Informant Bio: Informant is my friend from high school who also goes to the University of Southern California. We currently live together and he is a third year electrical engineering major. His dad is from Concord, Massachusetts and represents a large blend of different cultures. His mom is from upstate New York and is mostly of Hungarian, Italian and American ancestry.
Context: I was interviewing the informant about childhood traditions and rituals that he remembered well.
Item: “So, essentially, uh we had some middle school graduation parties but they were definitely less extreme, mostly because we cared less about graduating middle school; it was harder to motivate us. Um, but, our high school graduations (I grew up with three siblings, I’m the youngest), they were all pretty comparable. We have a pretty big back yard at home, um, so we would do a lot of outdoor cooking and grilling. One of them we did a roast with our backyard fire. We invited a bunch of extended family (I have a lot of that live in Massachusetts). So we invited grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles and it was usually always pretty low key events. What typically would happen would be our immediate family and a couple other people would be there for like six or seven hours. And then there would be more of a steady stream, kind of an open place for people to come give congratulations and thanks. It was kind of low key because it was never at any point too packed. Um, so essentially in terms of traditions and things that were always the same, there was always lots of food. Everything seemed to revolve around food, with a large table that was sort of the centerpiece, the center attraction. Typically, there was lots of grilling, and, my dad, who’s a pretty good chef would always ‘go big’. It sort of fell in the holiday category in that regard where like whoever is graduated would get nagged about what they want to eat all the time. Some of the things we’d always do…strangely enough bocce was always a regular habit. Um, so big family bocce games, and then, uh, definitely a lot of drinking (laughs) at least amongst the adults. Like when I was younger not so much since I had older siblings but the adults would always were like drinking to celebrate and make it festive. Um, also it was more formal in that people would actually dress up and treat it as a big deal. It was sort of ceremonious in that regard and wasn’t just a thrown together party”.
Informant Analysis: “My family’s significance…academics were always stressed in my family. It was sort of not only stressed, but kind of like ‘you need to do this’. I feel like, a lot of times, parents, uh it’s more on the negative side so if you’re slacking off in school you get in trouble. But, my parents are more the opposite in that we were rewarded for doing well. Back in elementary school, I remember my dad did this thing where if we got a’s on our report cards, he would give us 100 bucks. Which, when you’re in elementary school is a ridiculous amount of money, so it [the graduation celebration] kind of was like a continuation of sorts where ‘you finished high school so we’re going to celebrate’”.
Analysis: My friend Max has had a rich childhood with strong family values and traditions. The graduation party described above shows just how important academics are to many Americans, especially people in New England. It is seen as the avenue to success and is treated as such. Most celebrations heavily involve food, which is no surprise here.
The playing of bocce might seem a little curious, but, as the informant notes his family represents a blend of European ancestry. No doubt some traditions have been carried over, adapted and otherwise blended together.
What does seem a little different here is the emphasis on extended family. Many people in the U.S. have their family spread across the country, but, the informant notes that pretty much all of his extended family lives in Massachusetts. The regular get-togethers show that they stay in contact and are relatively close and have developed roots in the Northeast area.