Tag Archives: clothing

Family Baptismal Gown – Family Ritual

The family of the informant has used the same baptismal gown for many generations. At least one child in each section of the family wore the gown while being baptized, and many times in the same church. This gown was said to be made from fine linen cloth brought straight from Ireland. The informant wore the gown and their sibling also did, but their cousin on their mother’s side (the side of gown tradition) wore their mother’s. However, the informant said there is now much question in the family as over one hundred people have worn it, but it is currently missing. The informant said that this gown held importance to much of the family to carry on wearing the traditional gown, but now there is discussion of making another one since the first is gone.

Context – Many families will often have a garment or cultural object that holds meaning among the family or a common group. For the informant in this story, the baptism gown is that object and became a symbol of family heritage and carried meaning from generation to generation. This crosses over into the realm of folklore due to the mass of the shared ritual and the commonality that each family may have similar garments or rituals.

Analysis – For those who have a cultural object carrying meaning among a family, there is much symbolic meaning and weight carried by the object. The object no longer is seen as a simple piece of cloth to be worn, but rather a symbol of generational wealth, prosperity, and heritage. In families such as the informant, there is a question created as to where clothing/objects begin carrying weight, and where does the meaning begin collecting deep folklore and meaning among a shared group — it is unclear and decided family by family case whether the object can be replaced or changed at all (such as in this informants family).  

Food and Clothing Traditions for Chinese Lunar New Year

Informant Details

  1. Gender: Female
  2. Occupation: Student
  3. Nationality: Chinese-American

Folklore Genre: Holiday Rituals and Superstitions, Calendar Year

  1. Text

The informant explained some traditions and superstitions associated with the Chinese Lunar New Year. During the Lunar New Year, it is traditional to place oranges around different rooms in your house for good luck and prosperity. On New Year’s Eve, you eat a vegetarian diet so that you don’t bring bad energy from hurting other forms of life going into the new year. On New Year’s Day, there is a big feast with a lot of specific lucky dishes. It is best to eat as a family because this brings good fortune and togetherness, but it isn’t considered bad luck if you are eating alone. During this feast, you have to eat some of each dish to ensure you are lucky in all parts of your life. Noodles are eaten to represent longevity. It is bad luck to cut these noodles because this implies that you will shorten your life. Chicken is eaten to ‘fly’ into a year of good fortune, fish is eaten for prosperity and good luck, and green vegetables are eaten for financial wealth and good fortune. Similarly, you are meant to wear colors that represent certain aspects of your life. Wearing red brings good luck, wearing green brings wealth, wearing gold brings success, and wearing yellow brings good health. You can wear more than one color to cover all these areas of life. It is considered very bad luck to wear black on New Year’s Day because this color represents death. The superstition is that if you wear black, you or someone in your life will die. 

2. Context

These traditions and superstitions are done during the Lunar New Year, which usually occurs around the end of January. The informant learned these rituals from her mother and grandmother. Her mother is Chinese-American and her grandmother is Chinese.

3. Analysis

Cultural values are reflected in the specific areas of life represented through the dishes and colors. Many of the traditions are meant to bring financial prosperity. This suggests that striving for wealth is viewed as admirable in this culture and wealth is viewed positively. Health and longevity are also highly prioritized. This suggests that growing old is seen as a blessing in this culture. Additionally, togetherness is valued, which indicates that family relationships are a priority. Overall, these rituals focus on bringing blessings into the new year, instead of reflecting on the past year, which suggests that this culture has a future-oriented viewpoint. These rituals also connect to the idea of homeopathic magic because you are meant to eat and wear things that symbolize the future you want. 

No Hats On The Bed

“My dad believed it was bad luck to leave a hat on the bed. He thought it would bring death to the family.”

Background: The informant’s father, who comes from Western Pennsylvania, told her this superstition when she was a child and would always remind her, when she did leave a hat on the bed, to put the hat elsewhere. She believes it has something to do with hat pins that people used to use to keep hats on their heads. So if they were to put a hat on a bed with the hat pins still on and then accidentally laid on it, it would cause harm. The informant says that she still practices this in her own household. 

Analysis: This superstition could have many different origin points for many different reasons. Hat pins are likely because laying down on one may lead to harm. Though there are a multitude of reasons for this superstition. There are beliefs that evil spirits spill from the hat when placed on a bed leading to your misfortune. A more common and far less superstitious reason for not placing a hat on the bed is the possibility of transferring lice to or from your bed. That being said, there are many superstitions that are passed down from previous generations that many don’t have a reason to believe in, but still choose to practice and pass down to their children. Many superstitions these days don’t have long explanations and we still follow them out of tradition and out of habit, whether we believe in the negative or positive result of the superstitions.

Brazilian New Year’s Tradition


This is a description of the Brazilian New Year’s tradition, specifically that of northeast Brazil. The informant is a third-generation Brazilian American, although she has spent a considerable amount of time living in northeast Brazil–specifically the state of Bahia–and is fluent in Portuguese. The informant describes the rituals and traditions common for New Year’s Eve and Day in northeast Brazil. She is careful to note that the traditions come from the traditional Brazilian religion espiritismo, which is a syncretic mix of African religions and Catholicism. She is not an adherent of espiritismo, but she states that the tradition is widespread in Brazil, even for those not following the religion.


MM: Um, so on New Year’s Eve, you typically wear a color that signifies what kind, what you want to bring into the new year. So the most traditional one is white. People want a peaceful new year, that’s white. Um, but the other most popular colors that people wear are yellow to signify wealth and prosperity in the new year. And red to signify passion and love and romance and sex in the new year.

MM: Um, and then on New Year’s Day, there’s a tradition in the northeast of Brazil, Bahia, to go to the ocean and, um, give, put white flowers on the water, um, as an offering for the new year for Iemanjá, who is the goddess of the sea and the most powerful, uh, deity in Brazilian spiritism.


As is clear from the informant’s description of the tradition, while there are clear connections to espiritismo, it is not necessary to adhere to the religion to be influenced by it in Brazil. The informant knows that the deity is Iemanjá who controls the sea, but the deity is described from a secular perspective rather than a religious one. That an expat can experience this tradition is indicative of its pervasiveness in Brazil and espiritismo’s entrenchment in Brazilian culture.

The colors are significant here, too, and point to cultural perceptions of color in Brazil. Red, for example, is associated with passion and sex, suggesting a connection with fertility, menstruation, and blood. The three mentioned are common color associations in European culture, but given the syncretic nature of espiritismo, the associations very well could have originated in Africa.

Iemanjá being the primary deity in espiritismo might allude to the importance of the ocean during the colonial period, especially given that such a massive proportion of the Transatlantic Slave Trade ended up landing in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The treacherous journey across the ocean might be one influence, and the fact that Brazilian colonies largely existed along the coast might be another.

Šokių Šventė, Traditional Dance Clothing

Main Text

GD: “Šokių Šventė is the International Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival that happens once every four years, and what it is, it’s a folk celebration. So everyone dresses up in their tautiniais drabuziais which is their traditional clothing and does their hair, does their makeup. So everything is made out of wool and linen, the women traditionally wore like long skirts with aprons, obviously not floor-length as you have to go work, shirts with poofy sleeves which often had red embroidery around the wrist and a vest that matches the skirt. There are a lot of patterns in Lithuanian culture, in terms of vest and the skirt, and they would mainly distinguish where you are from.”


D is a 19 year old Lithuanian-American second year student at USC studying Theatre and Classics. Her mother was born in Lithuania and moved to a Lithuanian community in New Jersey, where GD attended Lithuanian school and church. She is excited to attend Šokių Šventė for the very first time as it is being hosted in Philadelphia this year.


This traditional clothing was once everyday wear for people living in Lithuania, but has now been relegated to special wear for high profile cultural events like Šokių Šventė. It is also worn at weddings and other folk celebrations.

Interviewer Analysis

JThe phenomenon of once widespread folk dances being raised up as a symbol of a culture and then relegated only to manufactured displays of “Folk Culture” is a very common occurrence. Dance trends change, especially in our modern and more global times. Taking a cultural snapshot of dance and placing it into a category of folk importance may ensure that the dance lives on, but not that it will continue being the preferred style by the people. This has happened not only with the dances performed at Šokių Šventė, but also the clothing worn to the festival.