Tag Archives: adulthood

Berkeley Senior Steps

--Informant Info--
Nationality: German-American
Age: 20
Residence: student
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: The informant was reminiscing on traditions at her high school, Berkeley High in Berkeley, California. The senior steps were a major part of the folklore at her high school.

Piece: So in high school, there were these like these stairs, these steps with like a bench on them and we called them the senior steps. So like only the seniors were allowed to stand on them and if there was like a freshman or sophomore standing on the senior steps, people would like stare them down slash be like what are you doing on the senior steps? It’s inside of the school, and we actually had a meme page that has like 5,000 followers, ha weird flex, and like basically some sophomore actually a few weeks ago peed on the senior steps to like disrespect the seniors or something. And it was the biggest ordeal because like they’re just fucking steps and its like where the cool seniors eat lunch or meet up. Everybody knows the senior steps. And we had like rally day which is like once a year we dress up and everyone was drunk and high at school it was crazy and everyone was like yelling on the steps “Seniors, Seniors!”

I guess it’s just like a pride thing, and like I definitely like after three years of not being allowed you finally get to elevate yourself onto these brick steps. I didn’t really care but like a lot of people cared and like mind you these are gross steps like ugly and dingy. And like there was like tagged names or gossip written on the steps too. Ha it was so wack

Background: The informant, a 20 year old USC student, went to Berkeley High School, and experienced the tradition/rite of passage of the senior steps.

Analysis: This piece is a form of a rite of passage and ritual that was created surrounding these steps in her high school. The steps have become an honor that is bestowed upon seniors, as a form of status and privilege that they are entering the adult world. The steps create a hierarchy, showing that the school and consequently American society, pushes for the future and growth and moving up. In order to get to the privileges of the steps, you must work your way and finally get your status– which hows how the seniors will be leaving and moving into the future. The steps have been ritualized further by hosting the rally and the gossip markings, indicating its connection to school culture and spirit. The mention of more popular students being the regular utilizers of the steps indicates further this level of hierarchy ingrained in the culture of high school, and ultimately our society as Americans. By gaining the status, it serves as a stepping stone or rite of passage into the adult world.

Mince and Tatties

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Scottish
Age: 51
Occupation: Occupational Therapist
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/14/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


I conducted this interview over the phone, the subject was born and raised in Scotland before moving to England, Canada, the United States, then to Northern Ireland, and, finally, back to the United States. I knew she continued to practice certain traditions which were heavily present in her childhood and wanted to ask her more about them.



Subject: Every birthday in our house we always make mince and potatoes, or mince and tatties like we called them when I was a kid.

Interviewer: What does that consist of?

Subject: Well the way we do it is we ground beef, you know, mince beef, and then mashed potatoes and there you go! [Laughs] Sometimes we add vegetables like carrots or peas to go with it which really adds to the flavor.

Interviewer: And why has it become a birthday celebration?

Subject: I’m not sure, I mean we had it all the time growing up, but when we came to America we had it less and it became more of a birthday thing, so that’s just what we do every year now.



Upon further research, I’ve found that there is no set recipe or form of cooking this dish, it consists in many variations. There are concerns that British people are no longer eating traditional dishes, but mince and tatties remains the exception as it is extremely popular in Scotland. A survey done in 2009 found that it was the most popular Scottish dish, with a third of respondents saying that they eat it once a week.

In 2006 the European Union introduced new regulations on how meat could be processed, threatening the existence of mince and tatties, resulting in the Scottish National Party leader announcing, “They can take our lives but they will never take our freedom to make mince and tatties!”

It seems that it became a popular dish due to its ability to be canned and fed to a large number of school children.


Lewis, Susan. “Recipes for Reconnection: Older People’s Perspectives on the Mediating Role of Food in Contemporary Urban Society.” ANTHROPOLOGICAL NOTEBOOKS 12, 2006.

A Portland Christmas (Adulthood)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: American
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/14/2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant Info: The informant is a 22-year-old male who was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and comes from a Catholic family. He currently is a senior at USC and is very into half-marathon and marathon racing.

Interview Transcript

Interviewer: As an adult, what are you Christmas traditions like now?

Where we’ve changed our Christmas Eve traditions a little bit as we’ve gotten older is about when I got to high school. There’s a place called the Downtown Chapel or St. Andre Bassett that has become like our parish… So, I’m a Catholic so Christmas is primarily a Catholic holiday for us not necessarily or whatever like an Amish holiday. So, we would go and that became our parish. But they are in downtown Portland, so they are a really big resource for people experiencing homelessness. So, they had a lot of like programs on like every day of the week. On Fridays they had soup kitchens. All that stuff. So, it’s like that’s like the mission of the of the church more so than normal church that we used to belong to. We made our tradition started for me in fifth grade and in making it like our full tradition when I was like maybe in eighth grade or ninth grade is that we would go down on Christmas Eve during the day and you would serve a t a Christmas party. So, they had like a Christmas party where they host like over 200 or 300 people who were experiencing homelessness in Portland and they have all this food and coffee and they have like different Christmas movies playing and they have chances to make like gingerbread houses and all the really, really, fun Christmas related things and just an opportunity for them to get out of the cold. And so that’s what we’ve now been doing every single year since like middle school and since then I look forward to Christmas a lot more because it reminds me a little bit more of like how fortunate I am and also like the chance that I can still interact in my parish even when I’m coming home from college. And so we do that and then after that we go to watch downtown at this place called Dan and Louise which is like a chowder… A clam chowder spot. And it’s like actually not particularly good food. Like I think it’s fine but like it’s more become tradition so its not like we can stray away from it even if we wanted to. And then we all go get a picture with Santa. Now literally I’m 22 and the youngest and my brother is almost 30 and we still get pictures with Santa. It is ridiculous, but we are not able to sway my mom in that sense.

And usually it’s like I would say that Christmas is one time that my family is coming and spread throughout the country and it’s hard to try and find time where we can all be together. But my mom made a really, really, really, big effort to kind of make sure that we’re all together on Christmas which is something that I appreciate more and more as I get older. So, I think that having some normalcy of most of the traditions that now seem kind of arbitrary or like silly or like things like I’d be fine changing if it wasn’t the tradition. I think for her and it provides a sense of security and family comfort. So that’s kind of like what I interpret as our traditions for Christmas but definitely one of our most tradition laden holidays.


It is interesting to see how the informant’s Christmas traditions have evolved as he was growing up. The context behind this collection refers back to a previous collection of his Christmas traditions as a kid, and how they have changed as he has gotten older. It’s interesting to examine how he looks most forward to volunteering and serving the community on Christmas now, whereas a kid he seemed to only look forward to the presents.  This seems to be primarily influenced by his mom, who he mentioned held traditions to be extremely important.

The Great Norwegian Graduation Rager

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Norwegian
Age: 20
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/10/16
Primary Language: Norwegian
Other Language(s): English

“So in Norway, when we graduate high school, we have this tradition that the two weeks leading up to our, um, independence day, um, we essentially do college in two weeks. And by that we, uh, everyone essentially has like a startup company where they fund, they get money and they work and they buy a bus. And this bus is to represent a group of people that have together to party on this bus for these two coming weeks. You build this bus to represent you as a group. So you paint it, you have your own song. They usually spend about twenty to forty thousand dollars on these buses. And they pay a couple to three thousand dollars per song or more. People live off this shit. They graduate high school and they just make music for these crazy graduating students. And they have a pretty decent life. Umm, so what you do is you do this and then you buy a suit, you buy like overalls that are completely red and covered in the Norwegian flag, and it’s got different colors. That’s the only time that you’ll ever see these colors in Norway which is why I find it so baffling that people in America keep wearing and wearing their flag everywhere. I guess it’s like weird, it’s like nationalism, which is bad, but for these two weeks in Norway: totally cool. So everyone gets drunk, everyone has sex with each other, there’s a bunch of STD things going on and like a lot of people take precautions so there’s just condoms everywhere in the capital for those two weeks, literally just so that teenagers can just grab them passing by. They’ll be in like metro stations, bus stops, random places there’ll just be like a little cup of condoms because people are just like doing things all the time. So there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of drinking, and you kinda like, you do all of those, you get all your immaturity out. That’s the whole point of it. So by the time you have your independence day, everyone’s so fucking exhausted that when you actually celebrate the day  that you celebrate Independence Day  and that you celebrate your graduation, then finals happen. Afterwards. So it’s a big thing in Norway where people have been trying to get the finals to happen before these two weeks. Because what happens is a lot of, like,  not a lot, but  maybe one out  of twenty people failed their finals because of this tradition. Every year. So they’re trying to change that now. I think it’s going to change this year, but the fact that the government, that all entire Norway works around this insane tradition: just get fucked up and have sex for two weeks? It’s fucking fantastic.”


The source definitely looked upon this tradition with a lot of happiness. It seemed to be one of his favorite parts of high school. He said it’s not a very long-standing tradition, but that it’s definitely been around as long as he’s been alive. He says it’s a way for them to release all the pent up stress from the year. It allows them to let loose and do crazy things that, under other circumstances, wouldn’t be allowed.

This tradition seems to come with its own sort of hall pass. It sounds like the kind of thing that these kids would never get away with if only there weren’t so many of them participating in it. That’s probably how it came about in the first place. Some group of kids wanted to let loose, but they knew they’d get in trouble, so they got a whole bunch of people together and went nuts. It probably didn’t fly as much back when it started, but now that it’s mainstream, the whole country probably knows to expect this debauchery and just lets it slide.

What also makes it interesting is that it involves a lot of responsibility. It’s almost like a rite of passage, really, because these kids have to work and save up money in order to be able to afford this massive, two-week rager. They also need to plan and organize it all themselves. Basically, they’re doing very adult things in order to be able to do some very not adult things. Quite the contrast.

Drinking Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Caucasian
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Santa Barbara, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/5/12
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


Played with: 4 people, one glass of beer each, two pieces of die

Rules: go until one team gets to 7 points. each glass is put a hand with apart from edge of table. Each person must say “snappa” before they throw the dice. You must throw one die up in the air and try to get it in the cup or at least hit the top of the cup; if it does, the other team must drink one third of their beer. The other team must also drink if the die lands in the center of the table and the other team does not catch it with one hand before it falls off of the table. Your team must drink if the same happens to you or you do not catch the die OR if you throw the die on your turn and miss the table completely. If you throw the die on your turn and it hits the ceiling the turn is void. The other team can also call the throw too low which makes it a gentleman’s game. If you say “snappa” before you throw and the other team doesn’t hear you, you may still throw. When drinking, you must also finish your glass of beer in 3 drinks (it should only take three turns to finish it).

This is a common drinking game that I have played in Santa Barbara, CA and I have only found it there. My friend Bernadette explained the rules to me when I visited her and played in Isla Vista, the college town in Santa Barbara. The legend goes that my friends brother invented the game when he was a student at UCSB a few years ago. There are also websites that explain the

Throwing Eggs and Flour — Japanese High School Graduation

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese
Age: 47
Occupation: Housewife
Residence: Irvine, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/29/12
Primary Language: Japanese
Other Language(s):

In Japan, there is a custom whereby the graduating students of a high school, after the graduation ceremony is over, run into the main courtyard and throw eggs and flour at each other.

My informant spent most of her life in the city of Naha in Okinawa, Japan, and participated in this custom at the end of her three years at Shuri School. She said that all except the dullest of students participated, and that there were always a few students assigned each year to buy the eggs and flour for the entire graduating class. They’d throw indiscriminately until everyone was covered in doughy gunk. Friends would oftentimes chase each other around. My informant said that it must have been the freest time of her life, and a time she couldn’t look back to without nostalgia. There was all the anticipation and excitement for the future, she said, and she remembered how freely everyone was laughing, so incredibly happy if only because, deep down inside, they knew they’d be leaving each other soon. In a way, this custom would be the last ritual of high school they would be able to exercise.

But how had this custom come about? My informant said that it was probably because the graduates wanted to celebrate their new-found freedom from the school system. Japanese schools are traditionally very strict about their dress codes, requiring uniforms from pre-school on to the end of high school. The uniforms come to define the students by the school they go to, and are symbolic of their obedience and compliance to the educational systems of Japanese society. Many students, even back in the seventies when my informant when to high school, must have felt some frustration for these rules, and for the lack of freedom that this allowed their individuality. In most schools, my informant said, there were and still are, rules about the length of girls’ hair, and the color of students’ socks. Therefore, throwing eggs and flour after the graduation ceremony and ruining (if only temporarily) the uniforms that had defined them for three years is a form of modest, socially acceptable rebellion–all in good fun, the students’ way of saying to their teachers and to the school, we don’t need to listen to you anymore! Since there’s probably nothing that causes more of a mess and is as easily obtained as eggs and flour, this exact custom had come about.

Strangely enough, when I was telling one of my Korean friends about this custom, he told me that his friends in a Korean high school had done the exact same thing upon their graduation. It seems, then, to be a custom in some or all parts of Korea as well. Perhaps this custom is something that runs as a common thread between Asian countries because of the widespread use of school uniforms, and strict school policies. Similar to the way that American high school graduates throw their caps in the air after their graduation as a small form of rebellion and show of their independence, Japanese and Korean students throw eggs and flour at each other to mark their freedom from the uniforms that had defined them for most of their youth.




親父ギャグ — Purposely Lame Japanese Jokes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/2/12
Primary Language: Japanese
Other Language(s):

親父 (oyaji) in Japanese is a somewhat derogatory word for middle-aged men (for instance, my informant said that the word 親父 reminds her of a half-drunken forty-ish man sprawled on the couch in a sweaty wife-beater, watching a baseball game). ギャグ (gagu) is derived from the English word gag, and literally just means joke. Translated literally then, 「親父ギャグ」 is “middle-aged man jokes,” which is not far from its contextualized definition.

親父ギャグ aren’t just meant for middle-aged men, however. In short, an 親父ギャグ is simply any extremely lame joke, usually some form of pun or wordplay. There is a stereotype (or a blaison populaire of sorts) in Japan that dictates that middle-aged men are the ones that most often tell these jokes, because they do not care whether other people find it funny, as long as they themselves think that the joke is funny. Indeed, my informant’s father is an 親父ギャグ man, and when he tells one of these jokes, he finds his joke funny, but also finds it funny that none of his audience thought it was funny– in fact, he almost takes pleasure in their raised eyebrows and the shaking of their heads as they say, tiredly but affectionately, “Oh, there he goes again.”

My informant grew up in the city of Naha in Okinawa, Japan, and had 親父ギャグ engrained in her life from a young age by her own father. 親父ギャグ are most times made purposely lame–it seems as if it is a way, almost, of lowering oneself on purpose, so that other people are encouraged to be more themselves as well, a sort of ice-breaker. Look, the performance of it says, there’s no judgment here! Oftentimes 親父ギャグ can liven up a gathering or conversation in that way; it is extremely difficult not to smile or laugh at someone who is laughing hysterically at their own lame joke. When telling an 親父ギャグ, the subliminal aim is not to make everyone laugh at the joke–the point is to have everyone laugh at you laughing at your own joke, making yourself seem more accessible to everyone around you. In that sense, it is often a great act of bravery to tell an 親父ギャグ (unless, of course, you think it’s actually funny, and are embarrassed when nobody laughs at the joke itself). Both parties need to accept that the joke is lame, and laugh about it.

Some examples of 親父ギャグ from my informant’s father, which may or may not retain their humor through the translation (not that there was much humor in them to begin with):

A: “How do you say sidewalk in Japanese?”
B: 歩道? (pronounced hodou, sidewalk, in Japanese.)
C: なるほどう! (pronounced naruhodou, means I SEE! in Japanese)

Get it? Or this:

konnyaku, konnyakuu
I’ll eat konnyaku tonight.
(This is funny, or supposed to be funny, because the food is konnyaku, and “I’m gonna eat tonight” casually is “konya (tonight) kuu (eat)” so they sound almost exactly the same.)

These are the kind of jokes that would get glazed-over expressions, silence, and low “ohhhhhhh my goodness…….” kinds of reactions if told in America. The difference is, that these jokes’ significance rest in their very lameness.

In Japan, a society governed by relatively strict social hierarchies and characterized by an almost extreme amount of politeness, these lame jokes are a way to let off some steam, and temporarily cast off any forms of judgment. 親父ギャグ are relaxing, in a way, because they do not require much effort from either party–the performer is not really trying to be funny, and all the audience needs to do is roll their eyes a bit, and smile.

ANNOTATION: In Japan, there is a popular children’s book series called 「かいけつゾロリ」(Kaiketsu Zorori), published by Poplar Publishing. The original books were also made into a feature-length film, a comic, and an anime. In this series, the fox protagonist of the story (and a wanted criminal) keeps traveling around the world with the goal of becoming the “King of Pranks.” This fox protagonist, Zorori, is the owner of the ぶっくらこいた (Bukkura Koita), a book that tells 親父ギャグ (oyaji gyagu) so bad that they physically freeze all those who hear it. In the series, he often uses this books to freeze or confuse his pursuers and opponents in order to make a quick get-away. That 親父ギャグ are used in a children’s series to add humor, then, illustrates the way 親父ギャグ are often viewed in Japanese society–something to make fun of, a distraction of sorts, but something people enjoy and find humorous all the same.

<Hara, Yutaka. Kaiketsu Zorori No Doragon Taiji. Kaiketsu Zorori. Tokyo: Poplar Publishing, 1995.>

<原, ゆたか. かいけつゾロリのドラゴンたいじ. かいけつゾロリ. Tokyo: Poplar Publising, 1995.>