Tag Archives: festivals

Festival of the Cow

Context: The subject of this interview was a student at UCSB and conducted many trips abroad while attending the school. 

“And so we were in the last throes of our stay in Kathmandu, Nepal. One day of the four guys that I went the second year as an adult advisor. So I was the advisor and there were four juniors in college with me, four males. One of the guys that was one of our students and I decided we need to see Kathmandu, the main city of Nepal, wake up. We should get up really early and like 330 in the morning one morning and go into the city and see how the city wakes up. See who gets up first, who does what in the city, how do they do it, how do they communicate, and what happens at that hour in the morning. So my friend and myself got up, and as Kathmandu was waking up that day there was a parade developing along the main part of the town. And these are really really old cities, almost medieval cities with temples and its just a gorgeous setting. People were walking through the town playing their instruments and they had animals and they all had a cow. We kept thinking, what is this? And we didn’t necessarily speak much of the language, and the people in Kathmandu didn’t speak much English. We just had to watch what they were doing. They were preparing meals and also doing things near the temples, with it obviously a festival or something. We eventually found out it was the annual festival of the cow, and they would take five or six people to get a cow and walk through the city. In the other direction, four or five other people would take a cow in the other direction. And this was the festival we stumbled upon that morning” 


This piece of folklore is a long running important cultural festival in Nepal. According to Tibet Vista, a tourist site trying to attract people to come to the country, the festival is also known as Gai Jatra and “is one of the most important festivals in Nepal”. The festival takes eight days and “is mainly held by the Newar community in Kathmandu valley to commemorate the dead in the last year”. 

Jigme , Catherine. “Gai Jatra, Gai Puja, Nepal Festival of Cows.” Tibet Travel and Tours – Tibet Vista, 19 Nov. 2019, https://www.tibettravel.org/nepal-festival/gai-jatra.html. 

Loi Krathong/Loy Kratong

“Ok this one’s a festival–there’s–it’s called

Thai: ลอยกระทง
Phonetic: Loi Krathong
Transliteration: River Goddess Worship Festival
Translation: Loy Kratong

and it’s like a water festival. You make–how do I describe it in English? You make a float. The word in Thai is

Phonetic: Krathong
Transliteration: Float
Translation: Float

it just means like the float or whatever. It’s kind of like a lantern festival. But yeah, that occurs. Why? It’s like semi-religious, but also Thai people just celebrate it in general, for like, the rainy season. Like the end, the end of the rain. There’s like normal festivities for celebrations, like dance and food, but like the main activity is thanking the water goddess, a water goddess for like the entire season that came before. People also use it for like, good vibes. Where it’s like sending a wish or sending a prayer. You’d make it for someone else; like, ‘oh like for my family to be safe,’ and then you’d send it down the river. When I used to go to temple a lot, like, when I was younger when you would have like the festival everyone does it in like one small pond–cause the temple only has one small pond–and it’s really fun when the pond like fills up and like everyone’s wish is like together. Oh, you also–a big part of it is also making the float, to begin with, which is like made traditionally from like banana leaves. But in America, we make–well, no, not in America–but in the modern age, we use styrofoam, which is the funniest thing to me because the most environmentally damaging thing that you could do is to make it using styrofoam. But you have the plant styrofoam and you put like fake flowers in it if you don’t have like the real thing and then you take like three yellow candles and you put them in it and like make your wish on it.”


Informant (WP) is a student aged 19 from Chino Hills, California. Her parents are from Thailand and Laos. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview in the informant’s apartment. She learned this from family and from going to the temple. To her, it is a way to give gratitude for what a person has and to ask for more.

This festival is very similar to lantern festivals that are prevalent throughout East and Southeast Asia. It is very interesting to see how the festival has changed in the modern era with Thai people being unable to obtain banana leaves in parts of the world and instead resorting to styrofoam. Historically, agriculture has been incredibly important in Thailand. A festival based around thanking a type of water goddess at the end of the rainy season, while also asking for more rain in the future, makes perfect sense for this culture. Add in the variation on lanterns, being floats, and Thailand has a festival that is both related to other Southeast Asian festivals and uniquely Thai.

Mooncake Lady: Chang’e

The interlocutor (ZG) is a high school friend of the interviewer. She and her twin sister grew up in a Chinese-American household in Los Angeles.

DESCRIPTION: (told over call)
(ZG): “I don’t know if this is what you want but there’s this mooncake woman story my mom used to tell me and my sister of her and her husband! Did she tell you this already?…Mm, okay. 

So basically, there’s this Chinese moon goddess named Chang’e, right? And she’s supposed to be really pretty, with like, long black hair, y’know? Anyway, my mom told us about how Chang’e was this woman who was kinda in love with this human guy named Houyi. Houyi’s, like, an archer, by the way, and he’s supposed to be, like, the best archer. So basically it’s about this husband and wife? And the husband, Houyi, did something courageous and legendary and was given a potion of immortality for it, I guess? And then he gave it to his wife, Chang’e, to hang on to it while he went out to go hunting or fight somewhere, and she was alone in the house. But then this OTHER guy came to steal the potion from her. I think his name was like… Fengmeng? But I could be wrong. So like, instead of giving it to him, she drank it, which caused her to become immortal. And then because she was now immortal, she floated up to the moon and became the moon goddess.

So now there’s a Chinese celebration or festival that kind of honors her, I think? And mooncakes are also kind of in her honor too! The salted duck yolk, yum, being like a little yellow moon of course!”

(ZG): “My mom grew up in Hong Kong, which is where she learned this story from her parents and from celebrating the Moon Festival. She moved to the U.S. when she was, like, 10 or something, I don’t really know. I don’t really remember when she first told this story to [my sister] and I… we’ve kinda just known it forever, I guess.”

As someone who grew up in two cultures with heavy folkloric traditions, I got the gist of what it’s like celebrating a tradition or a festival based off a myth. It’s really interesting to hear the different ways folklore can weave itself into a culture and pass itself down from generation to generation, withstanding elements such as migration to a different country or community as well as the test of time.


The Rodeo Queen


The interviewee is one of my housemates and we often engage in conversation about our different hometowns. This folklore about a festival comes from a dinner where the house was sharing various stories from our childhood.



The following is transcribed from the story told by the interviewee.

“In my hometown, we had a frolic and rodeo. There were lasso cows and ride bucking broncos and barrel racing. And at the Rodeo, they would select a Rodeo Queen that will represent the rodeo until the next year. And there is always a parade right before the rodeo of all the log trucks in my hometown that would drive down the main street. And you get to eat carnival food and do the classic carnival things”



Carnivals are fairly common around America. What I found unique about his story were the log trucks that were paraded around. This is very specific to his hometown of Philomath where logging is the main source of income for the people that live there. Putting log trucks on display and parading them around shows how the people recognize the importance of that industry and how they celebrate it. It is meant to reinforce and instill a sense of pride in people of the industry that their town relies on. While it can seem like a festival about fun and games, it is very much about building a spirit of community and getting everyone to gather around a single and common idea. To have a Rodeo Queen is an example of creating a symbol is which people can rally around. And while America is clearly not a monarchy anymore, the concept of it is used in order to build a sense of hometown belonging.

Farsang & Busójárás

Main Text: 

Farsang & Busójárás 

Background on Informant: 

My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage. 


They explain: 

“Growing up in the Szekely tradition, my culture was mixed between Hungarian and Romanian, but the Hungarian customs were what my parents practiced over Romanian. 

One of the best events we celebrated was ‘Farsang’ which is kind of like a Hungarian Halloween. It starts at the beginning of January, I think the day of the Vizkereszt (Epiphany) and it ends before Easter. 

The whole event is basically like a carnival with costumes (which looking back some of the costumes we had were so funny, my parents always tried to save money so they would send us out as little clowns). There was also a parade they would hold for the children, where we would gather and winners were chosen. I won one year which was fun and I got a small cake as a reward. Speaking of eating my favorite carnival treat was the farsangi fank which are basically little fried donuts covered in powered sugar. 

It definitely is very heavily influenced from Christian traditions, but it never felt religious. It was a very fun period where we were saying goodbye to winter and welcoming in the new spring weather. 

Towards the end of Farsang, there was this celebration called the Busójárás, which lasted for six days in the town of Mohács. Men would dress up in these scary masks and ‘take over the town’ and chase people. 

The origins go something like, during the Ottoman occupation, the people were forced to flee the town and hide, and then one night after taking the advice of an elder (a šokac man), they returned to the town in scary masks, and scared the Turks away because they resembled demons. This is why the masks are so scary looking, but today instead of scaring away invaders, they symbolically ‘scare’ away the winter. 

It definitely has a lot of folk culture involved from the masks, to music, dancing, and a lot of drinking. 

Then after all of it is over, the Easter season begins and it much more conservative than Farsang, but nonetheless it was a wonderful chlildhood experience we got to see every year because my parents would take us to Mohács whenever it was held. 

They still do it today which is great and now with technology it’s very fun to see how people are still practicing the traditions of these events and the cultural influence.” 


Growing up my mom would tell me brief stories about Farsang and some childhood pictures but I never really knew that much about the festival. This interview was definitely enlightening and I learned so much. I think it’s incredible how they have their own ‘Halloween’ which honestly probably predates it so technically we celebrate an American ‘Farsang’. I loved hearing about my interviewers experience and wishing that I could have my own Farsang stories. 

I had definitely never heard of the Busójárás and after watching videos and learning about the Turkish history behind it, I found it so interesting and fun. I love how even after all that time this tradition is still practiced and continues on. I love how much these people have embraced their cultural identities and how folklore has played a major role in preserving their histories. I think the importance of these events are meant to showcase the Hungarian pride in reminiscing about their past and to reconnect with the traditions of their heritage. It was fascinating to learn about Farsang and the Busójárás and again the constant influence of religion in most of their practices. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this piece of Hungarian history. 


For visual reference: