Tag Archives: children

Christmas Eve Gift

Context: Informant has a sister, both have been celebrating the holiday Christmas since they were children together. The two sisters now live in separate states, but continue their Christmas traditions. Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas day, Christmas day is when presents from family, friends, and Santa are typically opened. Santa is a Christmas figure for children, who leaves presents on the night of Christmas Eve for the children to open on Christmas morning. Informant has passed down their Christmas traditions to their own children and family.

Tradition: “We would have this game, that on Christmas Eve, whoever said “Christmas Eve Gift” to the other person first, got to open the first present on Christmas Eve. We, my parents and us, we open the presents from friends and extended family on Christmas Eve, and we would open Santa’s presents and family presents on actual Christmas. So, if you wanted to open the first present at all ever, then you needed to win the game. So, we would get up really early and wake up everyone else by telling them Christmas Eve gift. We weren’t as crazy about it as my kids are now. They’re out here writing stuff on walls, and sleeping on the couch, and staying up till 12. We weren’t that, uh, we weren’t quite that dedicated. Me and my sister still play together too. Although, she lives an hour ahead of me, so she pretty much always wins. She just sends a text message.”

Background Information: Informant was born into a Christian family, and has been a Christian basically all their lives, and as such they have celebrated Christmas every year of their lives. The holiday holds a lot of meaning to them, and passing down their Christmas traditions to their children is very important to them. They have many other traditions associated with the holiday, such as specific foods, movies, activities, music, ect.. Christmas is definitely the biggest holiday of the year for them, and they were happy when talking about their traditions.

Thoughts: I think this is a wholesome tradition which unites family and gets everyone excited for the holiday. Furthermore, since the parents have to set up the gifts from ‘Santa’ while the children sleep, the tradition might have started as a way to tire the kids out the night before. Whether or not this is the humble origin story, the tradition has grown from there, and become a much bigger tradition. I think it makes sense that children would embrace it and lean into the competitive side of the tradition. It’s also a way to unite the family, and obviously it works, seeing as informant still practices the tradition with their sister despite living in different states. Family both physically present and not are able tp connect through this tradition.

Don’t Sweep the Feet

Informant: My informant is my Mexican mother, who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. While she stayed with her mom for about 16 years before coming to the U.S, she grew up with many superstitions that either derived from her mom or from her grandmother. 

Main Piece: “No dejes que te baran los pies porque luego vas a terminar no casandote.” Translations: “Don’t let anyone sweep your feet because later on, you will end up not marrying 

Context: My mom heard this as a kid whenever her mom was sweeping. However, now that my mom thinks back to when she was small. She doesn’t believe that it literally meant that she would never get married, but I think this was used to intimidate my mom and “encourage” her to look for a partner.

Analysis: I see where this myth is coming from. I think that when this proverb is used illustrates some of the values in the Mexican culture. One of those, is marriage. think it also just demonstrates how much in the Mexican culture; marriage is an important factor to a happy life. When one should know that should not be the case. Unfortunately, because of beliefs such as these back then and still today in the Mexican culture, it’s normal for women/girls to get married at a very young age and have children at a very young age.

Annotation: For more broom lore superstitions/myths similar to this one take a look at the following list of similar brooms myths/superstitions derives from Kentucky folklore

Roberts, Hilda. “Louisiana Superstitions.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 40, no. 156, 1927, pp. 172-173, https://doi.org/10.2307/534893. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.

Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in the Dish

Informant: The informant is my sibling, a Mexican American boy who is 14 years old and currently an 8th grader at a charter school in Los Angeles California. 

Context: My informant explains that this verse is usually present when there has to be an “it.” For example, when playing hide and seek or tag. In addition, he also stated that this rhyme is more common with the girls.


J: “When you are going to play a game of hide and seek or freeze tag and you need to choose a person, everyone has to put their shoe in the middle (puts foot in middle) then you say …” Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” Each syllable goes around someone shoes. Whoever it lands on has to pick a number and then it continues until that number is reached. Whoever it lands on gets out until the last person is left. and that last person is choose as the “it””

Analysis: I’m surprise that this verse is still used up to this day. I would have thought that this would have died a long time ago, but it hasn’t. This is due to the fact that children teach other children how to go along with these rhymes. In this rhyme it is evident that it is performed in order to be fair and has this element of destiny to it. It prevents children or even teenagers from fighting because there is no way that there could have been cheating.

Mary Mack


AS grew up in Ontario, Canada, and remembers playing this clapping game on the playground growing up. This piece was performed as a form of play between two children in coordination with a clapping game. The game consisted of both participants clapping their two hands together, then clapping on of their hands to the other person’s (right hand to right hand) and then repeating, alternating the hand that they clapped against the other participant’s.

Main Piece:

“Oh Mary Mack, Mack, Mack,
All dressed in black, black black,
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty cents, cents, cents, 
She climbed a fence, fence, fence,
She went so high, high, high,
She didn’t come back, back, back,
Till the Fourth of July, -ly, -ly”

Additional Commentary:

“I don’t know why we said fourth of July because that meant nothing to us as kids. But, the point was, is it kept going and going and going and going, and it got slowly faster and faster and faster until one of you messed up. Then you probably slapped ‘em or something, I don’t know. So there were lots of variations on that.”


Both the rhythm of the clapping game itself and the song are relatively simple, so once the game and song are learned, the challenge consists in the ability to maintain coordination of singing and clapping in the correct rhythm while continuously increasing the speed. The song rhymes and repeats in sections, which makes it easier to remember.

AS has no idea what the song was about, but still remembers the lyrics and hand movements decades later. Though, with the general trend of folkloric children’s songs being about taboo topics like sex and death, there are some lines that could point in that direction. The lines “She climbed a fence… she went so high… she didn’t come back… till the Fourth of July” seem like they could hint at something darker, especially since they do not clarify how she came down (climbing or falling). The final line also points the origin of the song in the United States, as the Fourth of July is Independence Day in the US. AS grew up in Canada, so, as she mentioned, the date “meant nothing to us as kids.”

When trying to discern the meaning of the song, it’s important to mention that there are other recorded versions of this song that include different variations on the lyrics. In another version, it is not Mary Mack that climbs the fence and doesn’t come down till the Fourth of July, but instead an elephant that jumps the fence, touches the sky, and doesn’t come back till the Fourth of July. For a recording of that version, refer here: “Miss Mary Mack,” Ian Cabeen, USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 17, 2021. http://folklore.usc.edu/miss-mary-mack-2/

Sana Sana Colita de Rana

Text: “sana sana colita de rana”

“heal heal frog’s tail”


Informant: Whenever we got home when we were younger our mom would say “sana sana colita de rana”. Colita de rana is frog’s tail, it means heal heal frog’s tail, if it doesn’t heal today it shall heal tomorrow.

Informant: It’s um it’s kinda like not a really good luck thing, but when a young person gets hurt you know their crying and stuff so the mom says the magic potion thingy stuff so the kids stops crying and supposedly they heal faster. But it’s like I think it’s mostly like to make the kid shut up it’s a nice tradition thing, instead of saying oh you’ll get better, there’s a whole song to it and stuff so it’s like wow. It’s the “magic healing saying that your mom tells you”

Me: Is this saying a family tradition?

Informant: Yes and like no. A lot of people in Mexico use this. so it’s like passed down from generations I think. But it’s like a lot of people do it

Me: Would you personally consider it magic?

Informant: No, but I will add the placebo effect comes in

Context of Performance:

In-person conversation about things our parents would say when we were younger.

Personal Thoughts:

While “modern” medicine creates a clear distinction between the mind and the body, phenomena such as the placebo affect seem to call this distinction into question. This particular phrase – “sana sana colita de rana” – seems to play into the placebo effect. This phrase is merely words, it doesn’t physically tend to a child’s wounds. However, these words from a parent or trusted adult can comfort and soothe a child.

I’ve seen many memes on the parenting side of social media that joke that as long as a parent doesn’t act like they’ve been hurt, a child could be hit by a meteor and not cry. This particular piece of folklore seems to have a similar philosophy – a child will be ok if you comfort them with a magical healing little song.

Additional Notes:

As noted by the informant, this saying usually comes in song form, with an example linked below: