Tag Archives: Canada

Windsor Caroussel of Nations

Background Information: 

The informant is a middle-aged person who grew up in Windsor, a city in Canada. They emigrated to Windsor from Turkey, at a young age. They are describing a festival that they remember from their childhood. 

Main Content: 

ME: Can you tell me about the Windsor Caroussel of Nations? 

ED: So there was this festival called the Caroussel of Nations when I was growing up, and you know Canada prides itself on being a multicultural society and they consider themselves a cultural mosaic, as opposed to a melting pot, like the US. They fund a lot of festivals that, you know, help people stay connected to their cultural backgrounds and stuff. So one of those things was the Caroussel of Nations and it was around Canada Day. It was a festival where all of the cultures that wanted to get involved sign up, and they get a little grant for their space, and people have arts and crafts that they sell or display, there’s some different venues that have people who do shows like cultural dancing and displays. There’s always food, of course, which is probably the biggest thing and my mom would always make Turkish shish kebabs and shish koftes and things like that. People from all the community go around and check out all of the different cultures and enjoy the food and the environment.

ME: Did you ever participate? 

ED: I used to do this Turkish dance as a kid, we used to dress up in old traditional Turkish outfits and do a traditional Turkish line dance called Halay, you know? We would do that as a display, we would be like performing monkeys for the visiting Canadians (laughs). It was a lot of fun, everyone was coming together and the whole Turkish community would come together to put this on, it was fun visiting the other communities too. I think it’s still going on today.

Context: 

This interview happened at my house.  

Thoughts: 

The informant is my father and it seems that he really enjoyed it growing up. It seems like the Turkish community in Windsor would rally together to put on a good event and it would bring the community closer together. I have attended this festival once, and it is really amazing to see dozens of different cultures on display. It is also interesting to analyze the approach that Canada takes as a “cultural mosaic” as opposed to the “melting pot” here in the United States. I think that festivals like these are great examples of the difference. This festival is not about assimilating to Canadian culture at all, but it is about celebrating the folk dancing and traditional food from the countries that people immigrated from.

Collecting the tabs off Levi’s jeans

Context:

KR lives in Seattle, WA, but grew up in Windsor, Ontario in the 70s and 80s. He remembers this custom that he never fully understood from the youth he grew up around.

Main Piece:

KR: “I just thought of another one from childhood. One was that everyone was convinced that if you somehow collected the tabs off Levi’s jeans, somehow you were gonna get paid for it. So like there’s this thing where people where people were cutting the tabs off- and cutting the tabs off other people’s jeans ‘cause it was, and like there were extra points for the orange one versus the red one. But no one could ever explain to you what you were supposed to do with these tabs after you had them as far as I could tell. So that one was very strange.”

Analysis:

I have searched the internet and have not been able to track down any other mentions of this custom (or perhaps more of a trend?). As Levi’s has been a long established brand and their jeans are high quality and last for a long time, the longevity of the clothes has become prized. Therefore, Levi Jeans tabs are often used by vintage shoppers and collectors to date the manufacture of the jeans, as determined by the color and graphic design arrangement of the tab. However, this trend does not align with this typical use of the tabs, as removing the tabs from the jeans negates that purpose entirely.

There are multiple angles of analysis that I would use to start to understand this phenomenon. The first is simply that humans like collecting things, and that once your friends start doing something, you may join in simply as a social activity. While the mysterious promise of payment may have been false, the competition within social groups creates incentives to collect more, and better, tabs than others in the social circle. Contributing to this is the idea that certain colors of tabs (presumably rarer colors) were worth more ‘points,’ and the fact that even those who did collect the tabs were not able to explain how their financial end goal would be achieved.

Another interpretive angle to examine is the American entrepreneurial spirit. While KR did live in Canada, Windsor is directly across the border from Detroit and as we know, national borders don’t stop the bleeding of culture. And even without that bleed, Canada is still a western capitalist country, which still implies the teaching of profit motives. This trend of collecting tabs cut from Levi’s jeans was propagated by children and the youth, people who are generally economically dependent and not in a position to work full-time jobs or financially support themselves. The prominence of the Lemonade Stand in popular culture demonstrates how the drive to accumulate money is one taught early, and one that is not easily satisfied as a child that cannot realistically engage in the market. Just like the lemonade stand, this tab collecting is a hobby that promises a monetary reward, satisfying that urge to earn, or at a deeper level, to succeed within the value system of western capitalist society.

Butter Tart Recipe

Context:

This recipe for butter tarts was passed down to the informant, AS, by her mother and is directly transcribed. Butter tarts are common in the area of Ontario where she grew up (Blenheim), though she says that every family has their own variation on the recipe. Other varieties often include nuts along with the raisins. To AS’s knowledge, they are not particularly associated with any holiday or specific tradition.

Main Piece:

Butter Tarts
Pastry  1 1/2 C sifted all purpose flour  1 1/2 C sifted cake and pastry flour
1 tsp. salt
1C shortening  About 8 Tbsp. cold water.
Filling
1/2 C butter
1/2 C corn syrup
1 C washed and dried raisins
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
 1 tsp. vanilla
To make pastry, sift the sifted flours with the salt and cut in the shortening with pastry blender until size of peas. Drizzle in water 1 Tbsp. at a time, tossing with a fork, until you can gather it up into a dampish ball between your palms. Roll out very thinly on floured board. Cut out rounds and line medium sized tart tins with them.  Note I would buy tart shells !!!!
To make filling, mix all filling ingredients. Spoon into prepared tart shells, filling 2/3 full. Bake at 425 13 to 15 min. WATCH CAREFULLY.
Enjoy.

Analysis:

Family recipes are a very tangible way to pass tradition down through generations. For one thing, parents generally cook for their children, so the recipes have already been integrated into the children’s lives, and once the children learn to cook, they often learn from their parents. If the children later move far away from their parents, as AS did, family recipes can be a great way to bring back a taste of home. I find it very interesting that the informant mentioned that many families in this area of Ontario have their own recipes for Butter Tarts, some with nuts in the filling. The multiplicity and variation establishes Ontario Butter Tart recipes firmly within the category of folklore.

The format of the recipe also speaks to the proliferation of folklore on the internet and its transmission through digital means. During our conversation where I collected this piece of folklore, AS told me she would send me her mother’s recipe so that I could have that exact recipe that had been passed down through the generations, since she did not remember all the details. When she did send it to me, it was in the form of the email that her mother used to send her the recipe in April of 2020, then forwarded on to me. The original subject line is “Butter Tart Recipe,” and reads: “Hi [AS first name] and [AS’s son’s name]:” and then the above copy/pasted recipe. Also attached to the forwarded email I received was the reply that AS sent back, reading, “Thanks Mom! We’ll let you know how it goes.” This illustrates how the internet allows folklore to spread down family lines even when different generations of the family are separated by thousands of miles of distance. The intended recipients of the emailed recipe being AS and her son also informs the idea that AS asked for this family recipe in order to make it with the next generation of her family, to pass on the practice just like her mother did to her.

“The Johnson Boys” Campfire Song

Context:

KR’s grandfather was a Scoutmaster in Ontario who led Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts on camping trips and also enjoyed going camping with his own family. He remembers this piece as one of the songs his grandfather used to sing around the campfire with them.

Main Piece:

“The Johnson Boys”

Verse 1:  
Oh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill,
Verse 2:
Oohh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill,
Verse 3:
Ooohhhhh, the Johnson boys, the Johnson boys,
They lived on a mill on the side of the hill.

Continue ad infinitum, with the “oh” being drawn out longer with each repetition of the verse.

Analysis:

KR remembers “The Johnson Boys,” as “the song with one hundred thousand verses.” He says it’s, “a fun little song that everyone gets to chime in on,” since the lyrics were easy to remember and stretching out the “oh” always made the kids laugh. This song fulfills the classic roles of a good campfire song: something easy to pick up and remember, but with a fun twist to entertain the children. Since KR’s grandfather was a scout leader, the trips he led were mainly composed of children, it makes sense that he would have a library of these songs that are easily accessible for anyone.

This facet of folk song is interesting to me because while it is folk culture, it is also in some ways an institutionally pushed song. By this I do not mean that it was integrated into standardized education, or utilized by the government/corporations, but it significantly differs from some other children’s songs because it is a song that was taught to children by adults, and generally performed between children and adults. Often, folkloric children’s chants and songs evolve within the young population, perhaps even against the will of the adults surrounding them. But this song, and other campfire songs like it, are more of a bridge between the cultural worlds of the child and the adult leaders. They are neither the children’s song (because the children did not create it or claim it as their own to change and sing on their own) but also not a song for the adults (because the adults sing it primarily for the enjoyment of the children).

Windsor/Detroit Friendship Festival

Context:

The informant grew up near Windsor, Ontario in Canada which was right across the US border from Detroit, Michigan. Since the United States celebrates Independence Day on July 4th and Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1st, the two towns would join to celebrate together at some point over the long holiday weekend.

Main Piece:

“Detroit and Windsor would do this thing, The Friendship Festival, because it was international friendship. And so they would have shared fireworks between, and they would compromise, do, like, whatever day worked out best over the long weekend, but, you know, sometimes it would be on my birthday, which was July 3rd, so it was especially great to go to Windsor and they’d have fireworks for my birthday.”

Analysis:

These two cities were so close to each other and both celebrate a major holiday on the same weekend, so it makes sense that they would join forces. Some other compounding factors include the fact that the drinking age is two years lower in Ontario than in the US, which already made Windsor a popular destination for those slightly too young to drink alcohol in the States. This tradition makes me consider how a folk does not necessarily end at a national border. These towns, only separated by a river and an artificially enforced border, institutionally celebrate their national holidays three days apart. But because their proximity to each other, and therefore their connection, cannot simply be negated by the borders of their nations, they compromise to create a new festival out of the two.