Original Text: “My superstition or ritual I guess for getting good luck is this necklace my mom gave me for college auditions and it’s kind of just like a “crossing your fingers” pendant, like a little hand with crossed fingers for good luck. I rub it or touch it when I need luck. I feel like it has helped me because I got into my dream school, USC, and every time I wear it and touch it, it just feels like I’m getting good luck”
Context: The informant is 18 years old and studies musical theater at USC. Her family is Chinese, but she was raised in Singapore for most of her life. The informant was given this gold necklace with a crossed fingers charm by her mother for good luck during her college auditions. Her parents have “always supported my [her] pursuit of musical theater” and this necklace represents that. She always wears the necklace because it “means a lot” to her. She believes that the crossed fingers themselves amplify the luck already associated with the necklace.
Analysis: The necklace itself is fully gold, which in Chinese culture represents wealth, luck, and happiness. Her mom gifted her this piece of jewelry, which mirrors the common tradition of women gifting and passing down jewelry to each other that contain traditional knowledge, magic, or significance. Perhaps a man would not choose the same gift. The “crossed fingers” symbol that’s featured as a pendant is a common gesture for luck in Western culture and can be used to call on God for protection. Although this gesture is not uniquely Chinese or Singaporean, Singapore’s national language is English and the nation has a strong Western influence — explaining the luckiness of the “crossed fingers” for the informant and her family.
S, 19 was born in China and moved to Canada at a young age. She told me about a way of counting to 10 on a single hand through a series of hand and finger gestures. I took a video of the informant counting to 10 in this fashion.
This method of counting makes it convenient for a person to count using only one hand; it also is a good way of teaching children to count, since each number has its own gesture and it is different from traditional western finger counting (the number of fingers is the number you are on, so you are limited by the number of fingers you have). This method of counting allows a person to reach the number 100 by using both hands. This article further explains this method, as well as how to continue counting past 10: https://www.instructables.com/HOW-TO-COUNT-TO-TEN-ON-ONE-HAND-in-Chinese/
“Don’t make me snap my fingers in a Z formation” *Snap right hand then make a Z shape in air while snapping at each turn*
“Exclamation” *4 snaps vertically downwards at each syllable*
“Booty rotation” *put hands on hips and rotate hips*
*Informant thinks there might have been more but doesn’t recall the rest*
Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):
Informant said she remembers doing this song/dance as a middle schooler with her classmates. They did it for fun, and she remembers the boy in her class who would exaggerate his hip movements. She said there was more at the end of this song but can’t recall it all. She didn’t think of this as folklore but remembers it as a part of growing up.
Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):
It is performed by young elementary to middle school aged children. It might be done during recess or when kids are spending time together for fun.
I knew this dance personally in my elementary school. It’s funny how someone who grew up in LA and another who grew up in Texas know the same song. I don’t know if kids these days still do this dance for fun. Especially because technology has grown, they might not pass down these traditions. This dance seems like a part of my childhood as well as my informant’s, and although I forgot about it, it is interesting that I remembered it when I heard the first verse.
My informant remembers this game from being a kid, primarily in elementary school. The game begins with both players holding out their hands, each hand with only one finger extended, the rest curled into the hand. The players take turns choosing one of the opposing person’s hand to tap with one of their hands. When a hand is tapped, that player must extend an additional numbers of fingers on the hand equal to the number of the hand it was tapped with. So if a player has two fingers extended on his hand and taps the opponent’s hand, which has one finger extended, the opponent must extend two more fingers, leaving his hand with three extended. When a hand reaches exactly five fingers, it’s put away. If it goes over five (ex. it has three fingers and is tapped by a hand with three), the difference between the number it should have and five is how many it ends up with (from the example, it would now have one finger). The objective of the game is get both of your opponent’s hands to be put away. Also, when one of your hands has been put put away, if you have an even number of fingers on the other hand, you can “split.” That means you use your turn to tap your fists together and redistribute the number of fingers on one of your hands between the two evenly.
The reason my informant likes this game and remembers it fondly is because its making fun out of nothing; it doesn’t require any materials besides your hands. And it’s strategic and logical; by thinking it through, you can decide the best move and win by being smarter or more skilled than your opponent. My informant likes games of strategy like that and remembers that after being taught the fingers game at a very young game by peers, he realized his interest in strategy as well as his competitive urge. He eventually moved on to chess, which is still a big part of his life.
The game, to me, is interesting because it represents kids experimenting with things like logic and strategy at an early age. It makes problem solving fun; you have to think a lot to know how to win but then you’re rewarded with respect from your peers if you do.