The informant is a freshman at USC from Barrington, Illinois. During a call, I recorded an interview with them about rituals, superstitions, and festivals. When asked if they perform any holiday rituals, this is what they performed. Important context to know is that their childhood home is a small ranch that has horses and other animals. They have a tight, upper-middle class family structure.
PL: Okay, Christmas, Christmas with the horses. So Christmas, our family, we have stockings and stuff, which are separate from the gifts. It honestly–it’s a separate thing on its own. That we have aside from giving gifts to each other. We have stockings from “Santa,” quote unquote.
PL: But Santa will supposedly come in the night via either a parents or honestly, recently, Fiona did it once–my sister–and she was like, “Damn, that took the magic out of it” when mom was like, helping me put the stockings up.
PL: But we’ll do that. And we’ll also we also have stockings for all of our cats on the–on the fireplace, their red stockings, fuzzy polyester with like white around the brim. And we have stockings that say each of our names and each of our cat’s names.
PL: And we’ll have stockings for when a family is visiting. We’ll have stockings for all of them. And we’ll get little toys, candies, stupid things like socks, small little stocking stuffers. And the cats will get treats and toys. And it’ll always be very equal distributed–distribution of like who gets what, and also in the barn. Have little stockings for the horses but we don’t have actual stockings with their names printed out on them that we put up. Instead, every Christmas morning, we’ll wake up and we’ll go outside and there will be little plastic stocking containers full of horse treats. Which is it’s a bought thing. It’s a bought thing like you buy it. But it’s cute, and it’s Christmassy and it’s a little stocking with full of horse treats that are little brown pellets of grain and dried fruit or something.
PL: And they’re red around the edges and they’re clear plastic and they’re hanging on the horses’ stalls.
[After a pause]
PL: Um, I believe I think we did have a chicken stocking. Duck and Shakira are my chickens. Yeah, well, were. Shakira died in a heatwave. No, Duck still lives, and we have more chickens out. Anyway. Um, but we did have. We did have a stocking and it had a it had a fresh container of blueberries, because their favorite is blueberries.
The Christmas traditions of stocking stuffing and hiding presents under the tree in the middle of the night under the guise of it being Santa are quite common in the United States. This informant being from the Midwest, it’s no surprise that these traditions are at the front of their mind when they think of their Christmas traditions.
What is most interesting to me, however, is how their traditions loop in the animals on their ranch. Their cats have their own stockings with their individual names sewn to them, and their horses and chickens get to join in the celebration regardless of their knowledge of the intricacies of the human tradition. This points towards how the notion of “family” is not simply confined blood relatives even in traditional Western family structures. Thus, the animals are afforded their own place in the folk tradition, as they are part of the family.