Residence: Charleston, SC
Date of Performance/Collection: April 26, 2020
Primary Language: English
The following conversation is transcribed from a phone conversation between the interviewer and the informant.
Informant: So when I was 13, is when I was Bat Mitzvah’ed. Like, coming into my womanhood or whatever. It’s a big deal that all Jewish girls go through. There’s an hour and a half long service, I read from the Torah, I chant my prayers, I wear a really pretty dress.
Interviewer: And you get to choose the dress?
Informant: Oh yes, and getting a dress you want is a big deal. I got to choose my own. Anyways, all of my family and friends are there and there’s a baller party after. But after the service, there is tradition that the congregation will “shower me with good luck and sweetness.” What that means is everyone in the synagogue throws gummy candy at me. It’s supposed to be a loving act but people usually throw to hard and it ends up hurting a little.
Interviewer: What kind of candies were thrown? And is there significance in the types of candies?
Informant: Not really, it was a random assortment of candies. I specifically remember Jolly Ranchers hurting the most, because you know, out of the gummies they’re the hardest. I got hit in between my eyes with a grape flavored Jolly Rancher, and I avoid that flavor even till this day.
Interviewer: Is there any bad intent in throwing these candies hard? Or is it strictly an act of showing blessings and kindness?
Informant: I think it comes out of good means. It’s just that anytime little kids and throwing any objects is involved, and especially when the target is your friend, they tend to get jokey and try to throw it hard. But it’s a light hearted prank, kinda like cake-facing someone at their birthday.
My informant is a 19 year old college student who comes from an Ashkenazi descent. She grew up in a family which practiced the religion, and she was exposed to the culture from a very young age. Her three siblings also practice the religion with her, and Judaism is a big part of her family tradition. She comes from a large family with plenty of Jewish relatives, so Bat Mitzvah for her was a big deal.
I was aware of the general concept of Bat Mitzvah, but I was never sure what specifically went down during the process. I had asked my informant to describe the most interesting thing that happened at her Bat Mitzvah, and this shower of good luck was her choice. The conversation happened over phone, where I was in Los Angeles (2:00 pm PST) apartment while the informant was in South Carolina (5:00 pm EDT) in her house, in her room.
Learning about this tradition reminded me of how different cultures utilize candies to represent good luck. My mind went immediately to piñatas, Trick o’ Treat, and Easter egg hunts. Candies are sweet, and it’s that sweetness that makes humans associate it with good luck and a ‘sweet life’. Imagining being a 13 year old getting showered with candies by my loved ones, it definitely made me happy.