Tag Archives: bread

Jewish Tradition for Rosh Hashanah

Text: Every Rosh Hashanah, the informant throws a piece of bread into a body of water, which Symbolizes getting rid of their sins. When the informant does this ritual, which he has always performed with his immediate family, you talk about what you did wrong last year and what you’re going to try and do better next year. Rosh Hashanah is the new year and when Jews are supposed to be cleansed. He said it is their way of communicating our sins and regret for them to god. This usually falls in late fall or winter. 

Context: He’s been doing it ever since he can remember, he doesn’t feel that it does anything of significance in terms of good standing with God but He likes to be with his family at this time and feels that it helps him grow and be a better person

Analysis: The practice of casting bread into water as a symbol of casting away sins embodies a communal approach to repentance. While the informant expresses skepticism about the ritual’s direct impact on divine judgment, their continued participation highlights a personal and cultural commitment to the values of family unity and personal growth. The secular shift towards these traditions could be a reflection of the more secular shift which happened to many jews after the holocaust. This suggests that, within this cultural framework, traditions serve not only religious purposes but also support social cohesion and individual self-improvement.

New Year’s Eve Four Things

Background: The informant is a 75 year old female. She grew up in Illinois, attending both high school and college in the state. After she married her husband in 1963, she gained some new tradition from her mother-in-law, who had some German descent.

Context:  When catching up over dinner, the informant started talking about her New Year’s traditions, because someone at the table over had been served herring.


MC: “I learned my New Year’s Tradition from my mother-in-law and I have now been doing it for around 50 years. It has four parts that you place out on your windowsill: Eating herring, which I believe is from Germany or Scandinavia, and the silver skin represents coins and prosperity; the silver coins which is money in your pocket; the pieces of bread which is good that you will have over the coming year; and sweeping out the front door which is sweeping out all the bad omens and bad lucks that happened over the year.


Informant: She didn’t do the tradition in her childhood but it has since become integral to who she is and remains extremely important for how it reminds her of her grandmother.

Analysis: The informant adopting the tradition at an older age represents that folklore comes and goes depending on the social context. In a sense, the informant taking up a new tradition upon getting married symbolizes how she has been “adopted” into a new family and is taking on their traditions. The informant has kept up with the tradition for over 50 years, symbolizing how strong even an adopted tradition can become. That is the nature of traditions, it should be allowed to be shared and taken up by whoever will respect it. The informant respects every element of the New Year’s Eve celebration.

Bunny Chow

Main Text

KK: “So there’s this dish in South Africa called bunny chow like colloquially, we just call it a bunny. It’s big enough that you would, it’s a big deal. There are restaurants that like specialize in bunnies, and essentially the the recipe is just you take a loaf of bread and you cut out the inside, and then you fill it with a curry of your choice. So like mutton curry, chicken curry, potato curry, beans, whatever. And the origin of it was, you know, Indian people from, like their homeland India, were taken by the British to South Africa to cut the sugar cane. They would be eating their lunch and would be eating curry, but they didn’t have anywhere to like put it or store it, and they didn’t have rice like easily accessible to them. So what they would do is just take the loaf of bread, like the British style bread, and fill it up with the curry. And then like nowadays, it’s just a really popular meal among the Indian South African community.”


KK is a 21 year old USC student studying psychology on a pre-med track. Of Indian descent, he was originally born in South Africa but has lived in England, the UAE and now in New York, Ny. Bunny Chow is obviously a fusion dish borne out of necessity, made by these displaced Indian sugar cane workers. It has since become so popular, according to KK, that he eats it at his home in America and restaurants specialize in serving it back in South Africa.


KK eats this meal regularly with his family at home in New York and says that the context this meal is served in is certainly a family style sit down dinner. Because of the size of a full loaf of bread, Bunny Chow is usually shared with multiple people which makes it a staple meal for Indian families with ties to South Africa.

Interviewer Analysis

Food traditions are very easy to share and that is why so many people have family recipes or dinner traditions that mean so much to them. I find it so interesting that this dish is a cultural fusion however, Indian style curry served inside British baked bread and served in Africa. This dish is obviously not something that came from a fancy written cookbook, but from the needs and innovation of everyday people. Bread bowls and Chalupas spring to mind as similar recipe variations on bread bowl with meat and vegetables inside, but it is obvious they do not share a common origin.

Bread and Salt for new homeowners

Main Piece:

What is the tradition?

“It’s Jewish tradition when someone has a new house to bring bread and salt. Actually, I don’t think that’s it’s a Jewish tradition, I think it’s just a housewarming tradition because that sounds very Christian, like bread for Jesus, and salt for demons… I don’t know (laughs). Bread is so… for you’ll never go hungry and salt is for you’ll always have flavor, and [jokingly] won’t die from lack of electrolytes. It’s become a thing amongst a lot of ethnic groups within the country.” 

Have you ever brought bread and salt as a housewarming gift?

“Yes! We brought some bread and some salt to, I don’t remember. Over the years, I’ve done it, maybe three times? A handful of times. Bring a thing of Morton’s salt and a loaf of bread, or maybe a sack of flour so it’s actually useful.”


The informant is my mother. She is was raised Conservative Jewish and has an Ashkenazi (Easter European) Jewish background. She has lived in America her entire life. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.


I found it interesting that my informant couldn’t identify which religion this practice came from, and then decided that it didn’t matter. This highlights how engrained this tradition is in American housewarming culture. I thought that my informant’s alteration of bread to flour was very utilitarian. I’ve seen other alterations of this tradition, like a Trader Joe’s body scrub set that features one salt scrub and one sugar, bur bread themed, scrub. This tradition has become such a norm that even large commercial producers are adopting a version of it they can sell as housewarming gifts.

Polish Yuletide: The Sharing of Bread and the Self

Main Performance:

Also in polish tradition, during Christmas time and sometimes Easter, a special unleavened bread is used. You start with a whole and someone (a family member or such) will come up to you, take a piece of the wafer and in return wish good things upon you (pleasure, money, health etc.) and you go up to others and do likewise until your wafer has been taken from everyone and you took a piece from everyone. The bread is called opłatek which roughly translates into “toll” or “payment”.


The informant, JK, is one of my close friends from my Catholic high school who I maintain contact with after graduation. He hails from a devoutly Catholic Polish family. Among most of the families that I knew of while attending, most of my classmates did not speak their family lineage’s mother tongue except for most of the my Polish and Hispanic classmates. No German and definitely not any Irish being spoken there.


My informant is currently attending medical school in Poland and I reached out to him through social media to ask if he had any traditional/folk-things he could share with me given his actively apparent and practiced Polish heritage, doubly so now that he is back in Poland.

My Thoughts:

Immediately what comes to mind is the Eucharist and the transubstantiation concept in the Catholic church of how Christ’s body is figuratively and literally represented by the communal bread is akin to this is taking place where individuals represent themselves with the loaves of unleavened bread. Then they take parts of themselves and share it with their loved ones. Considering that these most likely occur at family gatherings with relatives who could potentially live far away from each other, it comes off as an encouraging reminder that they always have each other. The wording of “toll” also gives off the suggestion that they expect good deeds to be returned, or just be acted in response to exchange their own pieces of bread. One loses themselves from sharing all the bread until it is gone, but will have formed a symbolic whole from the others who have given pieces of themselves to you, which really puts the entire act of giving and receiving in a simple but introspective light.

For more on the origins of opłatek, refer to Claire Anderson’s detailed study of its Slavic roots.

Anderson, Claire M. “In Search of the Origins of the Opłatek.” The Polish Review, vol. 58, no. 3, 2013, pp. 65–76. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/polishreview.58.3.0065. Accessed 3 May 2021.