Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She participated in this tradition in her own childhood while she lived in Pennsylvania. Most often, her grandmother would make the meal and serve it at her home.
Context: The context of the piece is sitting at a restaurant and the table next over was eating pork, reminding TC about her own childhood tradition. She appeared nostalgic for her own childhood.
TC: It reminds me of when I was younger, my grandmother would always make pork and sauerkraut for New Years Eve. The family would gather in her house in Pennsylvania, where I was born. I think it’s, uh, a German tradition that is supposed to provide the family good luck and wealth in the coming year. It makes sense as, I believe, my great-grandparents, on that side, are from Germany, which is where my grandma picked it up.
Me: Do you make it for your own family now?
TC: No, no I don’t. Honestly, it’s something I never did after I moved away from Pennsylvania – like to college and work. I think, in a way, it’s more reminiscent of my grandmother and childhood. Usually, my family now will have turkey dinner on New Years Eve, which is like having a bountiful upcoming year.
Informant: She views it as something rooted in the past, as an integral part of her childhood and her relationship with her grandmother. She doesn’t think about reviving it because there are already new traditions in place with her children.
Mine: Traditions, though they may fade away, can still remain integral to how one views themself. Even though the informant no longer eats/makes pork and sauerkraut, she still considers it to be vital to who they are as a person because of how it affected their relationship with their grandmother. As such, the tradition embedded special memories into the food and always serves as a reminder of childhood. Having a tradition can transform something “ordinary” into a symbol of remembrance – no matter how far away they become from participating in it. Additionally, past folklore can serve as a template for creating new traditions. The idea of having food on New Year’s Eve has the same spirit – providing wealth for the upcoming year – but is in a more modern form. Interestingly, the use of a turkey dinner may showcase the high prevalence of Thanksgiving in how traditional foods from that holiday are spreading to other parts of the year.