Tag Archives: christmas

Muslim tradition : Eid

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Performance Date: 9 April 2024

Tags: Muslim, Islam, Christmas, Ramadan, family, festival


Eid can be seen as an “Islamic Christmas”, a time where one can spend time with family and friends to celebrate the end of Ramadan and such. It’s actually tomorrow (April 10 as of this recording) but it usually lasts 3 days minimum, with people celebrating as long as they want or need to for about a week or two. It’s based on the Lunar calendar. People often go to each other’s houses, celebrating with prayer and joy, and the holiday is very familial in nature. Since it starts right as Ramadan ends, the goal is to break one’s fast every day, starting by eating a date, due to the belief that the prophet Mohammed also broke his own fast with a date. The phrase for this festival is “Eid Mubarak”, which approximately translates to “Happy Eid”, simply.


J is a student studying ANTH 333 in the University of Southern California. She regularly participates in Muslim traditions and cultural activities with her friends and family.


The comparison between Eid and Christmas is pretty interesting, as while both festivals/celebratory periods have virtually nothing to do with each other, the activities and festivities held in each are similar enough to where a comparison can be drawn. It’s evident to see through Eid and various other religion-based festivals that spending time with family to eat and have fun together is a universal experience that goes beyond location or religion-based culture.

A Friend’s Family Tradition: Christmas Pajamas


Informant K is a 20 year old USC student majoring in Narrative Studies. She is from the Seattle area in Washington state. K was born in Boston, MA, moved to San Francisco, CA, and then to Seattle at age 3. Her extended family is from parts of Canada and, though her immediate family is not religious, K’s grandmother is Christian. K is a sophomore and has been living in LA for 2 years.

We exchanged folklore as a group during a designated time in our discussion section. We went around in a circle, and this was one of my friend’s stories.


K: “Mine is also a Christmas tradition. I don’t know if this started with, like, earlier back or if this was a ‘my parents’ kind of introduction or invention but we do Christmas pajamas. So every year on Christmas – on Christmas Eve – we get to open one present. And that is our Christmas pajamas. And it always starts with my mom being like ‘Go look under the tree!’ like ‘Go look for your pajamas!’ And so they’re usually not – I mean sometimes they’re set out? When we were younger it was more like we got to root through the presents under the tree and find our Christmas pajamas and the tag always says, like, ‘Happy Christmas Eve! Love Mom and Dad.’ And then we open them and they usually have a fun little pattern on them, like sometimes they’re candy canes. The ones I got last year were a little less christmassy it was more just animals in a Wintery forest. And my sister and I – we used to get like strictly matching ones, now we get more like coordinating ones. I think as we’ve gotten older, my mom was like, ‘Okay, I’ll give them a little bit more… like I’ll tailor this a little bit more to their personal styles.’ And then we have to go upstairs and we have to try them on and we do like a little mini fashion show for our parents and she’s like ‘Oh, yeah! Those look nice!’ And then we take a picture, usually in front of the tree and you have to go to bed wearing your Christmas pajamas. I don’t think that’s a hard and fast rule but, like, I would never take off my Christmas pajamas ‘cause that would feel like an insult to my parents, and also it just makes it fun and festive.”

A friend, also in the circle: “Is Christmas pajamas just you and your sister or do all of your… do your parents also get…?”

K: “I don’t think my parents get pajamas. I don’t remember if they did at one point but from what I can remember now it’s just me and my sister.”


What K is explaining is a clear tradition – something contemporary that is done each year. I find it intriguing to discuss costumes or outfits as tradition, because wearing them is inherently a kind of performance. K also mentions ‘showing off’ the pajamas to her mother in smaller ‘fashion show’ performances. Her tradition is observable and fits the general description of one, yet it’s debatable in its references to the past or source material, as K doesn’t actually know the origin. It’s also worth noting that K takes this tradition very seriously – she wouldn’t dream of changing out of the pajamas. As far as I can tell, K’s tradition seems rooted in Americana. Matching pajama sets date back to the age of the nuclear family, so it’s fitting that this is a sibling tradition for the informant. Wearing matching clothes for holidays specifically is common, but I would argue that doing so for a Westernized version of Christmas is a way of creating tradition for an originally religious holiday when the participant isn’t actively religious. It’s a conspicuous example of that which is popular in an immigration-heavy society like the United States. To create a tradition is to strengthen identity, because those who participate in tradition are then considered part of an in-group.

Christmas Raviolis


“At Christmas, we make homemade raviolis. When I was growing up, my grandmother [made homemade raviolis] most of the time, and then when you kids were younger, Nonni (the informant’s mother) did it a number of years, and now we do it.”

Minor Genre: 

Holiday Ritual; Food Traditions


“My dad has a funny story about the first time he had dinner with my mom’s Italian family. In the Italian meals, they would serve raviolis almost as an appetizer. My dad filled up on the raviolis and then there were still like four more courses of dinner to come.

“I never made [the raviolis], I just ate them. My grandmother made them and I didn’t really pitch in as a kid. It wasn’t until Nonni started making them with you kids that I helped. We would have raviolis throughout the year but really the ritual of making them was saved for Christmas.”


I have memories of making raviolis with my grandmother, Nonni, every Christmas growing up. It was a process that involved the whole family: we first made the pasta dough using an old recipe from the informant’s grandmother (my great-grandmother); then we rolled out the pasta into thin strips using a pasta-roller attachment to the kitchen table; then we used ravioli dishes to place the dough, add in the filling, and press the food into ravioli shapes.

Ravioli originated in Italy and is a type of pasta dish containing filling typically composed of meat or cheese. Nonni’s side of the family immigrated from Italy from the regions of Tuscany and Campania. Although the filling of our family’s ravioli is likely an Americanized version of the Italian original, we reference an old hand-written recipe for the pasta that could reasonably be believed to have been brought over by Nonni’s Italian ancestors.

The ritual of making raviolis each Christmas is a way to honor our family’s Italian heritage while simultaneously engaging in a community-building activity that will ultimately be enjoyed by every member of the family at dinner.

Christmas Ornament Ritual

K: “Okay, so during, um, Christmas time, whenever my family puts all the ornaments up on our Christmas tree, or like, we decorate the Christmas tree, we have two ornaments that we always put on in a specific order. So we have the pickle ornament, which goes on second to last, and then we have this little clip-on, like, cardinal ornament, and we always put that on our Christmas tree last.”

Me: “Is this something that your parents explicitly taught you, or did you kind of come up with it as a family, like it formed organically?”

Kae: “I can’t really remember, but every time that we do it, like, nowadays, they’re always like ‘remember! Don’t put the pickle on the tree or the cardinal on the tree because they go on last!’ So I guess they kind of remind us.”

K is a current student at the University of Southern California. They spent most of their childhood in Chicago, Illinois before their family moved to North Carolina, where they currently live when not in school. K stated that they believe the tradition started with their immediate family and has been going on for over a decade. K said they felt it was for fun, but that the ornaments were ‘special’ to them and their family. When asked to elaborate, K explained that the cardinal ornament in particular was something that their parents had bought and that belonged to their parents, which attributed it a special quality for them. As for the pickle, K explained how they had heard that “sometimes people put a pickle in the Christmas tree. Which is where the pickle ornament might come from.” K did not indicate that the pickle ornament had any specific significance to their family outside of it being part of their tradition. They also did not indicate why the pickle or cardinal were placed on the tree in their given order, but noted that doing so gave a definitive sense of the tree being completed.

As K suggested, this seems to be a seasonal ritual that indicates the official ‘closing’ or end of the decoration of the Christmas tree. By using the same, specific set of ornaments each time, K’s family all receive a clear visual signal that their decorating ritual is complete. That the cardinal ornament — the last ornament to go on the tree — is an ornament that seems to hold special sentimental value to K’s parents helps to further underscore themes of family and togetherness that typically characterize the Christmas season. It is also interesting to note that, according to K, the representation of the pickle may stem from another set of folk practices that have now been incorporated into a different context, showing the adaptability and evolution of folklore.

Christmas Ornament Tradition

Nationality: American
Primary language: English
Age: 18-22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA


Before Christmas every year, each person in EB’s immediate family buys an ornament that represents their year. For example, when she graduated high school, her ornament was a graduation cap. There was one year where she played soccer all year, so she got a soccer themed ornament. After EB and her family decorate the Christmas tree, they all get their new ornaments and hang them together as a family.


EB isn’t sure when her family started this tradition, but knows her parents have a wedding ornament to represent the year they got married. She thinks this might be the start of it, but it’s possible that her mom did this with her family before that. EB believes that the ornaments represent the passage of time. The tradition makes her happy and maybe a little nostalgic, especially when she looks at ornaments from when she was young (simpler times). EB thinks that having all the ornaments on the tree together seems to represent their collective experience as a family and what they’ve gone through together. It’s a tree that celebrates accomplishments and what they’ve done with their lives so far. Doing this together shows that they go through life together as a family and are celebrating each other’s accomplishments.


I support EB’s analysis of her family’s tradition, especially in regards to the passage of time. “Rites of passage” and change are important in all communities, and one extremely common instance of this is the transition into a new year. Christmas is the last major holiday for families to come together before New Year’s Eve, and as such, it offers up an opportunity for reflection on the year. Boiling all of one’s experiences down into a single object–in this case an ornament–can help people quantify their experiences, understand them, and represent them. For example, in our in-class exercise where everyone brought a tourist object, many people expressed the object’s importance in terms of how it reminded them of a happy trip/experience. In the same way, EB’s family’s ornaments serve this purpose, but instead of reminding them of one trip, they remind them of a whole year! Furthermore, as EB mentioned, this exercise brings them together as a family unit. They’re all living their own years, but they can come together and celebrate them as a whole by partaking in this tradition together. This reemphasizes the importance of their folk group (a family unit) while still celebrating individual experience and change.