Tag Archives: celebration

Dia del Niño

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 22
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-22-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Background: Informant is a 22 year old first generation Mexican American.

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Are there any special holidays or traditions that you celebrate with your family?

Informant: There is a holiday called Dia del niño which is celebrated on April 30th in Mexico. We don’t live in Mexico but we still celebrate in on April 30th. The day is to celebrate kids. Parents shower their kids with gifts on this day, sometimes they are small or sometimes they are big, but either way they try to make the day special somehow. My parents usually make us a special dinner.

Context: Interview with a family friend about special holiday traditions.

Thoughts: I always heard of Dia del Niño, but only as being celebrated in Mexico. I didn’t know people celebrated it here in the United States. I know it is a big celebration in Mexico, they have parades and festivals so I guess it makes senes that it is a more calmer celebration here.

El Caballo Dorado

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 22
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-22-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Background: Informant is a 22 year old first generation Mexican American.

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Are there any popular traditions your family has for parties?

Informant: Well for almost every party, they play this song called El Payaso del Rodeo by El Caballo Dorado. It is a song where the same dance moves are repeated, you start by stomping your foot, and when the music starts you dance to the left, then dance backwards, then forward and back again, you essentially turn after the last time you dance backwards to face different directions. This song is a staple at most parties, but especially at quinceneras.

Context: Interview with a family friend, asking about any family traditions.

Thoughts: I have heard of el caballo dorado, but I was not aware that it was not the name of the song. I always called the song and the dance el caballo dorado. It is interesting to know that some people know the actual facts of the song. Meanwhile others, like myself only know what we always been told. The caballo dorado is a fun dance, and really gets people on the dance floor.

Black Joy Parade

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 29
Occupation: Vice Principal
Residence: Oakland
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/10/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: The informant is my sister (LC) who lives in Oakland and has become an active participant in the community.

Main Text: “A celebration that I attended was this one in Oakland called ‘The Black Joy Parade’ in February. The celebration uses joy as a form of resistance to celebrate all the achievements and culture of the Black community, despite all the years of suffering and injustice. It’s this parade with cars, dancers, and different marching groups of black cultural groups. There are black entertainers and different artists who promote their work. It was an awesome experience and I really liked the idea that the black community was fighting their oppression through self-expression.”

Analysis: This celebration is interesting because it shows how the black community has created its own culture in the United States, undeterred by the oppression they have faced for centuries. By overcoming their disadvantages through joy, they change the narrative and empower themselves.

Russian New Year’s Eve Food

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Context:

The informant is a Russian-American-Bulgarian woman who spent the first half of her life in Russia. She currently resides in Boston, MA and the interview took place over zoom in which I interviewed her about the Russian folklore that she grew up with and that she feels represents the Russian people and culture.

Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian

The celebration of the New Year is a big deal in Russia. During the Soviet Union where religion was outlawed and Christmas was no longer celebrated, New Year’s became a big event that everyone would look forward to. It was where Ded Moroz (Grandpa Frost) would come and bring presents. People stay up until midnight, counting in the new year and making a wish as the clock strikes 12.

We would invite friends over to celebrate with us and make food for everyone to eat. In Russia, there are some staple New Years Eve foods. Eggs with ikra (salmon roe), meat or cabbage filled pastries and a bunch of different salads. Olivier being the main one. But salads in Russia are not like in other places. They are very hearty with potatoes and meat, and vegetables – probably because that’s all they really had to hold themselves over back in the day, so it just became a part of the culture…

Analysis:

A ban on religion did not stop the Russian people from finding a way to celebrate and to give gifts. This shows humanity’s desire to come together and find a reason to celebrate a certain event, the end of a year, or the overcoming of a hardship. It gives them something to look forward to and to plan for.

Irish Sing Song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Irish American
Age: 21
Occupation: student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-18-20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The Main Piece: 

The following is a conversation about an Irish tradition called Sing Song. 

Informant: Sing Song! Ya they’re just kind of automatic after dinner. There can be a conversation but like it’ll just naturally go towards like “oh hey I heard the new single the Foggy June” and someone will be like “Oh yeah!  the Foggy Jew” and then everyone will just go (vocalizing) “Oh down the glen…” and then everyone just starts singing it and then they’ll be like “let’s sing some more songs” and my uncle will grab his guitar and you know he’ll sing a song. And then someone will get a penny whistle out there too and people are dancing.

Interviewer: Do people have to sing songs when it’s their turn?

Informant: No, if it’s an actual event it’ll be like we’re having a SING SONG but if it is after dinner then it just kind of  goes wherever it wants to, but it does go between singing songs and telling stories mostly. Conversation doesn’t really happen that munch unless people are drunk and screaming. But if it’s like an event, like grand dad’s retirement party, then everyones gonna sit down like alright let’s have a sing song and you get out the musical instruments and you get out the stories and it’s like alright let’s go. It’s a big thing. 

Interviewer: What types of songs and stories do you share?

Informant:Traditional Irish music, uh music written by current Irish people. Ya, that’s actually it, stories will be a lot of the time just favorite stories or anecdotes that someone has. Like everyone knows it but we still want to hear it again because we like the way that person tells it. We can also help tell it.

Background: The informant was born in Ireland, and moved to the United States as a baby. He is a Dual-Citizen and feels closely connected to his Irish roots. Here he explains a favorite pastime of his, one he regards as a tradition, called Sing Song. A sometimes formal, but often informal space for creation and storytelling amongst family and friends. He explained that this occurs at every family gathering big and small, so it is something he has grown up with, and something he will continue to do. 

Context: This conversation took place in a relaxed environment after dinner. The informant was reminded of his fond memories at the table and was excited to share such a lively tradition with those around him.

My thoughts: I actually have heard and participated in something very similar to the informants when I worked at a renaissance faire. At the faire, we called this method of storytelling a bardic circle and essentially used it as a space for bards to tell stories, sing songs, or perform epics. Like, the informant these circles sometimes would just evolve naturally if we were already gathering in a small circle, or it could be its own event that people went to. Of course, in my situation we were performers mimicking life in the renaissance. However, my heart was warmed to hear that similar traditions still live out in households today. Not only that, but the subject matter has evolved as well to include personal accounts performed in a way that makes them legendary. 

Breaking Plates in Greek Culture

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Greek American
Age: 19
Occupation: Unemployed
Residence: Anaheim, CA and Thessaloniki, Greece
Date of Performance/Collection: April 21, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Greek

MAIN PIECE

“Breaking plates is not some silly thing we only see about Greeks in the media.  We don’t do it every day, but at big occasions, we break some plates!  Like spitting, it is more popular among Greeks in Greece than ones who are in the American world of Greek Orthodoxy.  Also like spitting, it is meant to ward off the evil spirits.  It is believed that the loud sounds the plates make are meant to scare off evil spirits, but also to symbolize when the party can really begin.  It is common for very civil, professional parties  to turn wild after the breaking of a plate.

BACKGROUND

My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s  Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki.  Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago.  SK, my informant, learned this from not understanding why parties would get wilder after the breaking of the plate and said she remembered it being like a food fight level of energy.

CONTEXT

This came from a friend of mine from my church in Southern California.  I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece.  I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.

THOUGHTS

This dual meaning of  both scaring away spirits through the breaking of plates  and getting the party truly started fascinates me as it seems from  much of my research that a lot of  Greek folklore  has dual meanings, tending towards one being fun and celebratory and the other based in the spiritual world.  It makes me think about how religion is so important in the country as it is one of the most Christian countries in the world.  Looking into that, it makes me ask how ghosts and spirits fit in with  that.

Megilah Reading

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 46
Occupation: Rabbi
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: March 17, 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Every Purim Jews congregate to listen to a reading from a book called the Megilah which features the backstory of Purim. It’s the most outwardly religious part of Purim. The congregation is encouraged to be active and loud, reacting verbally to every single mention of the characters’ names in the story. Mordecai and Ester (the Jewish heroes) get jubilant cheers every time their name is read while the bad guy Haman is booed. The congregation is even traditionally encouraged to drink so much that they can’t tell whose names to boo or cheer.

Again, this is the religious part of Purim but the encouragement to chime in makes it stand out from other Jewish holidays in a way that fits the extra cheerful celebration of Purim. While this folklorist’s congregation doesn’t drink during the reading, it does fit the rest of the relatively lax nature of the event.

Name Days

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: My informant is a 21 year-old student from New York, who recently moved to Los Angeles to attend USC. While discussing how she celebrates Easter as a Greek Orthodox, she mentioned another tradition that caught my attention.

 

Background: The tradition is referred to as Name Days, and has been a custom of Greek Orthodox culture for centuries. My informant explained that she and all of her siblings celebrate their name days, as they are all named after saints.

 

Main Piece: “For Greeks, your name day is more important than your actual birthday. Your name day is the birthday of your icon, or the saint that you were named after. Me and my siblings are all named after saints, and the same goes for my more distant relatives. Greek Orthodox people are really into using generational and famous names that are important in their history. So I’m named after Saint Katherine, so my name day is some time in November, but my actual birthday is in May. Obviously being in American culture now, my birthday is equally as important, and I celebrate it with my family and friends, but my name day is still a huge deal in my family. On my name day my parents always go all out with the presents, we have my whole family over, and it’s just a big celebration. The same goes for all of my siblings. It’s pretty great because it’s like having two birthdays every year that are equally as celebrated. I also see how important it is to my grandparents especially that we celebrate name days so it’s something I definitely want to pass on to my kids too.”

 

Analysis: I found this tradition very interesting, as I had never heard of Name Days prior to this encounter. After doing additional research on this ritual, I learned that they are actually celebrated in many countries across Europe and Latin America. It’s a nice way to celebrate yourself, as well as the historical icon that you were named after.

 

The Chuppah

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Canadian
Age: 37
Occupation: Entertainment Executive
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 19, 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: My informant is a 37 year-old Jewish woman who recently moved to Los Angeles from Toronto. She was preparing for her upcoming wedding when she began to discuss what Jewish traditions she planned on incorporating in her ceremony. In the piece, she is identified as J.T. and I am identified as D.S.

 

Background: The Chuppah is essentially a canopy in which the bride and groom and their family members stand under in a Jewish wedding ceremony. The tradition can be traced back to biblical weddings in Jewish culture, and is deeply rooted in its’ history and religious customs.

 

Main Piece:

DS: “You mentioned your fiancé is Christian, are you still going to have a traditional Jewish wedding?”

JT: “Definitely. My family is fairly religious, and he’s in the process of converting right now, so his family is open to keeping it more traditional too.”

DS: “What are some of the traditions you’re going to include?”

JT: “Well, pretty much everything. A Rabbi is speaking at our ceremony, we’ll be reciting the seven prayers and the blessing over the wine, the chuppah, and of course breaking the glass at the end of the ceremony.”

DS: “Do you mind elaborating on the importance of the chuppah a bit?”

JT: “Sure! The chuppah is pretty much a canopy, and it represents the home that the bride and groom will build together. Couples usually decorate it beautifully for their weddings. I’m planning on having mine strung with vines and white roses. It’s supposed to stand with all four sides wide open, to represent a home with open doors that’s welcoming and loving. Hospitality is something that’s highly regarded in Jewish culture, as I’m sure you know.”

 

Analysis: Since I come from a reform Jewish family, I’m aware of most traditions, but I don’t have much background knowledge on the meaning behind them, so it was interesting to hear the symbolism behind this tradition in particular. Having attended quite a few Jewish weddings, the Chuppah is always the staple of the ceremony, and is always decorated beautifully.

 

Annotation: For more on Jewish wedding customs and the history behind the Chuppah, reference to:

Goldman, A. L. (2000). 3. Weddings. In Being Jewish: The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today (pp. 69-86). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

French New Year Traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French
Age: 21
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/19
Primary Language: French
Other Language(s): English

The following is a piece from a friend whose parents are French immigrants.  I am represented by K and the informant is represented by I.

Piece:

K: Go ahead and tell me about your tradition.

I: So, in January, the start of the new year, there’s a tradition called Gallete du Roi, which translates to… uh, King’s Cake… and… one person will start by hosting a party in which… uhm, we make dinner, and you invite your group of friends over, and then you make the King’s Cake, which is usually almond paste and phyllo dough on top, with a little ceramic baby Jesus or baby Mary or baby lamb or something inside, and then… uhm… you cut the- you cut the pie, and the youngest person at the party like goes under the table or hides or something, and they dictate who each piece goes to.  So it’s … non…biased.  And then… uhm.. and then you eat the cake and whoever gets the baby is the King or the Queen and they choose their King or their Queen to host the next party with them and the guy brings the wine, the woman makes the food- bakes the cake- which is just really.. not… gender… equality… if you ask me, but uhm, and then the party keeps going all throughout January, and there’s another tradition we do!- Well, it’s not really a tradition, it’s like uhm, on the first day of January, so it’s like the first day of the new year, uhm, you hold a piece of like- like a gold coin in your hand. Uhm, or anything that has gold in it, like real gold… uhm, and you make crepes and you flip the crepe with the gold in your hand, and if it lands well and doesn’t break, you’ll have prosperity in the new year, and if it breaks or it doesn’t happen… you’re… gonna be poor.

K: And where’d you learn this from?

I: My momma.

Context:

We were sitting outdoors in a shaded area by a couch, working on a group project, but only the informant, one other member of our project, and I were there.  I asked the informant if she had any traditions or interesting pieces of folklore she would want to share and she readily agreed.  It was a really nice day out and the conversation felt very natural.

My Thoughts:

 

Her family is from France and she very strongly identifies with her French roots.  I thought this tradition was pretty interesting because it’s very religious, and my friend isn’t that religious, really, but she considers it more of a cultural tradition.  I know that this tradition is also very cultural, as well.  My family calls it Three Kings Day, but we don’t really celebrate it.  I went to Catholic school growing up, though, and I know we always had the cake in our of our classes, but the cake we ate was different than the one the informant described.  In Latin culture, this holiday also involved leaving shoes out, which my dad has told me about.  I think it’s cool to see the evolution of this holiday based on ethnicity.  It’s interesting to watch how it changes from place to place and how there are little cultural differences.