Tag Archives: christian holidays

Christian Holidays


Day of the Three Kings


Collector: “HR, as a Mexican woman, today you will be talking about a popular holiday celebrated within your Christian family, the Day of the Three Kings.

Informant: “Yes, El dia de los tres reyes, such a big holiday within Christian Latin America. It’s almost as big as Christmas, and kind of commoderates the same traditions and rituals, essentially the giving of gifts. I love it because ever since I was a little girl, I would always get double the amount of gifts as some of my friends.

Collector: “Are you aware of its origins and history?

Informant: “Vaguely, I think it follows three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to reach Jesus Christ after he was born. They reached him on the twelfth day of Christmas, January sixth, and brought him lots of gifts. It’s very similar to Christmas in that they basically both celebrate Jesus.

Collector: “What else would your family do besides gift-giving?

Informant: “Well since the Day of the Three Kings celebrates the life of Jesus, we sort of just celebrated living. We would come together with our extended family and have a huge feast, almost on the same level as Thanksgiving. It really is such a great holiday.”


Although not a Christian myself, I can acknowledge that the bible as a collection, or string, of stories, contains a plethora of folk rituals, superstitions, and celebrations. Its vastness, and rich content, may remind one of the Kalevala, a Finnish collection of thirty-two poems, depicting many magical, supernatural stories originating from Finland. Coming from a Puerto Rican background, I am aware that my mother use to celebrate the Day of Three Kings when she was a little girl in Puerto Rico. It’s a tradition that she, for some reason, did not pass on to me and my siblings, and stopped practicing once she reached America. This would make her a passive bearer of Day of the Three Kings since she doesn’t really discuss it much with us either. Similar to HR, she would rejoice in the holiday anytime it came because it meant double the number of gifts for her also. A noticeable difference I noticed between HR’s recollection of the holiday versus my mother’s, is that my mother’s family would place three mirrors somewhere in the home, all facing the same direction with proximity to each other. This was something used to  acknowledge the benevolence of the three kings, and how we can hopefully all find that same good faith within ourselves, through our reflections.

All Saints Day

Background: The informant is my roommate and a fellow student at USC. She grew up in Southern California and attended a private Catholic school until she began high school.

Informant: I don’t know if this is a thing like…anywhere else, but at least at my school you’d dress up as a different saint on this day…it was called All Saints Day. Like it was Halloween but with saints instead of like monsters or whatever and we’d go to mass and we’d just all march around and you’d kind of get into character as your saint like you could be Mother Teresa or something.

Me: Was this a tradition at your school…like did teachers tell you to do it?

Informant: Yeah it was like an official day…I think it was just cute because it was like tiny kids dressed as these like adult saints but I don’t know if it was religiously significant.

Context: This was told to me during a recorded in-person interview. Upon further research, the informant later told me that it was in fact celebrated by many Christians outside of her school, and it was meant to signify that anyone who trusts in God is themselves a saint.


  • Context: The following informant, S, is a 59 yr. old man with three kids and a wife. Though the family does not identify as Christian, they celebrate Christmas and participate in the Christian tradition of Advent. This conversation took place when the informant was asked about any specific family traditions surrounding holidays. 
  • Text:

S: “So… for those who don’t know… Advent is a Christian celebration… uh… I think it’s tied in to the Twelve Days of Christmas too when you add it up, but I could be wrong… I don’t know about that… but, basically it’s the entire month of December it starts on December 1st and the day is December 25th… where you actually don’t get an advent… oh and each day you get a little… a little gift… sort of leading up to Christmas. But on Christmas day, you don’t get a little gift for Advent, you get your Christmas gifts. Um… and that… for me at least, started when I was… well as long as I can remember with my mom. And she would have an Advent calendar and we would open that up and… I think she had clues for us, if I’m not mistaken… and we would go find the little gift. It was was usually like a piece of chocolate for each of the three of us, I had two brothers… uh… nothing big… and maybe on the weekend a toy… but you know, nothing massive.

And that carried over when I first had, at least for me, I don’t know about my brothers, I’m sure it did, knowing my mom… but when I had my first kids, I started to get a box in November… from my mom… around Thanksgiving time… with all of the gifts and clues to go with them for the 24 days leading up to Christmas. So all I had to do was put the clues in the Advent calendar and run the process, and all my kids loved it… well of course my mom passes away a few years ago and… a couple years before that, I think actually, I started doing the clues myself and getting the gifts and what not.

Me: “What are the clues like?”

S: “Well, it’s a shame, I don’t remember what they were like as a kid. But what I do now… um… I either do a little sort of rhyming scheme sort of couplet thing… or I do a riddle… or I do something to do with the number of the day… umm or some combination of that stuff. Plays on words all the time ‘cus that’s sort of riddling. As [my kids] have gotten older I’ve tried to make it a little more challenging to figure out what it is and hidden them a little bit more… they used to be in plain sight way more often than they are now.”

Me: “And is it like each kid gets a clue or…?”

S: “One clue for the three [kids]. And [my kids] actually rotate, [they] decided to go youngest to oldest… uh [the youngest] does the first, [the middle] does the second, [the oldest] does the third and then [they] rotate through. Uhh…”

Me: “Reading the clues?”

S: “Reading the clues out loud. And then everybody… well it depends what kind of mood people are in… some days [my kids] decide to sit and not participate and sulk, but most days all three of [my kids] go and look, and of course mom, when she figures out the clue, can’t hold herself back and has to yell out where it is ‘cus she’s so proud of herself for figuring it out.”

  • Analysis: This version of Advent is similar to other versions I have heard of. Mainly, I have heard of pre-made Advent calendars with chocolates or small gifts inside each day. The main difference between this version of Advent and others is the addition of clues and hiding the presents. This type of Advent is more of a game, that includes riddles and rhyme schemes that lead to the hidden presents. This is the Advent I grew up knowing, and until I began to go over to my friends houses around the holidays I was unaware that Advent was not a game in all other households as well.

Holiday tradition

The following was recorded from a conversation I had on the phone with my mother, marked JS. She described to me a few holiday traditions as well as rituals she did throughout her childhood. Below is one of the rituals.


JS: “We always used to leave our shoe outside on St. Nicholas Day which falls on December 6th. The idea is that he will come by and fill the shoe with treats. Sounds kinda weird, I know…but it always got the family in the Christmas spirit pretty early.”

CS: “Interesting, and you did this every year?”

JS: “Yeah, every year. My mom was way more into it than us kids were.”

CS: “Is there a reason you didn’t continue this tradition with me?”

JS: “I guess I decided it wasn’t as practical as just waiting till the 25th. Gave me more work to do too. I don’t know, by then the tradition was less thought of.”



A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing rituals she did throughout her childhood around the time of the holidays.


JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.



I find this ritual interesting because it reflects the values my grandmother set for her family when it came to Christmas time. It is interesting that she decided to take a more unique path and doing a special ritual instead of the traditional and common Christmas traditions. What’s even more interesting is that this ritual didn’t continue into my mom’s adulthood and raising me. Instead, we do the very common Christmas and activities, and in fact, this was the first I had ever heard of this ritual. It is an interesting component of folklore to see how some of it sticks and is viewed with such importance in one’s life while others are simply forgotten over time.

Christmas Eve Soup

I asked my friend if she had any holiday traditions. She told me that on Christmas Eve, her mom prepares soup:

Me: Why soup?

Lindsey: My mom’s side of the family is Irish, so I think it’s tradition in Irish culture to have soup on Christmas. Maybe the warmth of the soup is comforting in wintertime? Also, I think soup is an easy meal to have on Christmas when people would rather be focused on their family than on cooking.

Me: What type of soup does she traditionally make?

Lindsey: It’s just a stew of different vegetables and beef. Really light. Really simple.


Analysis: Having soup on Christmas Eve is not a tradition I had ever heard of. I think the idea of spending time with one’s loved ones instead of cooking in the kitchen makes sense. It is more important to have Christmas with family and invest in quality time, than having an extravagant meal.