Occupation: Medical Writer
Residence: Staunton, VA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 18, 2021
Primary Language: English
“So, the other thing that is family folklore that my dad probably did to you was- he said it was a French-Canadian custom to try and catch the birthday person… if it’s your birthday, he’s going to try and catch you and put butter on your nose. Which is really disgusting. And sometimes it would be- we got smarter, and so we would hide the butter -and so he would do peanut butter. Which in some ways is worse, because it’s really hard to get peanut butter off of anything. You smell like peanut butter all day. So, thanks Dad. ”
My informant said that this practical joke was a tradition on her father’s side of the family. Her father apparently went through the same thing, as did all the kids in his family. On their birthdays, someone would catch them and put butter on their nose. My informant casts some doubt on whether or not this was actually a French-Canadian custom rather than something someone on her father’s side made up for fun, but that was what she was told.
My informant suggests that this practical joke could be fakelore- something that someone on her father’s side came up that they said was a French-Canadian custom with that has since been proliferated. However, I did find another source that mentions this as a Canadian custom: a children’s book on birthday customs. See Powell, Jillian. “A Birthday.” United States: Smart Apple Media, 2007. 1-30. Though a less serious occasion, this seems similar in some ways to Irish practical jokes at wakes or family practical jokes at weddings- the focus is on the fun of the joke, not the feelings of the person for whom the event is for. All of these are times of liminality, and the practical jokes can serve as a way to cope with that.