Tag Archives: love

Eating twelve grapes on New Year’s


Eating twelve grapes on New Year’s Eve

Minor Genre:

Holiday Celebration; Folk Magic


“On the most recent New Year’s Eve, I was at a New Year’s Eve party when someone told me that you’re supposed to eat twelve grapes right after the clock strikes midnight as a new relationship thing. I decided to do it but I accidentally ate the grapes before midnight, so when the clock struck twelve, I ate another twelve grapes. I ended up getting into a love triangle afterward and now I’m superstitious that it was because of the grapes. I had never heard of or practiced this ritual before hearing about it at the party.”


I have heard different variations of this tradition of eating twelve grapes on New Year’s. The tradition is of Spanish origin, and the most popular version seems to be to eat twelve grapes on New Year’s Eve to bring about twelve months of good luck. Other variations include eating the grapes while sitting under the table and eating twelve grapes in order to find a new relationship in the upcoming year. 

This ritual is an example of contagious magic; the grapes are believed to possess a fortuitous quality that is then transferred to a person upon their consumption of the fruit. While I do not necessarily believe in the magical effects of consuming grapes on New Year’s, I do think that it would make sense for a person to trace back to their success in a new year to such an action. Particularly in the informant’s situation, where being in a love triangle is a fairly rare occurrence, it makes sense from a psychological standpoint that they would blame this situation on the mistake they made in the New Year’s Eve grape ritual.

Nga Ka Pwe Taung (Dragon’s Lake)

Nationality: Burmese

Primary Language: Burmese

Other Language(s): English, Chinese

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Hanover, N.H

Performance Date: 03/17/2024

P.P has been my friend since middle school and is also a Burmese person who is originally from Yangon, Myanmar. When I asked her of any legends, myths or tales she knows of, she recounts a myth that she learned of when traveling with her family and friends. Her family went on regular trips along with other family friends, to different places all over Myanmar. This included a lot of superstitious tourist spots. 

“I went to the Nga Ka Pwe Taung, also known as Dragon’s Lake, at Min Bu. This was when I was in middle school and me and my family visited a lot of these mythical places. This place has bubbling pools on top of four weirdly shaped mounds. The people at the village said that place is called a Dragon’s lake because it is where a dragon died with his significant other. They say that the pool keeps bubbling almost like an active volcano but doesn’t erupt, because the dragon’s love for his partner was so passionate. I think the tourist guides made this story up to attract more visitors but nonetheless it was still a fun place to visit.”

The myth of the Dragon’s Lake was probably made to explain a natural phenomenon like the bubbling pools that don’t erupt, since people who don’t understand the scientific reasons for that, might want an explanation. Since people at Min Bu are also really religious, this story would be a great “explanation” and also serves to reinforce their existing beliefs in mythical beings like dragons. It also shows that dragons are capable of enduring love, adding another layer to why the creature should be worshiped / respected.

Thanksgiving Ornaments

The informant is a student in university who has spent the entirety of his life in the United States, starting various different traditions that she has the ability to experience due to family members building upon their values.


On Thanksgiving, the United States’ annual national holiday, the informant, her family and extended members join together to “share [their] love with one another by bringing [their] Christmas earlier in the year.” The ceremony that takes place accompanying the traditional Thanksgiving feast and activities includes the “exchange of an ornament on Thanksgiving because we often won’t be able to be together during Christmas but we get to carry a reminder of them on the tree.” This is typically done “after the meal ends, giving each other the ornaments, symbolic of our love on Christmas eve and day, is mainly for the extended family members who we don’t get to see on the most chaotic days of the year”.


The informant states that this tradition has existed in her family since “[her] brother was 5 so that was 13 years ago” and was a very important ceremony that played a “unique part of Thanksgiving day” as it was “more symbolic than the turkey was to [them]”. She had also expressed that these ornaments were usually personalized according to each family member and their interests, specifically over the course of that year. Examples of this in her family exist through an ornament that she received years ago that was “Nemo themed because it was my favourite movie as a child” and that resonated with the rest of the family as they put it on their tree for that Christmas season. Ornament ceremonies had a certain dynamic and were typically done between specific individuals most of the years with an exchange of “the older generations giving the younger generations personalised ones” and the entire family giving the elders “a collective personalised one” from their descendants. This can be seen through her family giving their grandfather a wooden ornament because of their “family memories and love for nature.” She summarises her experience with the ceremony as a “matter of how we can share our love with unfortunately not being able to be in the same space as each other” on Christmas day.


This unique ceremony being done during Thanksgiving presents a different approach to the traditional holiday by implementing the effects of the religious/community holiday of Christmas together. The mix of holidays in a familial setting embraces and highlights the true impact of these holidays on the informant and her family, placing her family in an important position in their lives. Although it is not a generational tradition that has existed for decades, it emphasises the significance of this tradition to the informant herself and her siblings. The personalisation of the ornaments presents the beginning of a narrative of sorts as she is able to collect the personalised ornaments she has received over the years to show the growth in her persona and values as a human. Besides this allowing the family to celebrate the family essence that they do not have on Christmas with the ornaments received on Thanksgiving, it also supports the ideology of feeling extreme gratitude on Thanksgiving. Spreading the “love and family joy” all year round as they prepare for the year ahead of them, with the ornaments piling up over the years symbolizes the impacts of implementing this ceremony onto Thanksgiving. It allows the informant to have grown up feeling connected to her extended family which is evident in the manner she has expressed the importance of family in her life, missing the ones who are not there for Christmas Eve.

月老紅線 Red Thread from the God of Love

The informant is a 21-year-old woman who lives in Taiwan. She went to a temple and asked the God of Love for a red thread to stop bad relationships from happening. The interview was conducted through a video call.

Collector: Can you tell me more about the red thread from the God of Love?

Informant: Yeah, of course. The red thread from the God of Love represents the marriage that is meant to be in your destiny. In our culture, there’s this idea of 緣分 [yuan fen] which is roughly the idea of fate in terms of love and marriage. It’s often described as an invisible string that connects two people who belong to each other. The red thread represents the right 緣分, and it will stop other bad or just not meant to be relationships from happening. 

Collector: How do you get a red thread from the God of Love?

Informant: You have to ask for one from the God of Love 月老 [yue lao]. You bring sweet snacks to the temple and put them in front of the altar. You take these things called 筊 [jiao] which are two red moon-shaped wooden pieces that can indicate what the gods and goddesses trying to say. You list out what you are looking for in your future partner and toss the pieces. If you get yes 3 times consecutively, you can get a red thread from the God of Love. I got mine from one of the biggest temples in the city. Your parents can ask for one for you as well, but you should only have one with you at all times. If you own more than one, the old one needs to be burnt in the furnace in the temple after you get permission from the God of Love. 

Collector: What do you do with the thread you have?

Informant: They used to say that you should tie it on your wrist. However, the staff in the temple told me to keep mine in my wallet and make sure I look at it often. She said don’t tie it because it would mean that there will be 結 ([jie]; knots) which represent 劫 ([jie]; obstacles or disasters).

Collector: Will anything happen when you find the right person?

Informant: When they used to tie it on the wrist, they said that it would break and fall when you find the right person. But I don’t think this is the case anymore. What I’ve heard is that you will lose the tread somehow. 

The religious life in Taiwan is mostly a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism. Though the God of Love 月老 mentioned by the informant is a Taoist god, the practice of asking for a red thread is a part of vernacular religion. People who would want to go through the process of earning a red thread are often feeling lost or frustrated about their dating life. The red thread acts as a guiding light in their search for their happily ever after or reassurance from a higher being that the owner’s love life is being taken care of. Owning a red thread is homeopathic magic because it symbolizes the invisible string that connects one to the right person. Jiao bei, sometimes called moon blocks, which are the red wooden indicative pieces are really amusing in the sense that the sign from gods is quite straightforward. It is also worth noting that the name 月老 or the full-name 月下老人 means the old man under the moon (Full moon), this ties back to the common connection of full moon and fertility since the god is mainly in charge of marriage.

El Sombrerón- The Man with the Big Hat: Legend


Me: “Within your Mexican culture, did you grow up hearing any scary stories or legends?”

NO: “oh my gosh yes, I have one that actually still affects me today. So there’s this guy that is claimed to be a short middle-aged man who wears black boots and this big, almost like a sombrero-looking hat. Supposedly he roams around the streets playing the guitar and sings captivating melodies that will make women and young children walk towards him and if they do, they will be casted under a spell of love, almost like a curse, as he plays music for them”. 

Me: “Is there a way to get rid of the curse?”

NO: “Well supposedly my family says that once you are cursed El Sombrerón will haunt you in your sleep and the only way to get rid of it is to cut your hair. It’s pretty random but growing up as a kid and even now I would always think about it if I ever hear random guitar strumming or street performers playing guitar in public”.

Translation: “The Man with the Big Hat” 

Context (informant’s relationship to the piece, where they heard it, how they interpret it):

-NO’s relationship to this piece stems from her Mexican culture within her childhood and early adult life considering this legend is claimed to be from Mexican decent. Not to mention, her relationship to this pieces stems from her real experiences as they still affect her today whenever she comes across street performers. NO would hear this legend at home by her family and older relatives. Considering NO grew up in a very musical household, NO thinks the reason why this legend was told so often was because it was a story that related to music and their favorite instrument. NO interprets this legend as a scaring tactic that her family would place to avoid children walking up to strangers. Not to mention, NO interprets this legend as an overall motive to avoid temptation. 

Analysis(what kind of personal, cultural, or historical values might be expressed) YOUR interpretation:

-The overall cultural value within this legend stems from Mexican culture given the very distinctive quality of culture and overall lifestyle value that is represented within the Mexican sombrero that the man wears when playing the guitar. This gives an overall emphasis that this legend’s origin comes from Mexican culture and Mexican communities. Not to mention, the personal values that can be expressed within this legend is that it influences individuals to be aware of their surroundings considering that it can affect their day to day life regarding their personal value of consciousness whenever they hear the strumming of a guitar. I can see this legend as a strange learning tactic that is placed by the parents of children in order to keep them safe from people they don’t know. Considering that this legend revolves around the idea of temptation in regards to the captivating music, I can interpret this legend as a motive to not fall for someone who seems to be captivating from the outside, no matter how inviting they might appear. In general, this legend draws similarity to the legend of La Llorona because they use the similar tactic of emitting noise in order for their victim to approach them. Given the concept of hearing a physical sound within this legend of El Sombrerón, the idea of a legend quest can be made from those individuals who really want to find out if the legend and curse is real or not.