Tag Archives: ancestors

Adams Family Ancestors

Context:

Leighton Lord is my father. Given this relation to me, I was interested in procuring some folklore that both of us participated in, but obviously from his perspective as he and my mother were the ones who set the traditions that we followed. Another unique perspective he has is being instilled in Southern traditions after twenty two years spent in Columbia, South Carolina following his marriage to my mother, a native South Carolinian. He grew up in Delaware, and was fascinated upon arriving in the South and witnessing the obsession with tradition and particularly talk about ancestors. I collected several pieces of folklore from him during a recent trip he made to Los Angeles. He currently practices law.

Transcript:

When I got to the South, my mother and father in law took me under their wing. They’d take me to all these parties with old South Carolina people. At one party this guy comes up to me, says “oh let’s go sit with so and so”…Oh Weston Adams. So this Adams, he starts telling this story about his ancestors, a few generations back. He starts talking about Uncle Jed or whoever, I don’t know. Then the guy that took me over says “no, no, no. We don’t wanna hear about the good Adams’s, we wanna hear about the bad ones. So he tells a story about someone who killed someone over a land dispute or something. I don’t know. The point the guy was trying to make was that they’d rather talk about the good ones, but as long as they’re talking about their ancestors, they’re happy. I always thought that was the most South Carolina thing.

Interpretation:

This example tells of the general folk speech of Southerners. Southerners do love to speak about their ancestors and tell stories like the one my father vaguely mentions about a man of one family shooting a man of another family over a land dispute. The way my father told this made it sound like the story itself was irrelevant. In fact, that Southern story almost feels like a trope. It is even told in Huckleberry Finn. The truth, of course, is a moot point. What is fascinating is that this man is proud of an ancestor for allegedly defending the family’s honor.

Ancestor Mirror Ghost

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as BDV. I am marked as DG.

 

BDV: So my mom thinks that ghosts communicate to her, so after my dad’s mom passed away, and we…we were the ones to clean out her house and pack away her stuff and things like that. And my mom kept insisting that every time she passed this mirror, she would see something behind her, and she thought that it was my dad’s mom and we were like, “ok whatever.” And then coming back to our own house, the same thing would happen to the mirror in our living room, and she was like-it happened for a year for her until, like, the year anniversary of my grandma’s passing.

 

DG: And you heard that from your mom?

 

BDV: Yeah, from my mom. And she says that the same thing happens to other people in her family. Like, after her dad passed away, it happened to her eldest sister. And she thinks that since my grandma didn’t have any daughters-she only had my dad-that it, like, passed to her daughter-in-law, which is, like, my mom.”

 

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting outside of a coffee shop at the University of Southern California. The ghost sighting was seen at the house of the interviewee’s grandmother, as well as at the house of the interviewee.

 

Background:

 

The student was born and raised in Northern California. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She is the fourth generation to grow up in America, but is Filipino. She speaks several languages, with English being her native language.

 

Analysis:

 

I’ve heard about stories like this. There seems to be a lot of folklore concerning mirrors and ghosts, leading me to believe that mirrors are a method of communication to the other side. For example, the Bloody Mary game is played in a mirror. I personally have heard folklore about not looking into a mirror in the dark or the spirits will replace your soul with theirs, leaving you trapped in the mirror. So to me, the idea of seeing the deceased behind you in the mirror seems entirely believable, and also incredibly terrifying.

Tomb visiting day in Taiwan

Background information:

My friend introduced me to a practice that he and his relatives often perform surrounding the celebration of his ancestors. He is of Taiwanese descent, as he was born in San Francisco, California and both of his parents were born in Taipei, Taiwan. His family moved to California since before he was born and have assimilated into the American lifestyle but still stay very true to their Taiwanese roots and take great pride in their Taiwanese culture.

 

Main piece:

My friend said that throughout his childhood and growing up, he would always celebrate his ancestors with his relatives. He explained that there is a special day in Taiwan where family members all get together and visit the tombs or graves of their ancestors. When they visit their ancestors, they do everything from pray to bring a large amount of food for both them as well as their ancestors to enjoy. He explained this as not being an event of sadness, but rather a celebration where family members are able to reconnect and bond over their unity in their family and eat traditional Taiwanese foods. He said that his family members come from all over Taiwan and therefore all of his family members travel to the location where their ancestors are buried, when they are celebrating this day, showing the importance that people place on this event and how crucial it is that everyone attends.

When I asked if there was any dish in particular that was popular for this event, he responded that fruit is very common to bring, along with other desserts such as red bean desserts and rice cakes, emphasizing that sweets are often preferred in his experience.

 

Personal thoughts:

Upon hearing this tradition, I felt that this was a fantastic way to celebrate relatives that have passed away because everyone in the family is joining in on this event, unifying the family a great deal. In addition to the unifying and memorable factors of this celebration, I feel that the great amounts of food definitely make this event even more successful, as I have always experienced that having food at events usually makes them vastly more successful and memorable.

Money Burning Ceremony for Chinese New Year

Informant is a Chinese-Cambodian American from San Jose, California, an area known for its large population of people of Asian descent. This tradition is a part of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, which is usually a week of festivities in late January.

“So, on the last Saturday of the week of Chinese New Year, um, my family, including all of my uncles, aunts, and cousins gather around a big metal Chinese pot container thing that is lit up by a flame. We sit around it in silence and say prayers to our ancestors, and wish everyone around us good health and fortune for the new year. Once everyone is done doing that, the oldest family member hands out small stacks of fake paper money with Chinese characters and images on them. We each take turns throwing bills of money into the pit, and doing so is supposed to give our ancestors wealth and fortune in the afterlife. This is supposed to help bring good luck to their living descendants. Then, following the burning of the money, there is a feast for the family, but first some food is set out in front of an altar as an offering to the ancestors. That’s about it.”

How long has your family been doing this tradition?

“At least since I was born. I’ve done it almost every year, and my family from out of town will all come together and go to the temple to pray and perform the ceremony. It’s a very distinct memory from my childhood.”

 

Collector’s Comments:

Being from an Asian-American from San Jose as well, this tradition seems very familiar to me, yet at the same time it is different from the traditions that my family practices. The Lunar New Year celebration is a very big deal in San Jose, and involves a week of prayer at temples, decorations and parades, and feasts to honor the ancestors and bring in the New Year. However, there are many variations in the celebrations, especially between the different ethnic groups. This is an example of one of the many ways in which the holiday is celebrated.

Food For the Ancestors

The Main Piece
“During certain times of the year we would leave out food for our ancestors, the date would very because it would depend on the date they died. So my grandma died on the 18th of September so we would leave food out for her then every year. It wouldn’t be for every relative we had ‘cus that would be excessive, but the ones we were especially close to we would be sure to leave food out for them. They would usually leave out duck, chicken and fruit on a nice porcelain plate, or whatever nice plate they could find around the house (just not any paper plates). For every ancestor it would always be the same food. After a night they would take the chicken and duck back into the house, pray for said ancestor, and eat it. However, they would leave the fruit out, unsure of why they would not eat the fruit exactly, but never questioned it since she was only a child.
Background Information
My informant is Rachel Tan, a current first year undergraduate student and personal friend of mine at USC. Rachel did not understand the practice at first, she was too young to understand. She would spend a lot of time at her grandparents’ house since her family traveled a lot. The practice was more from her Cambodian side, her grandmother being full Cambodian. Rachel would help her grandmother with this practice during her elementary school days before she was old enough to stay home alone. She thinks of it fondly as a time where she was able to “take care of her ancestors” and hoped that her descendants would eventually take care of her as well.
Context
We discussed this in Ronald Tutor Campus Center over lunch as we were talking about our families and life back home.
Personal Thoughts
My grandmother is Cantonese, but is also very connected to her culture, feeling it is extremely important just as Rachel’s grandmother does. Therefore, it was easy for me to relate to growing up with grandparents extremely cultured, but not understanding all of their practices. I honestly thought it was a bit odd that they ate the food that they left overnight, but I suppose every culture has its oddities. Hearing about how this practice gave her more of a connection with her ancestors and hopes to have this practice create some type of relationship with her descendants that she may never meet in the future was very touching and heartwarming.