Tag Archives: Joke

Unwrapping Tamales For Christmas

Background: The informant is a 52 year old man. He was born in Tulare, California. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context as that when the informant was eating tamales, he was reminded of Christmas.


MD: “Well typically, uh, mexican families, they make, uh, tamales for Christmas, and, you know, it’s kind of like a seasonal food, and that’s considered traditional to make tamales for Christmas, and uh, the big joke about tamales and mexicans is that the reason why mexicans make tamales is so they can have something to unwrap for christmas. And so uh, I used to help my mom make ‘em, and we would kind of like interchange, like, you know, sometimes I would like, layout the leaves and spread the masa, which is like corn dough, on them, or other times she would do that, and she would allow me to put the meat inside of it. It’s like a meat sauce, and uh, she didn’t like me putting the meat with the sauce in the tamale because I would typically put too much and, uh, she’d kind of strive for balance between the masa and the meat, the problem though too is like when you steam them, if you, if you put too much meat inside them, they kind of overflow, and they, they break apart the tamale, you know? It is what it is.” 


Informant: He is very humorous and recalls both the joke and the tamales in good fun. He reminisces about his time with his mother and looks to it as a great bonding moment between the two of them each year.

Mine: First, the joke’s context is that Mexicans are considered poor in America and will not have the money to buy presents for their family. While on the surface, the joke seems like a laughable jab, it speaks to a much deeper social context, about how Mexican families are treated in the greater societal context of the US. Typically, they do not have higher paying jobs or may be supporting a larger family and much more. However, the joke is prevalent in Mexican communities in order to make light of their hardships. It shows how humor is consistently used to make a situation seem better and it’s a source of hope. Second, making tamales on Christmas is very widespread in Mexican culture. Given how the informant would always complete the task with his mother, it provided a way for the two of them to connect through their culture of making food. 

Irish Joke 1 – Light as a Feather

1) “Which Irish rock is lighter than a feather?”

“A Shamrock!” 

2) Although I’m half Korean, I’m also half Irish. I heard this riddle from my Irish grandmother. She told me this riddle as the first in a series of riddles saying that she wanted to start off giving me the “easiest one” she could think of. She said she wanted to tell me this specific riddle because it was an opportunity for her, a devout Christian, to teach me something about the importance of the “shamrock,” which to her was not merely a shrub, but could be used as a visual symbol to represent the Holy Trinity. 

3) Since I couldn’t visit my grandmother personally, I had zoom called her and asked for her four favorite riddles. 

4) Allegedly, the Shamrock was first used as a representation of the Holy Trinity according to lore about St. Patrick. The comparison “light as a feather” has ties to symbolic associations with freshness, holiness, renewal – shamrock’s etymology means “young clover,” so the connection with lightness, youth, and vitality become even more apparent. 

Irish Joke 2 – Eyes


“What has eyes, but it can’t see?” 

“A potato!” 

2) My Irish grandmother shared this with me with hopes to express how much of a staple potatoes are in Irish cuisine. She said that even though this riddle may seem overly simplistic, the potato has sustained the Irish population for generations. She even mentioned to me that in 1845 the Irish Potato Famine literally wiped out over 1 million people because of a blight. 

3) This riddle was shared with me by my grandmother, amongst a set of 3 other riddles, over a zoom call that I had with her. 

4) I’ve heard other similar riddles such as “a needle” to answer the above riddle, but it’s my first time hearing this rendition. The fact that an oral tradition even exists in which a potato is personified through the riddle, suggests that the crop was a major form of sustenance for the Irish people. At the time of the famine, around 50% of Ireland’s population was dependent on potatoes for their major source of food. 

Irish Joke 3 – clover

1) “How don’t you iron a four-leaf clover?” 

“Because you shouldn’t press your luck!” 

2) My Irish grandmother saved this riddle for the end of our conversation because she said that she herself collected 4 leaf clovers during childhood and that she still believes them to be truly lucky. Although she admits to herself being slightly superstitious, she suggests that I undertake some superstitious beliefs to protect myself. 

3) This riddle was shared with me by my grandmother, amongst a set of 3 other riddles, over a zoom call that I had with her. 

4) The riddle suggests that “luck” is a real and precious force that influences our lives. The four leaf clover has connections to a rich oral tradition. It has been associated with protection from evil Celtic fairies, and other legends state that Eve removed a four-leaf clover before leaving the Garden of Eden. Thus, for Irish people, four-leaf clover folklore is derived from a sense of sacredness, regarding luck – a symbol of good within a dangerous world. 

Irish Joke 4 – Ghost


“On St. Patrick’s Day, what does a ghost drink?”


2) My Irish grandmother first heard this riddle during college in 1967 when drinking at a pub the night of St. Patrick’s Day. She shared this with me because she said the camaraderie she felt that day was unlike anything she’d ever experienced and that she wanted to share this memory with me. 

3) This riddle was shared with me by my grandmother, amongst a set of 3 other riddles, over a zoom call that I had with her. 

4) Based on the riddle, one can clearly see that there is a celebratory nature tied to alcohol consumption in Ireland. There are practices such as “wetting the baby’s head,” which embodies a joyful drinking celebration when a baby is born to spontaneous meetups at a local pub. Although Ireland has a complex relationship with alcohol – indicated by rates of alcohol abuse, it is undeniable that alcohol has an almost communal, even spiritual effect that enhances kinship to great lengths. This riddle’s association of alcohol with ghosts shows that alcohol is almost tied to a deeper cultural and superstitious framework.