Tag Archives: christian

Eritrean Wedding Day 2: Melsi

Background provided by DG: DG was born and raised in Redlands, California. Both of their parents were born in west Africa, but more specifically Eritrea. Eritrea is located on the Horn of Africa and adjacent to the Red Sea. They belong to a specific tribe of Eritrea, called Blen (spelled Blien). DG also identifies as being part of the Habesha ethnic group, which describes Roman Orthodox Christians in West Africa. After the war broke out, both of their parents migrated to America.

Context: DG was approached about folklore, which they shared in the middle of the day. They were very enthusiastic about sharing parts of their culture because not many people are aware of Eritrean tradition and culture. They explain some general details about Eritrean weddings, which span for a minimum of three days. The first day is known as the Day of Blessings.

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information):
DG: “The second day is … like the actual thing … they go to church. Umm .. cause we’re all Christian (laughs). And then, at the end of mass, they were like a crown … and like … a cape … like bridal cape … and they walk out of church wearing this. It’s like … more religious thing. They wear that thing and … take photos. This is like … the most American part of the wedding … like the bride is wearing like … a typical American gown.  Uhhh … when the bride … groom … walk in … they don’t have .. like a typical announcement. Like … the men … all the men enter … and the women stand in … like a procession and there’s like … a procession into the venue. Like everybody is standing outside and everybody enters … together. The men begin … then its the groomsmen … then the bridesmaids … then the bride and groom come in, together.  All the women are holding flowers as they … like  enter, so … like that procession … it … ALWAYS happens … like in American weddings I’ve seen they say “ Welcome, Mr. and Mrs.”, but … they never do that. It’s … like somebody always has like a … drum … it’s like a big drum and it goes like (rhythmically taps the desk to make a baaa-dumm baaa-dumm noise), then they sing … like … uhhh “Marshala, Marshala” (in sing-song voice). They always sing that song … it kinda means … like … umm welcome … or something. They sing and they dance, then they sit.  Then the bride and groom eat, and everybody eat.  And then everybody dances to Tigrinya music, the WHOLE time. And then … also … typically… they don’t do this so much anymore, but in a lot of weddings it’s called a gorshaw (spelled gorsha) … in a VERY traditional wedding they do gorshaw, where like … the bride and groom eat … the maid of honor … and the like … ummm … best man, they feed the bride and groom. They don’t touch their food, and that’s like called gorshaw … like …when someone else feeds you … is called gorshaw … cause its like a hand food … so like … they feed them. It doesn’t normally happen on the first day … cause like  … its much more traditional for the second day, cause that’s much more traditional. And then …  when there’s like … cake … in a VERY traditional … like when I see wedding videos from Eritrea … the bride and groom stand up after they eat the cake … and feed all their guests, and their guests feed them. Like that’s a very traditional thing, in the Eritrean culture, everybody is always feeding everybody. The second day it’s called a Melsi (proceeds to spell it M-E-L-S-E) … and like on that day … the majority of that day … the women are getting ready … because they have to get their hair … like braided … in traditional braids. And they also get … like henna. Like traditionally, you’re not supposed to get henna until … you’re like married … so he bride gets it all over their hands and feet … but like … the most someone who is not getting married can get is like a little dot right here (uses index finger to point to the center of their palm) … but like … yeah. They get their hair braided, henna, and like everyone wears sooyahs, which are like … cultural dresses. And that’s like the bridesmaids … and the groomsmen. You can also … I went to a wedding … where we were … like chiffon … it was my cousin’s wedding … and we wore like … chiffon. That’s like … much more fancy than … like a Sooyah. It’s kinda … like another party … with the same procession, but like … the bridesmaids at a certain point … do like a boon ceremony (spelled bun), which … is … like … coffee … and like the bridesmaids .. we  do … like a … dance … we’re supposed to do like a dance around the bride. We … uhh … carry  … like all the materials to make coffee. Everybody … like … dances around the table … and the … like older women make coffee, for like … the bridesmaids and the bride, not for the men. ONLY for the women. It’s like very traditional. Then … yeah … they’re married … and people party … Also people drink a lot of … uh soowah (spelled siwa),  Habesha alcohol.  Typically, someone … like … in the family makes it, before time. And they put it in bottles, and the bottles have … like stickers that have … have photos of the bride and groom. Then we eat ingerat (spelled injera), that’s like a traditional Eritrean dish.”

Analysis: Weddings are often big events. DG explains many of the intricacies involved with Eritrean weddings. The second day, Melsi seems to be the focal point of Eritrean traditions. The subtle variations of the traditions DG mentioned demonstrates the dynamic nature of culture as it relates to nuptial ceremonies. It seems like Eritrean weddings are occasions that involve the whole community in an extremely intimate event. The wedding also emphasizes the various stages of maturation, especially with the Bun and henna.

St. Lucia’s Day Sweden

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (SC).

HS: So you have some particular traditions that you celebrate here in the United States that you got from your Swedish heritage, is that right?

SC: Oh yeah. Lots of stuff that we do and when I tell people they’re like, really? I’ve never heard of this before! So we celebrate Santa Lucia or St. Lucia Day- it’s kind of like a pre-Christmas holiday. It’s a really big thing back in Sweden where my family is from and we’ve kind of carried it on out here. It basically commemorates this girl who died while bringing food to Christians that were trying to escape the Romans. My daughter dresses up in all white to represent the purity of Saint Lucia and there’s a big feast after. Lots of amazing food. You’ve gotta try saffron bread.

Background:

My informant is a co-worker from my job. He is a Relationship Banker, and so we work a lot less closely than my other co-workers on the teller line. Regardless, he is a great guy and we enjoy a little office rivalry- he went to UCLA. Yuck. His parents immigrated to the United States from Sweden, but because he still has a lot of family living there, he visits a lot and in the process has brought back a lot of Swedish traditions to his family here in the United States.

Context:

We had gotten all of the pre-opening work done that we needed to get done, and it just so happened that our Branch Manager brought in some Dunkin Donuts to rally the morale of the troops. And so my co-worker and I sit there, grubbing some glazed donuts, going about the usual surface-level conversation. The typical weekend updates, customer complaints, all the good stuff. I decided to shift the conversation to talk about a tradition that my family and I had done the past weekend and asked if he had any that he did with his family. He was delighted to hear the question and started elaborating immediately.

Thoughts:

It was interesting to learn about this tradition and how important it is in Swedish culture. According to some brief research that I did about the holiday, it is supposed to mark a time of light and happiness in a time of a lot of darkness. A lot of schools end classes early so that families can prepare for the festivities. The aspect of the holiday that I found most intriguing was how it incorporates both pagan and Christian traditions. This has to do with an inherent struggle between light and darkness that Pagan culture elaborates a lot upon, as the geographic location of Sweden leads to long periods of light and darkness instead of the typical day. Scholars have gone as far as to say that St. Lucia is simply the Norse goddess Freya “dressed up” as a Christian saint.

Source of Pagan “dress up” theory:
https://www.norwegianamerican.com/victory-light-winters-dark-gloom/#:~:text=Some%20scholars%20believe%20that%20the,up%E2%80%9D%20as%20a%20Christian%20saint.

Christmas Baby Jesus Cake

Text:

Informant: I know as a kid– I grew up in a fairly predominantly hispanic neighborhood– there was this cake. It’s like this big pastry, and each person gets a slice. One of them has the baby Jesus. It’s supposed to represent Jesus in everything. It’s also supposed to be good luck.  You’re like receiving him into your home, and the good luck that that brings.

Context:

I asked a group of friends if they had any holiday traditions. This was one of their replies. The informant is of hispanic descent.

Thoughts:

I grew up playing this game with my neighborhood at the holiday block party. I had no idea it had a specific connection to being a hispanic tradition.

Christian Dinner Prayer

Main Piece: 

Informant- Dinner prayer: “God bless this food which now we take and do us good for Jesus sake.” 

Interviewer- Do you add or take away things when repeating the prayer?

Informant- I always keep the beginning, but I add specific stuff at the end. Never more than a short phrase

Interviewer- Where did you learn this prayer? 

Informant- My father shared it with me at a young age at church. I think it was a little rhyme on a church prayer cube in the kid’s section. You could roll the cube and read different prayers but we found the one that we like the best and it stuck with us. 

Interviewer- Is your variation of the prayer particularly important to you?

Informant- It reminds me of my family but honestly I just like the prayer because it rhymes (laughing). I really prefer praying with rhymes

Background- The informant feels a connection to this prayer because her parents showed her the rhyme when she was younger and it has become a habit. She remembers and repeats this prayer because she prefers to says prayers that rhyme. This prayer is important to her because it reminds her of her close-knit family dynamic. 

Context- This prayer is performed before at the dinner table before eating. The informant explains that the family members held hands in a circle and one family member repeats the prayer. The informant is an only child with two parents. The family is Christian and worships at a Lutheran Church. They live in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Thoughts: Prayer is a part of religious folklore that allows for much multiplicity and variation. It is interesting how each person speaks and prays to God in their own way. The informant shares that she speaks to god closely through rhyming. This shows how prayers and give thanks for food can vary across families. Christians usually pray before eating the food and mainly at the dinner meal. 

Advent

  • 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.