Tag Archives: bread

Breadcrumb Blessing: Syrian Birth Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Syrian
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/10/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic

When babies are born and are first brought home after birth, the grandparents of either the mother or the father of the child will take fresh baked bread and break it down over the head of the baby. The breadcrumbs are sprinkled over the head of the baby as well as the rest of the body to act as a blessing. This blessing imparts good fortune and health to the newborn so that they grow in good luck and will experience ease and happiness in their life.

Throughout the collection process for this particular interlocutor, he repeatedly mentioned the blessed nature of bread in his culture and religion. Because of his Arab Christian background, he acknowledges the religious aspects and holiness of bread. The holiness of bread was passed down from the elder members of his family as they played a key role in enforcing the belief in its divine association and powers. This implementation is used through multiple celebratory occasions, ranging from births to weddings to even funerals. The interlocutor mentioned that he now is skeptical of the actual powers of bread, but he still joins his family in utilizing it through various celebrations, especially working with family members in the kitchen to bake it, thus implying that it obtains a social value as well as a sanctified meaning.

Due to the holy nature of bread, this act serves to consecrate the child as soon as they enter an arguably difficult world. This obtains religious undertones, especially as the Christian faith asserts the transformation of bread into the body of Christ. Thus, the child is showered in the most sanctified substance to preserve its innocence and promote its luck in life. The rising of the bread during the baking process may also symbolize the rise of new life and the potential that a few simple components have to create something beyond their own capacity.

Jewish Bread and Salt for New Homes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 26
Occupation: Student
Residence: Long Beach, California
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

I guess it’s a Jewish tradition to bring salt to somebody when they move somewhere new. When I moved into my first apartment, my mom brought a loaf of bread and salt. I think she said it’s supposed to be so you never go hungry, and then the salt brings flavor. She also sprinkled the salt on the floor because she said it protects against evil, and I couldn’t vacuum the salt for at least twenty-four hours. She said that her parents did the same thing when she moved into her first apartment, so she was passing that tradition on to me.

Context: The informant’s maternal grandparents are both Jewish, and the informant practiced Judaism throughout his childhood.

Interpretation: This is an act of love and concern from whoever brings the homeowner salt and bread. In this case, it also connects the informant to his grandparents by bringing their tradition into his home. Lastly, it is a religious practice that connects Jewish people to one another by practicing the same traditions.


“Bread and butter”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/6/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hebrew

“You can’t walk, like if there are two people and there’s an inanimate object in between them, um, you go like this [demonstrates people splitting up to walk around object], you have to say, ‘bread and butter’ . . . My dad’s best friend, there’s a rumor that like he didn’t do it with his twin and when he was younger, when he was a baby his twin died. So they put, there’s like, they say that that was the reason why, they didn’t say, ‘bread and butter.’”


The informant was a 22-year-old USC student who majors in English and minors in genocide studies. Although she grew up in Santa Monica, she comes from a large Jewish family and travels to Israel twice a year to visit her older brother and other extended family there. The interview occurred when we were sitting in the new Annenberg building and started talking about superstition within her family. She said, “There’s a lot of things I have no idea why I do them, but I do them because someone might die if I didn’t do them. Like, that’s how we’re taught . . . It’s kind of a life or death situation.” The informant says she learned this practice from her father, who she thinks learned it from his best friend. She swears it is an Italian superstition, and is commonly practiced in Italy. Her roommate was sitting with us during her interview, and she commented that the informant makes her say this phrase whenever they are walking together and they are briefly separated by an object.


It was fascinating to me that such a seemingly whimsical practice and phrase could be associated with something as serious as the death of a twin. While I have no idea about the reliability or origin of the anecdote, it is suggested that the family knew about this superstition and that it is one that is particularly old and respected. Indeed, it was one of a few superstitions that the informant told me about that, when she was asked what she thought it meant, she would tell me not doing it meant sure “death.” She would then ask me why I would ever think about not doing it.


It is interesting that the informant claims this superstition has Italian origins, as it is based around English words. While they very easily could have been translated from Italian, the phrase “bread and butter” seems like a particularly English one. It is difficult to determine what exactly this superstition means or from where it came. It is easy to see how a simple action such as two people walking around a stationary object would become a source of anxiety for a particularly superstitious person. The phrase “bread and butter” represents two things that are commonly associated with one another. They are also fairly basic items that are considered staples in many western/European diets. It might reflect the trouble seen being caused by separating two things that should inherently be together, although it is difficult to say. This superstition also might have started as a sort of joke and evolved over time into something more serious for those performing it. Whatever the case, the informant certainly takes it seriously now.

Easter games and traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Romanian Italian American
Age: 53
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/17/2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

My informant came from a mixed background.  One side of her family was Romanian and the other side was Italian.  During Easter, she would take part in traditions from both groups.  One of the Romanian traditions she would partake in was called Choking Eggs, where two people make painted eggs and then hard-boiled them.  Each person would then take their egg and smash them against each other until one of them broke.  The value of winning was increased if your egg was especially pretty.  One of the Italian traditions involved playing a game called Bachi in the lawn and the game involved throwing marbles.  Also an Italian Easter tradition involved making all sorts of breads.  One such bread was a woven bread filled with breakfast foods like hardboiled eggs and salami and such.

Italian superstition of bread orientation

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Italian
Age: 82
Occupation: House-wife
Residence: Massachusetts
Date of Performance/Collection: March 13, 2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Italian

My informant comes from a very italian family. She informed be about the superstition of the orientation of bread on a table:

“Putting a loaf of bread top-crust facing down on the table is like making Christ lie face down. It brings bad luck.”

My informant first heard this from her grandmother in Italy. She said that it was an old italian superstition, yet she still never places bread crust down.

I had never heard of or noticed such behavior by her or any other Italians before. I suppose it is because I am so used to everyone placing bread crust-side up that I have never thought that it could be “bad luck” to do it differently. I believe this superstition to be important because it reflects on the respect that even modern-day Italians have for the beliefs of their ancestors. It also reveals how religious they are in its connection to Christianity through the mention of “Christ”.

Recipe – Swedish

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Swedish
Age: 66
Occupation: Self-Employed
Residence: Scottsdale, AZ
Date of Performance/Collection: April 01, 2008
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


2 pkgs. Dry yeast

¼ c. very warm water

1 t. cugar

1 c. milk, scalded    2 t. anise seed, pounded

1 c. water     3 c. light rye flour

½ stick margarine    2 t. salt

½ c. molasses     yeast

¼ c. light brown sugar    4 c. white flour

Dissolve yeast in water and sugar. Scald milk, add water, margarine, molasses, brown sugar and anise seed. Add salt, stir in rye flour and mix well. Add dissolved yeast and beat. Add white flour gradually beating well after each addition. Turn out on floured board and knead using only as much flour as necessary. Put dough into a well greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover with waxed paper and a towel. Set in a warm place and allow to rise until double in bulk. Punch down. Turn out on floured board and with a sharp oiled knife cut into two parts for large loaves or into three parts for smaller loaves. Form into rounds and let rest covered for 10 minutes. Grease bread pans. Form dough into loaves, cover and let rise until almost double in bulk. Bake in a 375 oven. After first 20 minutes, brush tops with warm water. Continue baking another 10 or 15 min. Test for doneness by removing a loaf from pan and press sides, and tap bottom. Place loaves on a rack, brush with hot water and cover with a cloth.

This recipe comes from a recipe book that Rene’s aunt (his dad’s sister), Inez Wendell, wrote called My Yesterday, Your Today. The cookbook includes all the traditional Swedish recipes that she grew up making as well as stories about the Swedish influence in her upbringing and other stories from her past in relation to her heritage.

Rene says that she learned probably learned the recipe from his greatgrandmother who came to the United States from Sweden. His great-grandmother passed the recipe down to his grandmother and finally to his mother who Rene says “made the Rye bread all her life.” Rene’s great-grandparents on both is father’s and mother’s side came to the United States from Sweden and brought these recipes with them. Specifically they came from Orebro, Sweden which is where this recipe likely originated. Rene’s grandmother and mother also used to make the rye flour base for the bread from scratch, however because this is so time consuming this practice has been replaced with store-bought rye flour.

Rene carries on the tradition of making the rye bread because his female siblings and his mother are no longer able to. The bread is always made on holidays and special occasions such as birthdays. The bread is not only reserved for these occasions though, it can be made at any time and usually accompanies dinner and can be served with any spread, typically butter or occasionally a jam. If there are leftovers from dinner the bread is often ate in replacement of toast for breakfast the next morning.