Tag Archives: Holidays

Loi Krathong/Loy Kratong

“Ok this one’s a festival–there’s–it’s called

Thai: ลอยกระทง
Phonetic: Loi Krathong
Transliteration: River Goddess Worship Festival
Translation: Loy Kratong

and it’s like a water festival. You make–how do I describe it in English? You make a float. The word in Thai is

Phonetic: Krathong
Transliteration: Float
Translation: Float

it just means like the float or whatever. It’s kind of like a lantern festival. But yeah, that occurs. Why? It’s like semi-religious, but also Thai people just celebrate it in general, for like, the rainy season. Like the end, the end of the rain. There’s like normal festivities for celebrations, like dance and food, but like the main activity is thanking the water goddess, a water goddess for like the entire season that came before. People also use it for like, good vibes. Where it’s like sending a wish or sending a prayer. You’d make it for someone else; like, ‘oh like for my family to be safe,’ and then you’d send it down the river. When I used to go to temple a lot, like, when I was younger when you would have like the festival everyone does it in like one small pond–cause the temple only has one small pond–and it’s really fun when the pond like fills up and like everyone’s wish is like together. Oh, you also–a big part of it is also making the float, to begin with, which is like made traditionally from like banana leaves. But in America, we make–well, no, not in America–but in the modern age, we use styrofoam, which is the funniest thing to me because the most environmentally damaging thing that you could do is to make it using styrofoam. But you have the plant styrofoam and you put like fake flowers in it if you don’t have like the real thing and then you take like three yellow candles and you put them in it and like make your wish on it.”


Informant (WP) is a student aged 19 from Chino Hills, California. Her parents are from Thailand and Laos. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview in the informant’s apartment. She learned this from family and from going to the temple. To her, it is a way to give gratitude for what a person has and to ask for more.

This festival is very similar to lantern festivals that are prevalent throughout East and Southeast Asia. It is very interesting to see how the festival has changed in the modern era with Thai people being unable to obtain banana leaves in parts of the world and instead resorting to styrofoam. Historically, agriculture has been incredibly important in Thailand. A festival based around thanking a type of water goddess at the end of the rainy season, while also asking for more rain in the future, makes perfect sense for this culture. Add in the variation on lanterns, being floats, and Thailand has a festival that is both related to other Southeast Asian festivals and uniquely Thai.

Story of Diwali

Background: The informant (A) is the 20 year old daughter of two Indian immigrants. She has lived in the US her whole life but visits relatives India with her family often and celebrates many Indian holidays in the US with Indian friends and family in her area.

A: Basically Ram’s wife gets kidnapped by Ravan, and then Ram crosses an ocean to reach her in Lanka, and in Lanka he kills Ram and is able to take Sita back home. So that’s like… the day of Diwali. It’s in like October usually I think?

Me: What do you guys do on Diwali?

A: We light a lot of um… tea lights? These little lights called “diyas”. It’s technically 5 days long but on the actual like….main day we put on Indian clothes and have like…a big family dinner. And we worship the goddess Lakshmi.

Me: Why do you worship Lakshmi?

A: She’s the goddess of wealth….I don’t know really know why but we just worship her on Diwali because she just symbolizes wealth and prosperity. And also we clean the house and make it really spotless…Lakshmi’s supposed to come and bless your house once it’s clean. That’s why you light all the candles too, for her.

Context: This story was told to me over a recorded FaceTime call.

Analysis: The informant grew up in America rather than in India itself where Diwali is a national holiday that everybody celebrates and is involved in. So, I assume there are parts of this celebration that are changed when celebrating away from the mother country. She wasn’t entirely certain about specifics of the origin story, traditions, and parts of the religion, as she isn’t a particularly religious person. This story and her celebrations not only demonstrate the concept of Diwali in the context of India, but also the experience of a first generation immigrant. Aspects of the culture evolve to accommodate the fact that they no longer reside in a community where not everyone celebrates the same holidays and some items may not be available in their location. These myths and stories are not simply known by everyone around them, they are known and told by the immigrants themselves (in the informant’s case, her parents). This changes the significance and meaning as the informant grew up surrounded by others who did not know the same stories or have the same beliefs.

Día de Los Muertos

The interlocutor (MP) grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico before immigrating to the US in his early twenties.

DESCRIPTION: (told in person)
(MP): “In Mexico, Día de Los Muertos is a famous holiday that celebrates your dead relatives. It’s on November 1st and 2nd, which technically makes it Los Días de Los Muertos but you and most people living here [in the United States] call it by the singular version.

Catholics families set up the ofrenda, the….the altar with pictures of their dead relatives they want to remember. It’s supposed to be in the house, kinda private, and they put stuff like comida y bebidas y floras (food, drinks, and flowers)… on it as like, an offering to them. Lots of panaderias (bakeries) and other merchants also sell those sugar skulls… los calaveras y pan de muerto (bread of the dead). For the ofrenda. It’s so that the souls of their loved ones can come visit them during these days, y’know?

They’ll also go to the graveyard and clean up their family’s graves and put offerings on that too. It’s a lot of prayer and celebration, since it’s supposed to be happy and all. I know big festivals and parades happen all over Mexico to celebrate too. In Oaxaca, we went to the one that happens at the Zocalo (Oaxaca City’s main square) and saw all the people dressed in costumes with the masks and the dancing and singing. It’s very family-oriented and a lot of fun.

Having celebrated Día de Los Muertos before, I was already quite familiar with some of the traditions the interlocutor mentioned. Despite this, it was still eye-opening to hear about the holiday from someone who actually grew up in the culture from which the holiday.

Traditions commemorating the death of loved ones are prevalent in most, if not all cultures; however, I think that Mexico’s celebration of Los Días de Los Muertos is unique because it celebrates death as a positive thing rather than something that means grief, loss, and pain. I think it’s amazing to hear about the humor, joy, and happiness that surrounds death in this tradition.

St. Lucia’s Day Sweden

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (SC).

HS: So you have some particular traditions that you celebrate here in the United States that you got from your Swedish heritage, is that right?

SC: Oh yeah. Lots of stuff that we do and when I tell people they’re like, really? I’ve never heard of this before! So we celebrate Santa Lucia or St. Lucia Day- it’s kind of like a pre-Christmas holiday. It’s a really big thing back in Sweden where my family is from and we’ve kind of carried it on out here. It basically commemorates this girl who died while bringing food to Christians that were trying to escape the Romans. My daughter dresses up in all white to represent the purity of Saint Lucia and there’s a big feast after. Lots of amazing food. You’ve gotta try saffron bread.


My informant is a co-worker from my job. He is a Relationship Banker, and so we work a lot less closely than my other co-workers on the teller line. Regardless, he is a great guy and we enjoy a little office rivalry- he went to UCLA. Yuck. His parents immigrated to the United States from Sweden, but because he still has a lot of family living there, he visits a lot and in the process has brought back a lot of Swedish traditions to his family here in the United States.


We had gotten all of the pre-opening work done that we needed to get done, and it just so happened that our Branch Manager brought in some Dunkin Donuts to rally the morale of the troops. And so my co-worker and I sit there, grubbing some glazed donuts, going about the usual surface-level conversation. The typical weekend updates, customer complaints, all the good stuff. I decided to shift the conversation to talk about a tradition that my family and I had done the past weekend and asked if he had any that he did with his family. He was delighted to hear the question and started elaborating immediately.


It was interesting to learn about this tradition and how important it is in Swedish culture. According to some brief research that I did about the holiday, it is supposed to mark a time of light and happiness in a time of a lot of darkness. A lot of schools end classes early so that families can prepare for the festivities. The aspect of the holiday that I found most intriguing was how it incorporates both pagan and Christian traditions. This has to do with an inherent struggle between light and darkness that Pagan culture elaborates a lot upon, as the geographic location of Sweden leads to long periods of light and darkness instead of the typical day. Scholars have gone as far as to say that St. Lucia is simply the Norse goddess Freya “dressed up” as a Christian saint.

Source of Pagan “dress up” theory:

Trndez – Armenian Festival/Holiday

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.


AD: “There’s like this holiday in Armenia called “Trndez” and it’s celebrated usually around Valentine’s Day, I think it’s on Valentine’s Day actually, uhm, and like… It involves people jumping over fires, and I’m not exactly sure what the origins of this are, it’s definitely like, pagan, but how it goes is that everyone jumps over the fire… Like a small fire, in a pit that you make, uhm and one by one people will like dance around the fire and then jump over it. And couples go together, a lot of people will go single. It’s still a very common practice, it’s pretty much embraced within the church… which is interesting, like it’s pretty common as a religious event.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

AD: “I think it’s really nice. I think it’s one of the coolest things we have. Like, in terms of cultural holidays, I dunno, there’s something fun about it, it’s very like spontaneous-feeling, there’s a lot of energy to that holiday in particular.”


Jumping over a fire is actually a pretty common tradition present in a number of cultural holidays. For example, in Iran, it marks the start of a new year, with the fire being seen as cleansing or purifying. Interestingly, a search for articles on these types of rituals or holidays primarily returns articles like this one [here], about large numbers of burn injuries as a result of such practices. 

Johari HG, Mohammadi AA. Burns 2010; 36(4): 585-6; author reply 586.