Tag Archives: michigan

Midwest Traditions Before Halloween

Background Information: 

The informant was born and raised in Michigan. They are a good friend of mine and we grew up together. 

Main Content: 

ME: So you mind telling me a little bit about the Boo tradition that we grew up with?

DS: So back in middle school and elementary school, not as much in high school, the night before Halloween, we would go around to our friend’s houses, a group of kids, and we would leave a bag of candy on the porch, knock on their door, and run away. That was just the tradition that you would always do with your friends the night before Halloween. We took it really seriously, maybe more seriously than we should have. We would always try to catch the person who was ‘Booing’ us, and we would always try to escape unseen when we were the ones doing the ‘Booing’. We would leave a cute note, hinting at your identity, but sometimes you just didn’t know who ‘Booed’ you. If you couldn’t catch them, you would always try to figure it out the next day at school. 

ME: Haha, were the parents in on it? Or was it looked down upon? 

DS: So the parents were always in on it. Especially because we were so young. So, the parents of the people doing the ‘Booing’ were usually the ones most involved. They would drive the kids there and they would help prepare the bags. They took it almost as seriously as the kids did. I remember once I heard a knock on my door, I walked outside and I see this car fishtailing out of my driveway, and there was a bag of candy left on my doorstep. ‘


This interview happened at my house. 


This is something that I loved doing growing up. Me and the informant, along with some of our other friends, used to go around “Booing” people. We would stay up all night hiding in the bushes in front of our homes to catch people who were trying to “Boo” us. After doing some research I found that this tradition was started in the US around the 80s and has been observed in certain pockets of the US, for instance, another friend from Ohio told me that they also did this tradition (https://www.wxyz.com/about-us/as-seen-on/you-can-be-the-first-person-to-start-the-art-of-booing-in-your-neighborhood-classroom-or-community) . However there are some slight variations, apparently some people begin “Booing” in November, and you are supposed to put a ghost on your window to signify that you have been “Booed”. As kids, it was the one time of the year where we could act mischievously and stay out late, with our parent’s full support. I think a large reason for this is because the night before Halloween is also referred to as Devil’s Night and in Detroit it is a famous night of mischief. I reckon our parents let us get away with minor mischief to keep us away from the real mischief on that night. 

Cherry Festival

Main Piece:

Well in Traverse City during the summer is the Cherry Festival. Oh, my sister was the cherry princess! And I remember that cuz I was like in preschool and basically for that the parents the dads make a float. So all the cherry princesses they which is one from every school, and there are 25 schools or something. And so all the two princesses someone from a first graders have a girl and a guy Tirpitz is for prints, and the cherry princesses and princes from each school make a float, and our float was Herbie. There’s like a theme of the float, which was like Disney or something. And we did Herbie, do you remember that like the racecar? So I vividly remember like we took a car, we painted a car, like a dumpster car, and it was on a float. And then on the cherry festival parade all of the floats go through. And then they vote on like a Cherry Queen and the queen is like in high school or older. She like takes pictures with all the princesses. That’s a big deal and Cherry Festival, well there’s like a fair and there’s events that happen every every day and it’s like a very big thing a lot of fugdies, a lot of people would call fudgies people from like South Michigan who to Traverse City for the cherry festival. It’s a big deal. But none of the people who live in Traverse City actually like the festival because they make the grass dirty, without it the grass is like fluorescent green. 


My informant is one of my roommates, a 20-year-old dance major at USC. She’s from Michigan and this performance took place in our kitchen as she was cooking. 


My informant grew up with this festival and her sister was a cherry princess one year. She loves cherries and says it’s the only fruit that tastes better in Michigan than in California. 


I thought it was fascinating how much my informant talked up this festival and her families involvement, only to reveal at the very end that the people who live there don’t actually like the festival, that it’s much more for the people in Michigan who live outside of Traverse city than for the actual residents. So while this festival is a part of Michigan culture, it’s a yearly annoyance for the actual residents of the city.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes

Main Piece:

Informant: So in terms of where I grew up there are like sand dunes and they’re called The Sleeping Bear Dunes. And so there was there’s like a story. I’m gonna butcher the story, but we would learn it growing up. So, like a long time ago a mother bear and her two cubs had to swim across Lake Michigan to escape a forest fire. And so the bears swam for many hours, because the lake is massive, but soon the cubs got tired? And the mother bear reached the shore first and climbed to the top of a hill to like watch and wait for the babies. And it’s like so so sad, but the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. And so the Great Spirit created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the mother bear and how she had to watch her babies in the lake. And we would go like in third- It’s usually around third grade. We would go on field trips to the dunes and before you go, they would read that story to you. 


My informant learned this as part of her education in Michigan. She was actually homeschooled after elementary school, but she said this was one of her most vivid memories from the Michigan school system. 


My informant is one of my roommates, a 20-year-old dance major at USC. She’s from Michigan and this performance took place in our kitchen as she was cooking. 


This legend is told before children visit the actual site of the dunes, but it’s taught as a story rather than the truth of what happened and why the dunes and the island are there along Lake Michigan. I didn’t realize it until halfway through the performance, but this is a Native American legend and when I asked her if she knew which tribes had this legend, she said that she was never taught the tribes’ names, just that it was a Native American myth. It struck me how this story is told as a Native American legend, but with most of the context stripped from it, so it becomes part of Michigan’s history while still being othered. 

For more information on the legend of the Sleeping Bear Dune, see, https://project.geo.msu.edu/geogmich/bearlegend.html

or for more on the appropriation of this story see,


Windsor/Detroit Friendship Festival


The informant grew up near Windsor, Ontario in Canada which was right across the US border from Detroit, Michigan. Since the United States celebrates Independence Day on July 4th and Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1st, the two towns would join to celebrate together at some point over the long holiday weekend.

Main Piece:

“Detroit and Windsor would do this thing, The Friendship Festival, because it was international friendship. And so they would have shared fireworks between, and they would compromise, do, like, whatever day worked out best over the long weekend, but, you know, sometimes it would be on my birthday, which was July 3rd, so it was especially great to go to Windsor and they’d have fireworks for my birthday.”


These two cities were so close to each other and both celebrate a major holiday on the same weekend, so it makes sense that they would join forces. Some other compounding factors include the fact that the drinking age is two years lower in Ontario than in the US, which already made Windsor a popular destination for those slightly too young to drink alcohol in the States. This tradition makes me consider how a folk does not necessarily end at a national border. These towns, only separated by a river and an artificially enforced border, institutionally celebrate their national holidays three days apart. But because their proximity to each other, and therefore their connection, cannot simply be negated by the borders of their nations, they compromise to create a new festival out of the two.

Michigan state flower

Background: Informant is a 19 year old college student. They grew up in Minnesota and have lived there until college, where they relocated to Los Angeles. The informant says that this is an indigenous story that they learned in school about why the Minnesota state flower is called the lady slipper flower.”

Informant: There was a girl, and she had these special slippers. And they were beautiful and made for her. But she was told to go and deliver these slippers and she had to like, go very far away and all the seasons went by, and in the winter no one would help her, so she got stuck with the slippers in this field and she like, died with the slippers there. But they were like, magical or something? And so like, the slippers were in the snow where she died, and then in the spring they thawed into the ground and a flower grew from them. And that flower was the lady slipper flower. And then it was like, a memorial of her journey. 

Me: Where did you hear this for the first time?

Informant: This is definitely incorrect, but in my Elementary school when we were talking about Minnesota state history. 

Reflection: My informant mentioned that this story was told to them in school. They made sure to mention that they are not indigenous themselves, but it is an example of how cultures intermix when colonization occurs. This indigenous story has made its way into American culture, with the state flower of Minnesota being inspired by an indigenous story. It’s interesting how when nation-states are created, they sometimes borrow from the indigenous groups they steal from. It’s an unfair, odd phenomenon where the nation-state will pull from native folklore to honor their culture, but walk all over their land and disrespect their humanity.