Tag Archives: holiday

Russian Holiday

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Russian Armenian
Age: 27
Occupation: Artist
Residence: Pasadena
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/4/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Масленица

Transliteration: Maslenitsa

Translation: Butter Week

Description: This is a spring equinox pancake holiday. During the festival everyone eats pancakes, burns dolls made of hay (effigies). The burning of the dolls is mostly done in villages. They also jump over a pit of fire. Maslenitsa is a Pagan holiday. The holiday is a way of celebrating the coming of spring and a way to sacrifice to the gods for a fruitful spring/rest of the year.

Background Information: It is a Russian and Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated the last week before Lent.

Context: The informant told me this holiday during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about a Russian holiday that she knows about.

Thoughts: As a religious holiday I think it is celebrated to prepare for lent and to get ready for the spring. Russia has had a long history of war, government overturnings, famines, etc. I think this holiday was made as a way to ensure a safe and healthy year. As a pagan tradition, I think it is interesting to observe its lasting effects to the present day. It shows that life hasn’t become simpler and that people are still trying to ask for prosperity and peace.

Armenian Vardavar Festival

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 51
Occupation: Dental Hygienist
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Վարդավառ

Transliteration: Vardavar

Translation: Flaming Rose

Description: Annual festival that Armenians celebrate on July 8th. Name literally means to sprinkle with water and the flaming of the rose. The legend comes from goddess of love named Astghik who spread love across Armenia by sprinkling rose water across the land. The god Vaghan is the person who defends love against evil. After the adoption of christianity this tradition was recognized as Vardavar where everyone in the neighborhood, streets, parks, etc splash water on each other. Anyone in the neighborhood is fair game.

Background Information: This is a very popular holiday/festival in Armenia that is celebrated by everyone in Armenia ranging from little children to elderly. It is a community affair.

Context: The informant told me about this festival during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian tradition/holiday that she knows about.

Thoughts: This holiday seems to have roots in pagan traditions but has managed to carry on to present day. I think this holiday does a great job at showing the spirit of the Armenian people and brings a joyous part of the year that many look forward to. I believe that through all that the Armenian people have gone through, Vardavar is a testament to the strength of Armenia’s culture and heritage.

Russian Holiday: Ivan Kupala

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Russian
Age: 24
Occupation: Student
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/3/2020
Primary Language: Russian
Other Language(s): English

Иван Купала

Transliteration: Ivan Kupala

Description: This is a traditional slavic holiday. It is the celebration of the summer solstice when nights are the shortest (around June-July) although, every year is different. It is an incorporation of a number of pagan rituals. On the eve of Ivan kupala there are ceremonies conducted which symbolize elements such as fire, grass, and water. They jump over fire, circle dances around fire, swim in rivers, use grass to weave wreaths, and fortune telling. They believe that on the eve of Ivan Kupala, by swimming in the river the water will have some healing properties. On the night of Ivan Kupala people shouldn’t sleep because the evil spirits are awakened.

Background Information: A Slavic festival celebrated in parts of Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

Context: The informant told me about this festival through a video call. She told me this after I asked her about Russian festivals/holidays.

Thoughts: I believe this holiday was made a long time ago as a way to make sure that there was no evil spirits and that the rest of the year would be prosperous and fruitful. I think now it is celebrated as a way to respect old traditions and ways of living and to never forget your culture.

For another version see:

Tuite, Kevin. “Lightning, Sacrifice, and Possession in the Traditional Religions of the Caucasus” in Anthropos, 481-497. Bd. 99, H. 2, 2004.

Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40466394

Burn’s Night

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 55
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

This folklore is a holiday celebrated by the Scottish. It takes on January 25 and is used to celebrate the poet Robert Burns. Typically, families host a supper that begins with mingling. Poems by Robert Burns are recited. He is a very important figure in Scottish lore because many refer to him as a hero of Scotland, being their national poet. It is also referred to as Rabbie Burns Day. A traditional Scottish supper is then hosted, with a principle dish being Haggis. Haggis is the national food of Scotland and is meat mixed with oatmeal and seasoning that is then cooked in an animal’s stomach. There is a poem recited about Haggis because of how important it is to Scottish culture. Of course, whiskey is then drunk after this.

The informant spent four years living in Scotland when she was a young girl. She attended what would be the equivalent of an American middle school. She remembers this night well because it takes one day before her birthday. In addition, it represents a very Scottish dinner and was quite a culture shock coming from California. They learned it from their Scottish family friends who helped introduce them to Scottish culture. It is always a fun event that emphasizes heritage, pride in one’s country, as well as a close friends and family gathering.

 I like the idea of celebrating culture as a national holiday. In America, there are few holidays that are geared towards the arts and Robert Burns Day helps young children stay connected to their traditional Scottish roots.

Til gul gya, goad bola on Sankrati

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian
Age: 57
Occupation: Corporate Manager
Residence: Pune, India
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2020
Primary Language:
Other Language(s): Marathi

Piece

Original script (if applicable)

तील गूळ ग्या, गोड बोला

Phonetic (Roman) script

Til gool gya, goad bola

Transliteration

Sesame jaggery get, sweet talk.

Full translation

Eat sesame jaggery candy and talk sweetly.

Background

This is a Marathi phrase that is said on a holiday called Sankranti. It is spoken to everyone on this day while feeding each other Sesame and Jaggery candy.  

Context

My mother told me this piece of spoken folklore when I asked her about traditions specific to my people: Maharasthraians. This holiday is specifically celebrated by Hindus in honor of the Sun God, Surya. The day is also called Makar Sankrant or Makar Sankranti. It is said that you are supposed to reap benefits from your business or life if you eat the “til gul” (sesame and jaggery rolled into a ball)

Thoughts

    On asking my mother why sesame and jaggery were used specifically, she told me it is because the two ingredients help the body maintain heat in the winter. Sankranti is celebrated in January, one of the coldest months. It varies according to the lunar calendar but the point is that the people of Maharashtra consume sesame and jaggery to keep their body temperature up in  these cold months. In addition to that, this is the beginning of spring and the end of winter which foretells a new harvest. 

Megilah Reading

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 46
Occupation: Rabbi
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: March 17, 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Every Purim Jews congregate to listen to a reading from a book called the Megilah which features the backstory of Purim. It’s the most outwardly religious part of Purim. The congregation is encouraged to be active and loud, reacting verbally to every single mention of the characters’ names in the story. Mordecai and Ester (the Jewish heroes) get jubilant cheers every time their name is read while the bad guy Haman is booed. The congregation is even traditionally encouraged to drink so much that they can’t tell whose names to boo or cheer.

Again, this is the religious part of Purim but the encouragement to chime in makes it stand out from other Jewish holidays in a way that fits the extra cheerful celebration of Purim. While this folklorist’s congregation doesn’t drink during the reading, it does fit the rest of the relatively lax nature of the event.

French New Year Traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French
Age: 21
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/19
Primary Language: French
Other Language(s): English

The following is a piece from a friend whose parents are French immigrants.  I am represented by K and the informant is represented by I.

Piece:

K: Go ahead and tell me about your tradition.

I: So, in January, the start of the new year, there’s a tradition called Gallete du Roi, which translates to… uh, King’s Cake… and… one person will start by hosting a party in which… uhm, we make dinner, and you invite your group of friends over, and then you make the King’s Cake, which is usually almond paste and phyllo dough on top, with a little ceramic baby Jesus or baby Mary or baby lamb or something inside, and then… uhm… you cut the- you cut the pie, and the youngest person at the party like goes under the table or hides or something, and they dictate who each piece goes to.  So it’s … non…biased.  And then… uhm.. and then you eat the cake and whoever gets the baby is the King or the Queen and they choose their King or their Queen to host the next party with them and the guy brings the wine, the woman makes the food- bakes the cake- which is just really.. not… gender… equality… if you ask me, but uhm, and then the party keeps going all throughout January, and there’s another tradition we do!- Well, it’s not really a tradition, it’s like uhm, on the first day of January, so it’s like the first day of the new year, uhm, you hold a piece of like- like a gold coin in your hand. Uhm, or anything that has gold in it, like real gold… uhm, and you make crepes and you flip the crepe with the gold in your hand, and if it lands well and doesn’t break, you’ll have prosperity in the new year, and if it breaks or it doesn’t happen… you’re… gonna be poor.

K: And where’d you learn this from?

I: My momma.

Context:

We were sitting outdoors in a shaded area by a couch, working on a group project, but only the informant, one other member of our project, and I were there.  I asked the informant if she had any traditions or interesting pieces of folklore she would want to share and she readily agreed.  It was a really nice day out and the conversation felt very natural.

My Thoughts:

 

Her family is from France and she very strongly identifies with her French roots.  I thought this tradition was pretty interesting because it’s very religious, and my friend isn’t that religious, really, but she considers it more of a cultural tradition.  I know that this tradition is also very cultural, as well.  My family calls it Three Kings Day, but we don’t really celebrate it.  I went to Catholic school growing up, though, and I know we always had the cake in our of our classes, but the cake we ate was different than the one the informant described.  In Latin culture, this holiday also involved leaving shoes out, which my dad has told me about.  I think it’s cool to see the evolution of this holiday based on ethnicity.  It’s interesting to watch how it changes from place to place and how there are little cultural differences.

Kwanzaa Traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 10
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: The informant, a 19 year old college student, was engaged in a conversation about Kwanzaa and how her family celebrates this holiday.

Piece:

Informant: Um, ok. So, Kwanzaa. Um, I have celebrated it before. Um, it’s a family thing, my family celebrates Kwanzaa. Uh, I’m black, um ‘cause you can’t see me on the audio so just to make that… clear to all the listeners. Um, so basically it takes place the day after Christmas and it ends on January 1st. And it’s my favorite way to close out the year and basically it’s kinda a reflection on the whole year and each day it’s a different principle where you remind yourself of like um basically like whether or not you really perform those principles or not. One of them is Kujichagulia which is self-determination, they are all in Swahili um so yeah that’s a word we explore for a day— like how well do you fulfill your own personal goals. There’s also Umoja which is unity, um there’s seven of them yeah. So the traditions that happen are that every single night the whole family gets together and you eat a meal and you set the meal on an mkeka which is like a straw mat. And you eat specific foods— some foods we eat are corn, red beans and rice, soul food— things like that. And then we talk about the principle and then we light a candle on the thing— there is also a Swahili name for it.

Collector: So why is this tradition important to you?

Informant: Kwanzaa is important to me because um well for one it’s a way for me to connect to my African ancestry, which is something I don’t do in my daily life because slavery took that away from me. And on another hand, because um it’s one of the very few traditions my family has, we don’t do a lot of things every year, but like Kwanzaa and celebrating with the people at my church is something we have done consistently and so I value that we have kept that up

And uh yeah Kwanzaa was created in the 60s by a guy who is now shamed in the black community because he was put on trial for very brutally abusing women and he was a professor at some school in California, some university, I kinda wanna say it was CalState Longbeach or something like that. Um, but he no longer is a professor there and now is under harsh scrutiny from the black community and he is bad but Kwanzaa is good. A lot of people celebrate Kwanzaa but a lot of people shit on that man. And it was really big in the 60s because of the civil rights movement, and afterwards people stopped celebrating as much but I still do because of my family and my church.

Background: This informant is a black female college student at USC who celebrates Kwanzaa with her family regularly. She loves celebrating Kwanzaa because it connects her back to her African roots. She has often said that she feels the pressure from society and people around her to be “less black” and this holiday helps her celebrate just that.

Analysis:Kwanzaa is celebrated throughout the United States but because I am not part of the celebrating community, I was never taught about the traditions. This holiday in particular lends itself to folklore as the entire holiday revolves around the preservation of African culture and tradition. The fact that Kwanzaa champions principles is interesting as it passes along ideals through the traditions, emphasizing what people should focus on and influencing Kwanzaa celebrators’ everyday lives.

For other traditions practiced during Kwanzaa, see: Pleck, Elizabeth. “Kwanzaa: The Making of a Black Nationalist Tradition, 1966-1990.” Journal of American Ethnic History, vol. 20, no. 4, 2001, pp. 3–28. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27502744.

Jewish-American Thanksgiving

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student, Actor
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hebrew

D.F. – “Every year, my family and I go to my Grandfather’s house in Oceanside CA for thanksgiving.  And during the beginning of that week, my Aunt and her family fly in from MN to start cooking.  That’s usually a Monday or a Tuesday.  They start preparing that early.  Sometimes we come Wednesday night before thanksgiving, but usually most of us come on the Thursday morning.  My family usually says that we’re gonna leave by 8:30, but we always leave like a half hour later.    And then we get to oceanside, an hour and a half away, and my Mom is always in charge of the appetizers, and she usually has too many appetizers, all from Costco, and they all have to be KOSHER.  And then, the other families get there.  And then, we all bet what time my uncle and his family are gonna get there because they’re always late.  So then everyone puts down bets for what time he’ll get there, minute by minute, I’ve won a few times.  Once they get there, that’s the pause in the day when we have to figure out what we’re going to do because that’s when everyone’s cooking and they don’t like it when everyone is in the kitchen.  So my cousins and I go play pool at my Grandpa’s senior living house thing.  I didn’t get to start doing that until I was 14 because that was the minimum age; I was really excited.  We play pool for a little while, are forced to come home, everyone sits down at the dinner table (about 25 of us).”

“There are a few people who are assigned to bring in food from the table, and it’s very important that if you did not get asked to do this, that you sit down.  We start with appetizers; now, don’t forget that we already had appetizers, but now we have these sweet&sour meat-balls that my grandma used to make for dinner appetizers.  Sometimes we have matzah ball soup sometimes, if my aunt is up for it.  My other aunt always makes small challahs for everyone.”

“Everyone goes in a circle throughout the meal, saying what they’re thankful for, that year, in front of everyone.  Eating ends.  My brother and I get s**t every year for not helping clean up enough.”

“. . . My other aunt is always in charge of the deserts.  They’re never very good.  After desert, we all take our family photo every year on my grandfather’s couch.”

 

Such structure.  This is in many ways similar to my own Thanksgiving memories, but this seems to have a lot more structure.  My family is pretty tightly wound, but every year, thanksgiving is a very laid-back holiday.  It seems that this is not the case in this household.  Thanksgiving festivities are among the most prominent folkloric experiences in the United States, as most people who live in the country choose to celebrate with loved ones and friends.  It’s interesting not only to see how similar everyone’s Thanksgivings are, but also to examine how the days often differ. Also, it’s fascinating that this person’s religion intertwines here with their nationality.  Even on a holiday such as Thanksgiving, when one’s religion is largely unimportant, her food must remain kosher.

Maslenitsa

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian

Context:

The subject is a USC student, born and raised in Southern California. The subject takes pride in his Russian-Jewish heritage, so I wanted to ask him about any rituals he has attended.

 

Piece:

Subject: There’s a great Russian holiday, um, that’s to celebrate the end of the winter. And I saw it when I was going to school in Russia for a bit in eighth grade, I’m not sure the name in English but in Russian it’s called Maslenitsa. Which is sort of — it’s the process where you burn this, like, hay statue of the, winter witch, or something.

Interviewer: The winter witch?

Subject: Yeah, so it’s like the farmers defeated her, cuz she was gonna ruin their crops, but they survived. So it’s a very joyous time, and, um, you eat all this great Russian food, it was a lot of fun.

Interviewer: So when exactly in the year does it take place?

Subject: The end of winter, whenever it is that year, I, uh, think when I went it was the end of February or something.

 

Analysis:

Upon further research, I’ve found that Maslenitsa is an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday, celebrated during the last week before Great Lent, and it may be the oldest surviving Slavic holiday. Since Lent excludes parties, secular music, dancing, etc. which provide as distractions during times of prayer, Maslenitsa is the last time for individuals to take place in social activities.

An important aspect of the holiday which the subject did not include, is the presence of pancakes, and the lack of meat (however, in modern settings the ban of meat is less enforced).

Compared the the rituals and festivals which we studied in class, we can see that this society greatly values its prosperous agriculture. During such dire times of cold, harsh winter, it’s comforting to know that a party is waiting on the other end.