Tag Archives: Family tradition

Family Jeer


“Every party needs a pooper, and that’s why we invited you.”


This jeer (or insult) is a part of the informant’s family lore. Within his family, this jeer is very well known, because members of the informant’s family often say it to each other to tease each other, implying that the recipient of the jeer is a party pooper. When used in the context of his family lore, the jeer is not actually meant to insult or slight its recipient, but is instead meant as a loving tease shared between loved ones.


While this insult is not yelled in a crowd setting at an opposing team, it is much like others that are very commonly used as teasing insults among loved ones. Another example of an insult of the same nature is when someone holds their hand above their friend’s head and says “This is a brain eater. Do you know what it’s doing? Starving!”

Insults like these are meant to bring families and friends closer together rather than to actually put them down or start an argument. After all, it is unlikely that someone who truly wanted to insult/start an argument with anyone else would actually use one of these insults to do so, as they are much more silly than actually hurtful. Instead, they are used to tease someone in a fun way and spread laughter among a group of people who already have some degree of love between them. This insult is also a very interesting example of our inclination to bond so much through teasing and sarcasm, as I am sure many other families have some version, if not many, of these insults that they share lovingly.


“Jinns are in the Quran and they are creatures made by Allah and they can’t be seen by the human eye. They were created before mankind was created. Unlike ghosts or spirits they are a separate entity, just like cats and dogs and birds and other species, and human beings can’t really see them and they were created from a smokeless flame or something like that, like how God created humans from dust and dirt. When God made Adam, jinns were made before Adam, God asked all the jinns to bow down to Adam and one jinn did not. This jinn refused to bow down to Adam which earned him the wrath of Adam. This jinn became Shaitan, or Satan. There are good and bad jinns though.Growing up in Pakistan it was a very inherent factor of our culture to believe in jinns, my mom was a big believer and my dad was very pragmatic. My mom used to hide it from my dad and go to this shaman or preacher who would read from the Quran to get the bad jinns away from my mom. My mom had a very troubled life and her mother believed it was the jinns causing this trouble so they went to this person. Fast forward many years and my sister was unwell so the religious person came to my house, and my dad had a garden he loved. The garden had this wooden statue, and the woman came over and said that a jinn was in this statue. I was a bit naive, and I went to that statue and threw it out so my sister would be better. It didn’t work though, I just got in a lot of trouble with my dad. They say some people could see them and they could take the shape of different things, like they could be this chair. There was actually a second hand belt I had got somewhere and in my mind I was so convinced it was a jinn. So eventually I drove it outside and I pulled out my zippo lighter and I burned the belt. And I was kind of susceptible at the time, a lot was going on in my life at the time. I’ve become more pragmatic now but there’s a part of me I can’t shake off. I was convinced i got rid of the jinn after burning it. Even if I didn’t really get rid of it, I got rid of one element, one thing that was bothering me, now I can move on. 


J is a 47-year-old woman who grew up in Pakistan until she was in her mid-twenties. Her family is Muslim, though she’s currently no longer actively practices the religion. 


Jinns seem to be a part of the Muslim religion’s sacred creation story, part of the myth of how the earth was created. They were created before man and there is myth surrounding their own creation, they are believed to have existed way before humans and continue to exist in the world. The speaker mentioned how Disney has turned these religious figures into a mythical, magical version of a blue “genie” in a lamp. This is another example of how Disney has taken folklore through tales and myths and turned them into caricature versions of themselves. Because of Disney’s prominence, this is the idea we first get when we think of jinns, even though it’s very far removed from the actual beliefs surrounding jinns. Through her information I can see the connection between the jinn and the genie lamp, because jinns are able to transform into objects. jinns aren’t actually a magical blue creature as Disney has sold us though, they seem akin to angels to me. Islam is an Abrahamic religion, so it has similar roots and stories to Christianity. The story of Shaitan is extremely similar to Satan and the story of Lucifer being cast from heaven and turned into the devil for not bowing to Adam. The speaker then shares her personal experiences with jinns. Her last story highlights the importance of ritual. She says even if there wasn’t really a jinn in the belt, that ritualistic burning helped her move forward and release trouble that was going on in her life. This exemplifies how even when folklore isn’t supported by science, it doesn’t mean that it is false. These rituals and creatures can provide real experiences for people that are very meaningful and impactful. 

Eid Celebration


“We do Ramadan, that’s like fasting sunrise to sunset. After Ramadan there’s Eid, but in my language it’s called Tabaski. Basically you fast for a little bit and you do the same prayer over and over again, to pray for all your sins, it will go on for hours sometimes. And then you sacrifice a lamb, cook it, and eat it. We go to a Muslim halal place and they’ll sacrifice the lamb for us and we’ll get the whole body and cook it. There’s two, the bigger eid is towards the end of the year. It changes every year, but the second eid is bigger, but I don’t remember the reason. It’s a whole party. My brother was born near Eid and so they had three full sized lambs for him and for eid. My grandpa actually breeds his own lamb every year and either kills the baby or the father. The lamb probably represents something, but I don’t really know, it’s just something we’ve always done. Eid is celebrating the end of Ramadan, it might also be some sort of anniversary but I don’t remember.” 


Y is a 19-year-old college student from Denver, Colorado. Her parents were born in Dakar, Senegal, and her siblings lived there for a few years. Her parents speak Wolof, which is from Senegal. She and her family are Muslim, so they practice these holidays every year. She doesn’t really know the whole religious significance of them, but she knows they’re sacred and important. She mainly sees them as important holidays she spends with her family that mean a lot to them as physical representations of their faith and as a tradition their family does together every year.


Eid and Ramadan are important holidays in the Islam religion. Eid specifically is marked with the ritual killing and eating of a lamb, so lamb is a very important food to eat at that time. The second Eid, which she says is called Korité, is a party marked by celebration. Analysis of this piece cannot actually get into the analysis of symbolism of the lamb and what the holidays mean in a religious sense, because the informant is actually a passive bearer of that knowledge. She is an active participant in the holiday and rituals because they are a family practice. Religion is interesting because people can be part of that faith and actively participate in the customs, without actually knowing all the reasoning and religious background for it. I think we may be seeing more of that in young people as religion becomes something that is culturally less important in America. Young people are less expected to be largely invested in religion, as American culture looks to science and reason instead of religion. Of course, religion is still hugely important in shaping America, especially Christian and Abrahamic religions. But in big cities, less and less young people are fully knowledgeable about religion. This doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of faith though. Many people still believe in a God or a higher power, and try to live by that religion’s customs to their best extent without fully dedicating their whole life to religion. Y is an example of a young person who is able to hold on to their identity and faith as a Muslim, without knowing all of the religious specifics. Religious practices for her and many young people have become important because it’s something they do with their family and something their family finds to be very important, not out of absolute dedication to the religion.

The Christmas Pickle: A Christmas Tradition

Original Text:

INFORMANT: “We do it at my own house, like the one that I live at, and then we also do it at my grandparent’s house. At my grandparent’s house, it’s a little bit more of a tradition because we all go there on Christmas day to celebrate. Before everyone arrives, only my dad hides the Christmas pickle in the tree.”

COLLECTOR: “Is it a real pickle?”

INFORMANT: No, it’s an ornament. But its the same ornament we have had forever. Its glass and shiny so it fits in with all the other ornaments. But, before everyone gets there, my grandfather hides it in the tree somewhere and he’s very good at it. And he never tells anyone where it is. And then we all get there on Christmas day, and when we are doing our presents after dinner on Christmas day, he usually announces that the pickle is in the tree and that there will be a prize for the first person to find it. There’s no time limit, but people start looking right away. Sometimes we can find it really fast, and sometimes we can’t. And then usually its my aunt who finds it, but last year I found it and it was a cash prize and snacks. Like 25 bucks. It’s fun, I don’t know.” 

Context: The informant is 19 years old and studies Theater at USC. Her and her family are of mixed European descent, and they have lived in Salem, Virginia for decades. The informant is not religious, but her family is Christian.  She learned the Christmas pickle tradition from her grandparents. She enjoys this tradition because “hiding the pickle and searching for it is childish, but it’s accepted and it gives you the opportunity to have young innocent fun”. She hates that “as you grow up, being a child becomes less and less acceptable”, but the tradition of the pickle is “a way to keep the holiday spirit alive”.

Analysis: The Christmas pickle tradition is rumored to original from Germany, but that theory has been disproven. Although Christmas is a secular holiday for many, the informants family is Christian, and having a fun tradition like the Christmas pickle is a way to bring the family closer together on this holy day. The fact that it takes place in her grandparents house allows for the different generations in the informants family to connect. In the rural town of Salem, Virginia, there isn’t a large mall with a Santa or a Christmas parade in the city to go to every year. Families are more inclined to make special traditions at home to keep the magic alive. The patriarch of the family, the informants grandfather, always has the privilege of hiding the pickle. The practice of searching for a magical object for a prize like the Christmas pickle mirrors other Christian holiday traditions like Easter eggs. 

Funeral Headbands


H is a pre-med Biology major at USC who grew up in Vancouver, Washington. His parents immigrated to the US from Vietnam.


H: “For funerals, you have to visit every day for the first week after the funeral and then once a week for seven weeks. And then, on the hundredth day since the funeral, everybody comes back to the temple. It’s like, the biggest day for them (the dead). You pray for them, wish them well at the temple. The hundredth day is when you have everybody together and you have a big feast. You have these white headbands that you wear and on the hundredth day, they chop off the headband.”


Since H was raised in a Viet-American household, he and his family’s celebration of weddings is similar to an Irish wake funeral, but also adds cultural specificity to Viet customs. For example, it is common in Irish funerals to throw a party on the deceased’s behalf, not only as a celebration of the deceased when they were alive but as a re-engineering of the domineering sorrow of a funeral. H’s feast on the hundredth day pays homage to the one who died without inviting negative emotions into the celebration of the individual.

Funerals are a liminal space, as Von Gennup puts it, lingering between the stages of life and death in a person’s existence on Earth. Rather than using funerals as a chance to mourn, H and Irish funeral traditions connect with members of their community and pray for safety into the next part of existing for the dead. This acceptance of death, the massive respect and commitment to the dead after the funeral, seems cultural, as does the white headbands and time. There is an acceptance of death as time marches on, not a denying of it. Rather, H’s family seems to come to terms that nothing can get in the way of death but glimmers for an appreciation of life and the one the once dead led.