Tag Archives: festivals

Russian Holiday: Ivan Kupala

Иван Купала

Transliteration: Ivan Kupala

Description: This is a traditional slavic holiday. It is the celebration of the summer solstice when nights are the shortest (around June-July) although, every year is different. It is an incorporation of a number of pagan rituals. On the eve of Ivan kupala there are ceremonies conducted which symbolize elements such as fire, grass, and water. They jump over fire, circle dances around fire, swim in rivers, use grass to weave wreaths, and fortune telling. They believe that on the eve of Ivan Kupala, by swimming in the river the water will have some healing properties. On the night of Ivan Kupala people shouldn’t sleep because the evil spirits are awakened.

Background Information: A Slavic festival celebrated in parts of Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

Context: The informant told me about this festival through a video call. She told me this after I asked her about Russian festivals/holidays.

Thoughts: I believe this holiday was made a long time ago as a way to make sure that there was no evil spirits and that the rest of the year would be prosperous and fruitful. I think now it is celebrated as a way to respect old traditions and ways of living and to never forget your culture.

For another version see:

Tuite, Kevin. “Lightning, Sacrifice, and Possession in the Traditional Religions of the Caucasus” in Anthropos, 481-497. Bd. 99, H. 2, 2004.

Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40466394

The Day of the Dead

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between informant and interviewer. 

Informant: The day of the dead for example. This one is very popular throughout Latin America too. And it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor… everyone celebrates November 1st and 2nd. There are festivals in the streets and everyone buys those skulls that your mom has as decorations. Some make them and paint them. And they’re very colorful. You can paint them any color you want and add a bunch to it so it looks nice. 

Interviewer: Do you make them or buy them? Or how do you celebrate it? 

Informant: We set pictures of them. We prepare their favorite foods and drinks. We get openwork paper and we adorn with sugar skulls and tequila… every family sets at least one bottle. Umm. bread too. Candles and wine and there. And that’s set before the 1st. And it’s there the 1st and 2nd. And on the 3rd day you don’t throw it.

Interviewer: Do you eat it? 

Informant: Yes, it basically means that your dead are sharing their food with you so you can eat. 

Background: My grandpa was my informant. He was born and raised in Guadalajara and did not travel to the U.S. until a couple years ago. He has lived in Mexico for about 70 years so he knows of a lot of Mexican traditions. He has been celebrating this one every year from as far as he can remember and that it’s a special day for him because he is able to feel the presence of his dead. 

Context: This conversation was held on the patio. I was playing basketball and I came to sit down and rest and my grandpa had been watching me and I asked him about a big tradition he does. I’m really close to him so it was easy to ask him for more information about a tradition or festival he celebrates for part of my collection project. He was very happy to help. 

Thoughts: I personally haven’t celebrated it but I know it’s a big tradition across hispanic cultures. Even in my family my grandparents are big on it and my mom to a lesser extent too. They make very good food and drinks and have a very nice and colorful set up these two days. They never talk to the spirits but it’s a way for them to remember their dead and welcome them for a family dinner again. Some people might think it’s spooky but it’s not. The dead are not mourned but actually celebrated. 

Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

Transcribed from my friend telling me about an event from his childhood memories. 

There is a festival that happens in Vietnam in the autumn, or mid-fall. It goes according to the lunar calendar, it is on the 15th day of the 8th month, which is usually somewhere between september and october according to the western gregorian calendar. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty lit. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, it has the mooncakes and the fun red lanterns. It seems to mean something different for many people, but what i have always gleaned from it and what my family and surrounding area focused on was the simplicity of it. A lot of people are poor, so these lanterns are made out of paper and it is just a fun thing for kids to run around and play with. It was never a super fancy thing, but the moon cakes are great. As kids we would literally just run around with our friends and our lanterns. Sometimes you could use this as an opportunity to flex on the people around you by bringing a cooler or more complex lantern than your friends. People could make lanterns there. There was this giant dragon that people would get inside of and dance in. It was just a really lovely time to be a kid and hang out and families were all cool with each other for the most part then and outside things didn’t matter, just the quality time with the people around you. 

Background:

The informant grew up in south Vietnam. While he hasn’t been back to Vietnam since he moved here for school nine years ago, he still has found memories of moments like this. He really appreciates the more family-focused and genuine interactions the culture there can promote versus the often isolationist  and heavily commercialized culture he experiences in the states. 

Context: 

I asked my friend about his favorite memories growing up at home. We were just eating dinner before quarantine was in place in Los Angeles and reminiscing about our childhood and simpler times in the world. 

My thoughts: 

Growing up in Southern California in the U.S. I often feel I did not necessarily get wholesome family experiences as they are not as attainable in the culture here. The closest thing I can think of would be going to Disneyland with my family, but that was more or less a financial burden on my parents for my sibling and I to have fun. Nothing ever really joy filled for us all to come together and just vibe, outside of maybe 4th of July. 

Rave kandies and the process of trading them at festivals

Main Piece 

Informant: The motto and the handshake of the community, and the code we live by is PLUR. It stands for Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. It means you’re peaceful, and not there to start shit. We gotta spread love, we gotta spread unity because we are all vibing together. Then there is respect, because you have to respect everyone there and the land where the concert is because we don’t want to leave trash around. 

One of the things that ravers do to express themselves are Kandies. They are bracelets made of elastic string and beads, they are really easy to make and people usually make them themselves, and then some people get really advanced. You can trade kandi with people, when you meet them usually you trade kandies when you are about to leave and there is a whole handshake for the trade. 

Interviewer: What is the handshake like?

Informant: First it is peace so you hold out a peace sign and touch both fingertips. And then you do love, so you make half of a heart with your hand and join it to theirs. So when they’re together they make one big heart. And then you do unity where you grab each other’s hands, like interlocking fingers. And then on respect, you trade the kandies and transfer it from your wrist to theirs while your hand is still interlocked. 

Interviewer: What are kandies usually made out of?

Informant: The kandies are usually handmade, they are made of beads. sometimes they spell out different artists, different DJs, different sayings. It is kinda like the pins at Disneyland, people are always looking to trade kandies with each other to collect memories of different times. 

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

One day while we were at our house I noticed that he had on a whole sleeve full of what looked like friendship bracelets, and when I asked him what they were for he explained that they were kandies for a rave he was attending that night. After he was willing to interview, I asked him about the bracelets and the customs of raves. 

Analysis

I think these folk objects are a very inexpensive and easy way to make and a great way for ravers to identify with one another when they are in crowds at large festivals. I think the practice of trading kandies and the handshake that goes along with it symbolize folk greetings at these festivals, and provide a sense of unity and togetherness. As the informant mentioned, it is also a way for people to remember certain festivals or raves that they attend. 

Kandi in the Rave Community

The following is a retelling of a performative event experienced by the informant: 

Informant: 

“ In the rave culture, that is the community and happenings surrounding EDM (electronic dance music) there are a lot of things that everyone in the community partakes in together as acts to show unity and respect. Actually, there is a term P.L.U.R., this stands for Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. There are these bead bracelets that are worn called “Kandi” and people make all kinds of kandi, some are really simply and just a single strand of beads and some are very intricate and are even 3-D. Ravers have these kandi to trade with people at shows that they have moments with – like they dance together for a song or a set and have fun, one person lends someone something etc and then at the end of a moment they will exchange these bracelets with a handshake that emulates “P.L.U.R.” . For Peace they both make a peace sign, like a “v” with their index and middle finger, touch the finger tips together and from that they keep their hands pressed against each other and make the shape of a heart for “love” with each person making one side of the heart. For unity they move their hands so they are flat against each other’s, palm to palm like a prayer position, then they interlock their fingers on respect and while their hands are interlocked one of them pulls a bracelet from their wrist over their interlocked hands and then to the other person’s wrist and the other person with reciprocate. It’s a fun way to remember wholesome moments with strangers, and a lot of times people will keep their favorite Kandis and only trade them with people who mean a lot to them.” 

Background: 

The informant refers to himself as a raver and has partook in the giving and receiving of kandi. He says it is sometimes a really lovely moment and is one of his favorite things about going to EDM festivals. He says he often makes Kandi for people he is going to raves with, and then if he is with that friend at a set for a Dj they both love, he will trade the person a specialized kandi and it is always a really special moment for both of them as the other person has often also made a special kandi for the moment. 

Context: 

The informant is a friend of mine and I was asking him questions about why he likes raving so much. He then brought me a kandi and he taught me the handshake.

My thoughts: 

I think this is a really wholesome way to share and remember events with strangers. Not only is it a performative moment that can serve as an initiation into the in-group since it’s a big deal to receive your first kandi.