Tag Archives: Folk Tradition

Undie Run-UCLA Folk Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nigerian American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/27/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo

Context: This is a folk tradition that occurs at UCLA during finals week as a means of blowing off steam, my brother learned this tradition as a freshman and gave his opinions on the tradition and its value.

K: So ya….uh. Undie Run is basically a quarterly tradition at UCLA in which the Wednesday of finals week, where….uh at…I wanna say starting at midnight….ya right at midnight. 

Basically, everybody that’s capable….comes to…um…under the bridge…across from UCLA. 

It’s a certain start point at UCLA that everybody gets to in their underwear and then we run from there up until the top of Janss Steps which is at UCLA and basically…uh.. its kind of a..its a way in which you commemorate finals. 

It’s just a tradition…uh… I don’t know how long we’ve been doing it for.

K: It’s important to us because it’s like…it’s just tradition. 

It’s the student experience. I know that like I remember like..um..some of my older friends like they would have their sashes.

Like you would see seniors with their graduation sashes doing it….you know…its..its just a college experience…a college thing…fundamentally it’s a UCLA college thing.

K: Um..why underwear…you know that’s…actually….you know  I don’t ….

Some people can wear like their pajamas….you know..but typically you wear your boxers, wear like….uh..wear like leggings…you know what I’m sayin…if you’re a dude.

You know people are wearing…you know…they..they determine their spectrum as to what constitutes as underwear. 

Thoughts: After interviewing my older brother about UCLA’s Undie Run tradition, it honestly made me laugh at first because I thought it was ridiculous for students to run while practically naked and not get in trouble. When I was in high school they banned having any kind of senior prank or event because of a previous year so I never had the chance to do anything to commemorate my high school graduation. Hearing my brother describe the Undie Run gave me the nostalgia that he must have felt coming in as a freshman and being introduced to this folk tradition. The Undie Run is a unique tradition because its meaning is subjective to each individual person and its something that continues to live on with both the students and the school. As a freshman, my brother’s experience was less sentimental because he had just arrived at UCLA and was getting used to his environment and its many traditions. However, for the senior friends that he described the meaning was different. The Undie Run for them meant that they were not only commemorating their finals being over but were also celebrating four or so years of hard work as they were about to leave UCLA and this run would be there last. I would never have imagined a large group of people collectively running in their underwear, it sounds so strange, but that seems to be the beauty of folklore in this case. A tradition like the Undie Run is something that I view as strange because, as a student at USC, I’m not apart of the culture. As a sophomore at USC, I understand how events like these can be an important feature of the college experience like my brother emphasized. Now that he is a senior, he was finally able to participate in his last Undie Run as a UCLA Bruin and was able to fully appreciate its importance and commemorate all his hard work.

For another version see: Vassar, Ethan, and Ethan Vassar. “Seriously: Undie Run Cancellation Threatens CSU Admission Rates, Sponsors.” The Rocky Mountain Collegian, 7 May 2019, collegian.com/2019/05/category-opinion-seriously-undie-run-cancelation-threatens-csu-admission-rates-sponsors/.

Irish Sing Song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Irish American
Age: 21
Occupation: student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-18-20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The Main Piece: 

The following is a conversation about an Irish tradition called Sing Song. 

Informant: Sing Song! Ya they’re just kind of automatic after dinner. There can be a conversation but like it’ll just naturally go towards like “oh hey I heard the new single the Foggy June” and someone will be like “Oh yeah!  the Foggy Jew” and then everyone will just go (vocalizing) “Oh down the glen…” and then everyone just starts singing it and then they’ll be like “let’s sing some more songs” and my uncle will grab his guitar and you know he’ll sing a song. And then someone will get a penny whistle out there too and people are dancing.

Interviewer: Do people have to sing songs when it’s their turn?

Informant: No, if it’s an actual event it’ll be like we’re having a SING SONG but if it is after dinner then it just kind of  goes wherever it wants to, but it does go between singing songs and telling stories mostly. Conversation doesn’t really happen that munch unless people are drunk and screaming. But if it’s like an event, like grand dad’s retirement party, then everyones gonna sit down like alright let’s have a sing song and you get out the musical instruments and you get out the stories and it’s like alright let’s go. It’s a big thing. 

Interviewer: What types of songs and stories do you share?

Informant:Traditional Irish music, uh music written by current Irish people. Ya, that’s actually it, stories will be a lot of the time just favorite stories or anecdotes that someone has. Like everyone knows it but we still want to hear it again because we like the way that person tells it. We can also help tell it.

Background: The informant was born in Ireland, and moved to the United States as a baby. He is a Dual-Citizen and feels closely connected to his Irish roots. Here he explains a favorite pastime of his, one he regards as a tradition, called Sing Song. A sometimes formal, but often informal space for creation and storytelling amongst family and friends. He explained that this occurs at every family gathering big and small, so it is something he has grown up with, and something he will continue to do. 

Context: This conversation took place in a relaxed environment after dinner. The informant was reminded of his fond memories at the table and was excited to share such a lively tradition with those around him.

My thoughts: I actually have heard and participated in something very similar to the informants when I worked at a renaissance faire. At the faire, we called this method of storytelling a bardic circle and essentially used it as a space for bards to tell stories, sing songs, or perform epics. Like, the informant these circles sometimes would just evolve naturally if we were already gathering in a small circle, or it could be its own event that people went to. Of course, in my situation we were performers mimicking life in the renaissance. However, my heart was warmed to hear that similar traditions still live out in households today. Not only that, but the subject matter has evolved as well to include personal accounts performed in a way that makes them legendary. 

Libation- Folk Religious Practice

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nigerian American
Age: 56
Occupation: Budget Analyst
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/29/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo

  • Context: Libation is a form of prayer and is an African tradition. We pray through our ancestors to commune with God. Our ancestors are our guardian angels and we pray through them because of their honesty, purity, and integrity. We call on our male and female ancestors and call on the female ancestors specifically because they are the matriarchs and life-givers of any family. 
  • Performance
    • What does one have to wear white?
      • During libation, if you are an ozo titleholder, meaning you are a member of the ancient Agbalanze Society of Onitsha responsible for preserving the culture and traditions of Onitsha, during prayer you have to wear white. If you are the odipka of the entire clan, you have to wear complete white with an eagle feather attached to your hat. The eagle feather is a sign of purity. 
    • What is said and done?
      • All prayer is done in our dialect Igbo regardless of outside presence[English is off limits]. The one who is praying[my dad] must sit on antelope, goat, or lion skin that has been dried to mark a sign of royalty. In order to pray effectively, you must be one with your inner spirit and be pure of heart. During prayer, your feet have to be planted to the ground, as it marks a physical connection to the ground and is a connection to our ancestors. You first call out your family members by name and raise the four lobes kola nut[ prayer offering] and call out God. You ask God to take the gift of the kola nut and ask him to come to be with us as we give thanks for all that he has done for our family. Then you shift and call on all our ancestors, as far back as you can recall their names. You will call each ancestor[great-great grandparents, grandparents, and in-law]. You should call male names first and then female names. Once you address your ancestors, you now call on all of the deities of your ancestors and ask them to continue to bless and guide the family. Then you give blessings and prayer to each member of the family[mom, brother, me, and dad]. You end the prayer by asking all of the deities, ancestors, and God to come and partake in the breaking of the kola nut.

Thoughts: The process of doing libation was something that I never really understood when I was younger. In fact, Sunday libation was something that I always found to be annoying or forced because in my young mind it just meant that I was stuck in one place, unable to move or go out and play. However, not that I am older I have come to understand its immense value and meaning. When my dad prays during libation, he makes it clear that at times he is not the one talking. During his prayer, it is as though our ancestors are speaking through him, calling my mom, brother, and I together as a family and giving thanks for our life, health, and continued well being. My dad is a very spiritual person, believing that the spirit of our ancestors are always with him and his family and are all around protecting us from evil and harm. My dad prays for each and every one of us, wishing for good health, that I and my brother achieve our goals and succeed in life, and that no evil shall befall his family and our extended family back in Nigeria. Now that I am older, I understand the value of the prayer and oftentimes feel a connection to my ancestors like my dad. There are moments where I truly believe that figures like my late grandfather are watching over me and allow me to overcome challenges that I may not be able to do by myself. When I went to Nigeria last winter, I was able to visit my grandfather’s grave and listen to my dad’s prayer. This was a very impactful moment in my life because it really made me realize and understand why libation, why prayer, and ultimately why spirituality in my family is so important in our day to day life. My dad acts as the spiritual anchor of our family and through his prayers, he passes messages and thoughts to my brother and me, maintaining the connection to those before us. I believe that sooner or later I will start learning how to tap into my spirituality further and eventually start channeling our ancestors like my dad and his dad before him.

Ole Miss “Hotty Toddy” Cheer

--Informant Info--
Nationality: american
Age: 24
Occupation: Sale representative
Residence: San Fransisco
Date of Performance/Collection: April 19, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): none

Main Piece: 

Informant- *Loud Shouting Voice* 

Hell yeah, damn right!!!

hotty toddy gosh almighty

who in the hell are we HEY!!!

flim flam, bim bam

OLE MISS BY DAMN!

Interviewer- Is there a specific time you sing the song? 

Informant- The song is a response to the usually shouted phrase “Are You Ready?”. It is sung every football game before kick off. As a student, we sing the song in The Grove, the Ole Miss tailgating area, and all over Oxford. I would sing the song with students in bars and on the streets of Oxford. 

Interviewer- Do you feel connected to the song or people who sing it?

Informant- Yes! This song shows my pride for my school, Ole Miss. I feel connected to our city and school and everyone who sings it. We all clearly love our school and football team. Each time we sing louder. The song usually gets pretty rowdy and the crowds go wild. HOTTY TODDY !!! 

Background: The informant learned the Ole Miss cheer song as an incoming freshman to the University of Mississippi. She learned it from peers and word of mouth. She learned that the song is sung with a loud confident gusto and usually with a group of people. A sorority member and fan of football, the informant feels great pride for her school, especially when singing the song. The song represents the community camaraderie for the school and football team.

Context: This piece was collected by the informant on April 19, 2020. She is currently an Alumni from Ole Miss and graduated in 2018. She sang the song alone in an outdoor setting. She explained that the song is usually sung in large groups at a sports gathering. 

Thoughts: The song has been sung by Ole Miss fans for generations, dating back to the mid 1900s. There is no official copyright or creation of the chat and melody. It is a fight song representing folk music of Ole Miss community members. 

Fraternity Pinning

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: NA
Residence: Chicago, Illinois
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23, 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): NA

 

*In order to anonymize the fraternity and keep its secrets, it will be referred to as Zeta.

 

Abstract: Fraternity brothers in Zeta are given two separate pins at different times. The first they receive while pledging and wear for the whole semester until they ceremoniously throw it off of a cliff. The second they receive as initiated brothers and wear at their leisure.

 

Background: ZB is a collegiate student and brother in the Zeta fraternity. He grew up in Chicago, but goes to school in California. He joined his fraternity his freshman fall semester and is currently finishing up his sophomore year. He does not know when pinning started, but knows the tradition of wearing it and its significance. The topic came up after fraternal folklore was discussed in class, and I was curious about it, so I asked one of my friends in a fraternity if he could give me any insight.

 

ZB: At one point early on in pledging, we were given this pin that we had to wear. Like all the time. We could not be seen without it on. It had like three little stars and signified we were pledges of Zeta. Not only to other brothers, but also the campus. So like we wear it all semester then um, I don’t know if I should go into detail. We get driven to this cliff where we basically learn a lot of the lore of the house and things we were wondering all semester, then we throw all of our pins off the cliff into the ocean. It is a tradition for this ceremony. Houses across the nation bury their pins, but since we are in California, we used the ocean. It was really cool because the pin brings the national fraternity together, but we had our own little way of getting rid of it at the same cliff since our chapter started. But after initiation we got this new pin with a diamond and three stars on it. And our names on it. So it was pretty cool. Like an upgrade.

 

Interpretation: The pin was a method of identification. It was, for the entire semester, identifying the pledges of Zeta. They were not brothers, but pledges. The pin itself makes those who wear it proud to do so because they really have no other choice. If they want to be in the fraternity, they must demonstrate that they will wear this pin proudly. It seems like a test of loyalty early on to ensure that those who want to enter the house are willing to identify with and stick with it through thick and thin.

The ceremony holds a lot of meaning. Due to the location of the university, the fraternity was able to put their own spin on the nationwide tradition. This personalization gives brothers something to differentiate themselves with the national fraternities. While being part of a nationwide brotherhood can bond people across borders together, having individuality gives reason for the brothers in that specific chapter to bond to each other.

The symbolism of burying the pin, or in this case, throwing it into the ocean, signifies that the pledges are now done with pledge process and ready to move on. However, they must always remember that the pin never disappears, nor should the values or lessons they learn throughout pledging.