Tag Archives: feast

Palestinian Ramadan and Eid

Informant Details

  • Gender: Male
  • Occupation: Student
  • Nationality: Palestinian-American

Folklore Genre: Religious Observations and Holidays

  1. Text

The informant explained the customs and traditions of Ramadan, a religious observance in the Islamic faith. Ramadan occurs during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting means that no food, water, or other substances are consumed during this time period. No food molecules or water molecules should pass through your lips. Women who are menstruating, young children, elderly people, and very ill people are not allowed to fast because it may be harmful to them. In lieu of fasting, these people can donate, which is called kaffara. Fasting is meant to remind you of those who are less fortunate and don’t have access to food and water. It also is meant to cleanse your mind. In the evenings, the fast is broken during a meal called Iftar. Typically, this begins by eating a date, which is called tumrah. Iftar is typically a large feast shared by family and friends. Then, before sunrise, a meal called suhoor is eaten to prepare for the day of fasting. Ramadan also involves additional praying. During other months, observant Muslims pray five times a day facing Mecca. For Ramadan, after the last prayer at the mosque, they do another prayer called taraweeh, which consists of either 8 or 20 rak’ats. Additionally, during each day of Ramadan, one book of the Quran is read. By the end of Ramadan, the entire Quran has been read. Ramadan lasts for one month. At the end of Ramadan, there is a holiday called Eid. Eid is a celebration that marks the end of the fasting period. It begins with a prayer in the morning. Then, the day is filled with feasts and visiting family and friends. Typically, older people will give money to younger people as well.

2. Context

The informant participates in these traditions and celebrations in the context of his Muslim faith. He learned these practices during his upbringing by his Palestinian family and his religious community.

3. Analysis

The practice of fasting over the period of a month represents a cultural value of discipline and self-control. Since fasting is meant to put people in the shoes of the less fortunate, it also represents values of empathy and gratitude. There is also a cultural value of promoting health and wellness within the community because vulnerable populations are not allowed to fast. Furthermore, the emphasis on charity reflects the cultural values of generosity and supporting other people. Finally, the community-wide prayers and feasts shared among families and friends suggest a cultural value of community and belonging. 

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. 

Madonna Della Cava Feast

“Growing up in Boston we had a lot of festivals, and a few jump to my mind–there’s an Italian feast that everyone goes to in late August, like in middle of the streets in Boston, and you can get Italian food and listen to live music! It’s great. It’s called the Madonna Della Cava Feast, and my whole neighborhood (the North End) is totally transformed during the festival. I think the festival coincides with one in Pietraperzia, Italy, which is cool because an immigrant community halfway across the world has this intimate thing in common with its roots!”


This conversation was conducted in person at a dining hall, and I transcribed as faithfully as possible our conversation into written form.


This also highlights how festivals can have a cultural element where even in another nation, similar aspects are celebrated. Boston has a significant Italian population, so this isn’t surprising, but it does illustrate how these immigrant/motherland communities might be closer than one may imagine, given that immigration to a new cultural context might induce changes in the way festivals are celebrated.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian American Christmas Eve celebration. J’s family has been celebrating with this feast just for the past few years, and he says it allows them to connect with their culture and ethnic community. In accordance with online descriptions of the grand meal, the “essentially have a dinner party with 7 different fish cooked into the dishes.”

According to Eataly, the tradition was started by Italian immigrants in the U.S. in the early 1900s and while the exact origins/meanings are difficult to trace, “the ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic custom of abstinence from meat and dairy products on the eve of certain holidays, including Christmas. The number seven is rooted back in ancient times and it can be connected to multiple Catholic symbols…” Therefore, like for J’s family, one can presume that both the meals and symbolism present were reminiscent of “home” for early participants in the Feast.

He believes it to be a celebration of abundance and the “being better off” that comes with immigrating to the U.S. as well as a ritualistic acknowledgement by Italian Americans of their cultural history and the sacrifices and hard work of their ancestors.

Boodle Fight


I: Sometimes, when we had a lot of family over for a gathering, we would prepare a boodle fight. My aunt would lay down some banana leaves on the table and the food would just pile on. Rice, seafood, pancit, beef and pork. And there were no dishes, no utensils. You eat with your hands. Just family sharing a meal. Oh, and a lot of napkins.


The informant is 48, and was born and raised in the United States, and whose parents were born and raised in the Philippines. This wasn’t a feast that happened often, but also wasn’t necessarily exclusive to special occasions. Whenever there were many family members in the house, a lot of food was prepared so that everyone would eat. Rather than being a meal that celebrated a certain occasion, it was a time for family members to share a meal while also catching up on each other’s lives.


The “boodle fight”, also known as the kamayan by some Filipinos, refers both to the communal feast and the act of eating with your hands. The term “boodle fight” specifically, comes from American military slang that was used to describe contraband food. According to sources, the kamayan was an indigenous Filipino practice that existed before pre-colonization. Though it was continually practiced through Spanish occupation, it was during American military occupation that the practice was suppressed due to forced conversion of American standards and etiquette. The resurgence of the kamayan in Filipino households, especially those in Filipino-American households, marks a conscience return to Filipino cultural roots, with the tradition being passed down from family member to family member, without the threat of American confirmation or suppression. The commercialized version of the boodle fight, now available as an option in some modern Filipino-American restaurants, continues this tradition and also extends it to people outside the cultural group as a meal shared amongst friends.