Tag Archives: holiday traditions

A Friend’s Family Tradition: Christmas Pajamas


Informant K is a 20 year old USC student majoring in Narrative Studies. She is from the Seattle area in Washington state. K was born in Boston, MA, moved to San Francisco, CA, and then to Seattle at age 3. Her extended family is from parts of Canada and, though her immediate family is not religious, K’s grandmother is Christian. K is a sophomore and has been living in LA for 2 years.

We exchanged folklore as a group during a designated time in our discussion section. We went around in a circle, and this was one of my friend’s stories.


K: “Mine is also a Christmas tradition. I don’t know if this started with, like, earlier back or if this was a ‘my parents’ kind of introduction or invention but we do Christmas pajamas. So every year on Christmas – on Christmas Eve – we get to open one present. And that is our Christmas pajamas. And it always starts with my mom being like ‘Go look under the tree!’ like ‘Go look for your pajamas!’ And so they’re usually not – I mean sometimes they’re set out? When we were younger it was more like we got to root through the presents under the tree and find our Christmas pajamas and the tag always says, like, ‘Happy Christmas Eve! Love Mom and Dad.’ And then we open them and they usually have a fun little pattern on them, like sometimes they’re candy canes. The ones I got last year were a little less christmassy it was more just animals in a Wintery forest. And my sister and I – we used to get like strictly matching ones, now we get more like coordinating ones. I think as we’ve gotten older, my mom was like, ‘Okay, I’ll give them a little bit more… like I’ll tailor this a little bit more to their personal styles.’ And then we have to go upstairs and we have to try them on and we do like a little mini fashion show for our parents and she’s like ‘Oh, yeah! Those look nice!’ And then we take a picture, usually in front of the tree and you have to go to bed wearing your Christmas pajamas. I don’t think that’s a hard and fast rule but, like, I would never take off my Christmas pajamas ‘cause that would feel like an insult to my parents, and also it just makes it fun and festive.”

A friend, also in the circle: “Is Christmas pajamas just you and your sister or do all of your… do your parents also get…?”

K: “I don’t think my parents get pajamas. I don’t remember if they did at one point but from what I can remember now it’s just me and my sister.”


What K is explaining is a clear tradition – something contemporary that is done each year. I find it intriguing to discuss costumes or outfits as tradition, because wearing them is inherently a kind of performance. K also mentions ‘showing off’ the pajamas to her mother in smaller ‘fashion show’ performances. Her tradition is observable and fits the general description of one, yet it’s debatable in its references to the past or source material, as K doesn’t actually know the origin. It’s also worth noting that K takes this tradition very seriously – she wouldn’t dream of changing out of the pajamas. As far as I can tell, K’s tradition seems rooted in Americana. Matching pajama sets date back to the age of the nuclear family, so it’s fitting that this is a sibling tradition for the informant. Wearing matching clothes for holidays specifically is common, but I would argue that doing so for a Westernized version of Christmas is a way of creating tradition for an originally religious holiday when the participant isn’t actively religious. It’s a conspicuous example of that which is popular in an immigration-heavy society like the United States. To create a tradition is to strengthen identity, because those who participate in tradition are then considered part of an in-group.

Rancho Bernardo 4th of July Celebration

Main Piece

“Every fourth of July, my hometown puts on a parade that goes through the same few streets, where people dress up and decorate their cars with red, white and blue – some local businesses, organizations and sponsors are always part of the parade, along with the mayor, local beauty pageant winners, people like that who someone decides are important to the city for one reason or another. I got to be in it with a few other girls once, before my junior year of high school, because I’d won a local singing contest a month before. People stand along the streets to watch, which I’m sure I did a few times with my family growing up as well.
There are some other events associated with the parade, but the one I remember going to with my family is the fireworks show at night, which has always been held on the field of our local high school for as long as I can remember.”


Informant Interpretation: Informant notes she only feels connected to this tradition because it’s something that occurs in her hometown, and not because of the 4th of July. It’s shared by a small suburb, and thus more identity-defining and important to her.

Personal Interpretation: I found it interesting that many of these traditions seem to be a form of showcasing American “exceptionalism” or something “worth being proud of”–cars (wealth), beauty, those with political power. That feels very in line with the individualist framework America tries to set up for itself, as well as celebrating things that society deems of greater importance. Within this context, it is of course contained to a much smaller suburb, but I still felt those themes coming through in the particular description of events and holiday context.


Informant is a 21 year old college student who was raised in Rancho Bernardo, CA. She is female-presenting, white, and of European descent.

Chinese New Year Traditions

Text: “On Chinese New Year, we wish for good luck for the rest of the year as well as health and mental health. Something considered bad luck is cutting your hair before the new year and cleaning before the new year. In terms of food for Chinese New Year, something that my family likes to do is make handmade dumplings. We wear qipaos, which is a traditional form of dress.”

Context: The informant is Chinese-American. Her parents immigrated from China but the informant grew up in the United States in Southern California. The informant is 20 years old and she currently attends the University of Southern California. The informant celebrates Chinese New Year every year with her family. The informant also discussed that she gets a lot of money during this holiday because all of the older family members give the younger people money. Since the entire extended family celebrates this holiday together, the informant usually gets a lot of money. The informant described that she only wears qipaos on this occasion. She also stated that they only make handmade dumplings on this holiday to preserve this tradition. Chinese New Year is based on the Lunar Calendar but it usually starts in late January or early February. 

Analysis: Chinese New Year seems to be similar to the traditional American New Year in the sense that people wish for good luck for the rest of the year. I think the Chinese New Year has more of an emphasis on wishing for good health. We don’t have the superstitions of cutting hair or cleaning before the new year as my friend described. I appreciated the informant telling me about both her family’s individual culture such as making handmade dumplings as well as her telling me about the broader culture associated with the holiday such as the qipaos and the focus on wishing for good health.

Holiday – Día de los Reyes


“The holiday is the Day of the Kings…in Spanish, it’s Día de los Reyes…it’s a Catholic celebration but I think it’s predominantly celebrated in Spanish countries. What we do…in my family and in many other Mexican families there is a tradition where you eat a bread…like a crowned bread…it’s sweet and has decorations on top and you hide little toys in the bread…little baby Jesuses. Depending on the size of the bread (la rosca), you go around the family cutting the slices and if you end up getting a slice with a baby Jesus in it that means that on Children’s Day, you have to take a certain traditional dish. Usually in my family, we make tamales. We celebrate it every year even though my family is not very much Catholic , but we are Catholic in our beliefs. We come together to spend it as a family. My mom makes hot cocoa. My grandma is the one who buys the la rosca and we have to buy two because our family keeps expanding. The Day of the Kings is celebrated January 6th and February 2nd is the day you celebrate the treats if you get the baby Jesus…you rejoice in being a family once again together. It’s a feast day you could say…it’s just to celebrate the epiphany that the three kings brought their gifts to Jesus when he was born…honors his baptism and pays homage to the three wise men…that’s basically what we do.


One of my roommates is Mexican and she was sharing with me this holiday that occurs on January 6th every year. She mentioned that her family celebrates this holiday every year even though they are not very much Catholic devoted. She “grew up with the tradition” and continues to celebrate this holiday surrounded by family members. She said that there was a moment in time when she asked her parents what this tradition was and she said that it is mainly a tradition among Mexican households to simply celebrate it. She went on to say that it’s a national celebration in Mexico even if you are not religious and “people come together just to do it simply for the family aspect.”


This Mexican holiday is celebrated to honor the Three Wise Men. Despite its religious roots, even those who are not as religious will celebrate this holiday. Other holidays around wintertime hide some sort of item inside of a baked good. This adds to the enjoyment of the time by adding this game element. As time goes on, it can be seen that this holiday has changed in certain aspects. Many parts of the holiday have religious implications, but in today’s society, not everyone emphasizes those aspects as much. This holiday is recognized as more of a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. Oftentimes you will see this where traditions are continued even though certain aspects of that tradition are lost.

Classroom Leprechauns


Me: Where did you get the idea to have a leprechaun visit your class?

LS: Well really it goes back to when I was in first grade. So I remember, I guess we made a trap or something, but I remember putting out, um, Lucky Charms cereal and I think we had some kind of like class trap. I could be wrong, but I just remember, like we were trying to trap the leprechaun and um, we, I mean, I don’t remember for sure cause you know, that was many years ago, but I guess the leprechaun did like set our trap off, but we didn’t catch him. You know? I don’t remember if he left anything. I think he left a pot of gold or something, you know, like the chocolate gold, but I don’t really remember what happened there, but I remember that somebody in my class like went to the bathroom and then they came running back and they were like, “I saw the leprechaun!” And they were like claiming they saw this like little hat, like peek out of the ceiling tile in the bathroom. Which, I mean, for me, I was like, I don’t want someone looking at me in the bathroom. Like, it’s a little weird. But to me it kind of was like, almost like, “oh my God, they’re real.” Like, you know? And so that was just like always a fun memory. And I don’t really remember doing a lot with St Patrick’s day after that. Like I remember we all wore green and like, you know, everyone was like, “oh I’ll pinch you,” if you didn’t. But like that’s the one time I remember like having that experience. And so then when I started teaching, of course, like you find ways to make every holiday fun and you know, engaging. Um, and so somewhere along the way, I guess it was my first year teaching, um my parapro at the time, she was like, oh yeah, we usually like to trash the room. And she had some old green Garland and like some decorations that they had used before. And they’re like, oh yeah, we just like wreck it and leave like a treat. And so I think we left gold coins at their seat and like gave them like a cookie or cupcake or something with green frosting. And we like just tore up the and then she threw like the Garland and other decorations, like up on the board and like made it look like, you know, I, I think there was like a cutout leprechaun that got like taped on the board, you know? And, um, the, you know, the kids went nuts and they got back in the room and it was just so fun. And then the kids would be like, “oh my gosh, the leprechaun trashed our room!” And then they’ll help you clean it up, you know? Um, and so I kind of just continued that from I was in kindergarten. Um, but of course then with the pandemic, we couldn’t do it for the past couple of years. 

Background: LS has taught kindergarten in Athens, Georgia since 2015. She went to elementary school in a suburb of Athens in the 1990s. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. Analysis: I also remember leprechauns visiting my classroom in elementary school. I was particularly interested in L’s story because she touches on the consumerism of the tradition. She talks about using Lucky Charms as a leprechaun trap, for example. Lucky Charms are not traditionally Irish, yet there’s an association between them and what’s considered an Irish holiday. Additionally, when I looked into the lore behind leprechaun traps, it seems that the idea has almost solely existed for elementary schools or other gatherings of children.