Tag Archives: Mexican

New Years Rituals

“On New Year’s Eve as it gets closer to midnight we prepare our bodies by eating 12 green grapes, one for each month, eating spinach for good health and money, and eating lentils as well. We also tie a red string and yellow string around our wrists or ankles to symbolize love, protection, and health. We never take it off, we just wait for it to naturally break sometime over that year. We also peel cuties and save the skin to symbolize our first fruit of the year. Lastly, we walk around our neighborhood with empty suitcases to symbolize keeping us safe on our travels that we take throughout the year.”

The informant does this tradition on New Year’s eve/day once it hits midnight. Usually at her grandma’s house. In the tradition, everyone plays the same role and it includes “my mom, sister, grandma and I.” It’s a tradition that has been kept in the family that has been passed down for them to take part in. 

These rituals are homeopathic magic rituals, meaning when performed they bring magic to the people performing it. Eating spinach as a ritual brings magically good health and money. It is a symbolic magic, meaning that the performance mimics the desired result. Spinach is green and leafy, like money, and it is good for health. The first fruit of the year may be important for two reasons. One, that fruit symbolizes the ability to eat well. Secondly, fruit is often used as a term of success financially, for example “fruitful returns” on an investment. Both eating well and the word parallels symbolize financial stability and wealth. It is clear that this culture values wealth and food through these rituals, which primarily focus on money. The suitcase may also be related to money, as it could symbolize wealth enough to travel, in addition to the safety component. This is all done on New Years Eve because as the clock strikes midnight, there is a liminal “between” time in which magic is possible. It is important for many cultures to perform rituals during this liminal time to ensure magic for what they desire in the new year is spread into the universe. Liminal times are often seen as magical times, so it is an ideal time to wish or spread magic.

Memorate: My Great-Grandparents’ Joaquin Murrieta Sighting


Informant J is a 73 year old Mexican-American man and is the collector’s grandfather. He is from San Jose, California, but his family moved there from parts of Texas and Mexico. For the majority of his life, J was a manager at a regional grocery store, and studied art in college with a focus in jewelry making. J is now retired and his hobbies include guitar playing, metal working, and reworking vintage cars.


(Please excuse typos, this is an unaltered text message from the informant): “My parents said they were just finishing up a picnic at Alumn Rock park on the East side of San Jose and were getting ready to head home when a man who looked like he had been dug up (his clothes was old and tattered and resembled clothes from the cowboy days. He came up to their car window and just stood there not saying a word but staring in a daze. They believe it was the ghost of Juan Murrieta who lived during the late 1900’s. He was famous for robbing people in that area of the park. My dad started the car and got the hell out of there! My parents were very scared and they were familiar with the legend of Juan Murrieta and never stopped talking about the incident!”

“Ps: The cowboy did have an old style revolver as well!”


I’d like to note that people often confuse Juan and Joaquin Murrieta, and that my grandpa was almost certainly referring to the latter. I did some research after being told this story, as I hadn’t heard of either figure until now. Juan was a pioneer, whereas Joaquin is a Mexican figure commonly known as the Robin Hood of the West. More specifically, stories about Murrieta rose in California during the Gold Rush. I find it interesting that my great-grandparents claim to have seen Joaquin Murrieta, because they associated something strange with something they already knew about (ghosts), and their knowledge of it is heavily influenced by culture. Even though my family was Mexican-Texan, they had heard enough about this specifically Mexican-Californian legend in the little time that they lived there that they assumed the figure was him. What’s more, this story hints at a combination of folkloric beliefs, as my great-grandparents claim to have seen a kind of undead version of Joaquin Murrieta, who is more of a legend than a popular ghost. There are debates over whether he existed, but stories of seeing him are rarer. But my great-grandparents seem to have believed in ghosts in general, so this memorate only furthered their personal view of the world.

Aunt’s Ghost Story about Sleeping Boy


  • collected on 03/23/2024
  • Genre: Memorate
  • Language: English
  • Nationality: Mexican-American
  • Relationship to Informant: Friend
  1. Text 
    1. Summary: 
      1. The Informant’s aunt grew up in rural Mexico with a big family. One night, she woke up because she felt someone in her bed. When she opened her eyes, she saw a little boy sleeping next to her and assumed it was her little brother. In the morning, she noticed her little brother sleeping in his own room and wearing different clothing. When she asked her brother why he slept in her bed, he told her that he hadn’t done that. 
    2. Direct transcription of folklore:
      1. “So, my aunt Liz (pretty sure this was Liz) was 15 and they were living in this old house in the middle of the country. One morning – actually the middle of the night – she woke up because she felt someone in her bed. So she woke up and turned around, and it was a little boy. At first, she was like ‘what the h***’ because my dad’s family has three boys and two girls. So, at first she was like, ‘Oh, George, what are you doing here?’ Then she really looked at him, and she was like ‘oh my God, that’s not George.’ I can’t remember if she like went back to sleep …. no, no, no … Okay, so what happened was she saw the boy and she was like ‘oh, it’s George’ because the little boy had his back turned to her. So then she fell asleep and woke up. Then she went and saw that George was sleeping in his own bed. He was also wearing something completely different than the boy she saw that night. So she was like ‘what happened last night? Why did you come sleep in my bed?’ and he was like ‘I didn’t, I was here the whole night.’”
  2. Context 
    1. Informant is a USC student in her early 20s who was born and raised in the Sacramento Valley. This ghost story was told to her by her aunt, and it has become an oral tradition in her family. 
  3. Analysis 
    1. The ghost in this story is a little boy who sleeps in a young girl’s bed. Since the boy is very peaceful and doesn’t intend to scare her, it can be seen as an innocent soul looking for a family connection. This suggests cultural values of family and community acceptance. It also suggests the perspective that ghosts can be non-harmful, which indicates an open mind to the spiritual world. 

Grandmother’s Goodbye

Genre: Folk Narrative – Ghost Story


“My dad once told me a story about an experience he had with a ghost. My dad was really close with his grandparents; he spent a lot of time over at their house when he was younger and as a child, he had these really weird dreams where his grandmother would appear to him. In the dreams, she was just sitting on a stool beside his bed and talking to him.

“When I was around ten years old, my great-grandmother, his grandmother, passed away. But my dad told me he had one of those dreams the night she died: in his dream, he was a child again as he was looking at her, and just as she always did in the dreams, she was sitting on a stool and talking to him. But he had a feeling that this dream was different. Although he doesn’t remember the details of the conversation he had in the dream, when he woke up, he felt a visceral change and later discovered that that was the night she passed away.”


“My great-grandparents on my dad’s side, around when I was ten years old or so, were dying of Alzheimer’s and they needed a caretaker. It was a really big burden on my family, and I remember my dad talking about them a lot during that time because he had a really deep connection with his grandparents. He spent a lot of time with them growing up, and he even ended up remodeling their house and turning it into his parents’ house, which is where my grandparents live now. I think my dad’s dreaming of them was a representation of the deep emotional connection they shared. I think he really felt a change in that connection the night his grandmother died, and I like to think of that dream as her way of saying goodbye.”


Although I am skeptical about the idea of a truly prophetic dream, I think this is an example of how dreams can sometimes help someone process an ongoing trauma or complicated emotions. The informant explained that his great-grandparents were dying of Alzheimer’s, which is a slow end. It is possible that the informant’s father dreamed about conversations with his grandmother as a way of processing this difficult mental condition, and only after hearing news of his grandmother’s death did he feel that, at the time of the dream, he felt that he knew she had died at the time. Memories are notoriously faulty and dreams even more so, which is why I personally believe that this was not a ghost the informant’s father envisioned the night his grandmother died, but merely a way of his brain processing the difficulty of losing a loved one.

Another idea to consider is the fact that the informant’s paternal family is Mexican. Ghosts are prevalent in Mexican culture, particularly the ghosts of loved ones (as seen in holidays such as Día de los Muertos). It is possible that this cultural background influenced the informant’s father to be more inclined to believe in a supernatural explanation for his dream/ghost rather than a scientific one.

Lake Spirit


There was once a young lady who drowned her baby in a lake. As punishment, she was cursed to the same fate of drowning, and now her spirit remains by the lake. She comes to haunt those who do bad things.


There were lots of Mexicans and Mexican Americans where I grew up, so this was your typical boogeyman story to tell kids so they won’t do bad stuff, just with a deeper connection to Mexico/home. 


In this text, I see the theme of karma/ the golden rule being enforced: you are treated differently based on how you have treated others. Water is also dangerous for younger children if they cannot swim, so stories like this one can help to keep them safe by instilling a fear of the water in them until they are older and capable of being safe when near a lake, or knowing how to swim. This story also gives authority to the fear it attempts to instill by establishing that the lady has already drowned her own child, so she would most likely have no qualms about drowning someone else’s child.