BR: “Back when I was a little kid, every time we would drive over a railroad track my grandma used to remark, ‘Pick up your feet! We’re going over a Railroad Track!”
BR has been doing this for his entire life. According to him, picking your feet up when crossing a railroad has nothing to do with luck. Instead, it is a fun tradition that likely spawned out of necessity. BR claims that when his grandmother was a little girl, railroad tracks were legitimately dangerous. They were extremely bumpy and if you did not pick up your feet when you crossed, you could injure your ankles. As a result, picking your feet up over a railroad track became a habit for BR’s grandma and she passed this down to her children and grandchildren. The result is a tradition that BR claims everyone in his family has fun with.
I think that this is a very interesting piece of family folklore. What was once a necessity eventually evolved into a fun tradition he performs every time he crosses a railroad. Traditions like these are what create a sense of unity within a group and I think it will be interesting to see this tradition evolve as it passes hands from one generation to the next.
Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.
Interviewer: Do you have any rituals that you perform? Whether it’s a family tradition or something you have to do for luck or positivity – anything of the sorts?
Interviewee: Do morning routines count? Because they are something I take very seriously! It’s like you and coffee!
Interviewer: Sure, go ahead!
Interviewee: Morning routines are something I take very seriously. As an individual I like to think of myself as spontaneous and very outgoing but before I can do that I have to complete my morning routine. Very contradicting– I know!…. Spontaneity but orderly. It’s a good mix. So, at night I set two alarms. One 3 hours before I have to leave and one 2 hours to allow myself time to fully wake up. Once awake I turn on my shower to get it nice and hot. Then I brush my teeth and put my contacts in. Then I wash my face and take a shower. Once I’m dressed I call my mom while I make my lunch (I think she’s the most essential part to my morning routine). Then I’m off to work but before I go in I have to get Starbucks or some form of coffee. I don’t want to say I’m addicted, but I’m addicted. My day goes horribly wrong if I don’t have it in my system. Then I’m off to conquer my day and I do it all again the next.
This does not seem like a traditional ritual, but the informant’s morning ritual is a ritual nonetheless, just on an individual level. Parts of her ritual can also be classified as superstitions that she holds it extremely dear to her daily life. For instance, her belief that her day goes horribly wrong if she doesn’t have coffee is superstitious. There could be many reasons or coincidences as to why her day might be good or bad – not just whether or not she had coffee. (But as someone else who loves coffee, I completely understand where she is coming from).
In a conversation about upcoming travel plans, Lida brought up a ritual of her own:
“Before I get on a plane I touch the outside of the plane with a flat palm and if can, I touch the first window with a flat palm. I also walk on only with my right foot.”
I asked, when did you start doing that?
“I am really not sure when I started. I must have seen someone do it and then that was it. I did it every time and now I can’t fly unless I do it. I’m not sure if it’s a superstition but it’s kinda like a comfort thing. It’s a habit or like a routine that makes it seem like everything is gonna be like it always is when I’m flying.”
Background: Lida is a twenty-year old born and raised in Boston, MA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA attending USC as a sophomore. Her parents are divorced and she has two sisters.
Context: Lida brought up her ritual when we were talking about the upcoming trip she had the following weekend to fly home from school.
Analysis: This story totally resonated with me because I feel like I do many things that have become a “routine” simply for the sake of comfort and safety. I’ve always been an okay flyer, but my mom on the other hand, is a really nervous flyer. If I am on a plane with my mom she will always hold my hand for the entirety of the take-off and then again for the landing, but will be totally fine while we’re in the air. She has done this since I was a little girl, so now it has become instinct whenever I fly with her, and definitely a gesture of comfort. It is interesting to analyze how a gesture that will realistically not change any outcome of future events can create peace of mind and a calm disposition. I think the concept of folkloric “habits” in regard to beliefs or superstitions is an intriguing concept of study as they dramatically vary person to person and can be very uncommon or seem weird to others.
Participant/interviewee is marked as AM and I, the interviewer, am marked as LJ.
AM: So my mom, whenever it rained, she would cover the curtains with blankets and make hot chocolate. She would go out and buy pan dulce too–so sweet bread.
LJ: When would you do this?
AM: That was like elementary school. So like 3rd, 4th, and 5th grad. And then she stopped.
We had been talking about childhood and this story came up. I then proceeded to record it.
The participant is a first year student at the University of Southern California. She was raised in South Central, Los Angeles around the university in a Mexican household. This was a tradition within her family–especially on her mom’s side.
This is a very nice tradition to uphold during childhood. It encourages bonding between parent and child because of the hot chocolate and pan dulce. The rainy day changes from something bad or dangerous (having to cover the windows) to a great moment between two people. Although I’m not sure if it had to be blankets to cover the windows, it shows that the rain outside was being warded off. Perhaps bringing negative energy in if the blanket was not on.