was going to get Laila next”


This tale is merely an oikotype of the famous story of ‘Red Riding Hood’ and presents the tale with some changes such as the introduction of a hyena to the narrative in order to present more lessons in the story. The story was mainly “told to children at a very young age so that they could learn how to effectively live independently in a safe manner” as it has many rules such as ‘don’t listen to strangers’ and ‘respect your parent’s wishes’ or else worse will occur. It places an emphasis on the child being told the narrative as it serves as a lesson for when they are being dealt with “a similar situation to the one being told in the story.” Usually parents, specifically the mom would tell this story “before bed so that the children remember and dream practising it or at the beginning of the day, before they leave the house, especially to families who live in the city” because of the many incidents that occur there.


The mention of a hyena being part of the story reminds children that they must always be aware and stay safe because anyone may wish to hurt them. Although this may traumatize some children, it allows them to gain a harsh understanding of reality and ‘the way the world works’. When presented with the tale, I noticed a few differences between this and the Western-typical story. The changes in the story when speaking of the house customs, the food had been altered to fit the culture and Lebanese standard so that children have an easier time relating it to their own experience and point of view, presenting a more efficient approach to storytelling and lecturing. The middle east is seen to be more transparent in the manner that maturity is approached, they give children the chance to view the world in the brutal form that it is. Some countries are not blessed with the same safety as most of the Western world. This is presented through the violence and gore in the story of the wolf eating the grandmother as it prepares the children for the world they are going to be forced into.