Tag Archives: party

American Halloween Parties: A Festival

--Informant Info--
Nationality: american
Age: 56
Occupation: homemaker
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/21/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my mother/informant (ET). 

ET: I went to Catholic school growing up, and we always had All Saints Day off, which is the day after Halloween, so we’d always have big sleepovers on Halloween. You know, since no one was going to school the next day. I’ve always loved Halloween because of that, and of course my birthday is then… and it’s just a sweet holiday. Oh, and the costumes… that’s one of the best parts… But that’s how I really got started throwing Halloween parties. Then of course, I grew up and had kids- holidays are always better with kids… I loved that our house was the hub for all the neighborhood kids and their parents when everyone was done Trick-Or-Treating. I love cooking lots of food, so everyone has something real to eat that’s not candy (laughs). Even now that you guys are older… I think I’ll always throw Halloween parties. I’ve got them down to a science, you know. Like what decorations are the best… and oh! You have to carve the pumpkins the day before so they don’t go bad, but you’re not too busy the day of. 

Background:

My informant is my mother who mainly grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. Her birthday is Halloween, and she used to always tell me she “had special witch powers” because of it. To her, Halloween is the most important holiday. Every year, she begins elaborately decorating our house weeks in advance for her annual costume party that takes place Halloween Night. She doesn’t even mail invitations anymore because everyone in our community knows it’s happening. 

Context: 

I am currently in quarantine at my informant/mother’s house, and this piece was collected while we were eating dinner at the kitchen table.

Thoughts: 

I believe Halloween parties are such big celebrations in America because the holiday is simple, fun, and nostalgic. Having grown up in a home where my parents practiced different religions, I always loved that Halloween was secular, so both my parents would get really excited about it. It’s not religious, it’s American. There’s no moral to Halloween in common practice (unlike All Hallow’s Eve- the pagan holiday that Halloween was based on, which celebrates the rising of the dead). On Halloween, people are just supposed to get dressed up, have fun, and eat lots of candy (or drink lots of booze, depending on your age). The point of any party, but especially a Halloween party, is that it’s unifying. All are invited to have a shared experience. Furthermore, the fact that it is a costume party highlights this idea by letting people be anyone they want to be. You can dress in a way that’s unacceptable any other day of the year, potentially channeling your childhood dreams or wonder that you haven’t expressed in years. 

El bolo

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 22
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-22-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Background: Informant is a 22 year old first generation Mexican American

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Does your family have any traditions for family gatherings?

Informant: When we have a baptism, we usually have two piñatas. One is regular and filled with candy. But the second one is called el bolo. The second piñata is filled with money. Usually it is coins, but if the parents and godparents are nice it would be dollar bills. I think it is rare when its dollar bills though. Kids love running around trying to catch the coins, even when they get hit in the head they are determined to continue catching money. It is always fun.

Context: Interview with a family friend about family traditions.

Thoughts: I think the idea of one piñata is already fun. So I can only imagine having another one filled with money. I think I have heard of something similar to el bolo, but instead of money or candy, it is filled with toys. I think its interesting to see the creative ways people try to entertain their kids at parties.

Quinceanera celebration

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 50
Occupation: Housewife
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/28/2020
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s):

Main piece: 

The following was transcribed from a conversation between informant and interviewer.

Informant: A tradition… that all families, all hispanic families celebrate, or all families do is a daughter’s 15 year old birthday. They call it a quinceanera. All families do it. The 15 year ceremony is very important because the dad presents his daughter to society… because umm…  because she stops being a girl and becomes a young woman. 

Interviewer: What do you do in the quinceanera? 

Informant: The most important part is mass to give thanks for her 15 years of living. Godparents are chosen for the ceremony. After mass is the party. And in the party there is a lot of food… eh there are different types of you know ehh platters depending on the region. There’s dance, wine, y around 10 in the night, the waltz is danced with the dad, the brothers if any, and the rest of the males in the family including grandparents, uncles, and cousins. After that there are other dances, the one that the quinceanera likes and she dances with her “chambelanes”. They change attire and after the dancing, there is one last ceremony. The madrina gives her one last doll, the last doll she’ll be given because she stops being a girl and the madrina crowns her with a crown and replaces her shoes with slippers. Once that’s done, she’s officially considered a princess and a young woman. 

Background: The informant was my mom who was born in Mexico City. She was raised in Mexico but came to the U.S. about 20 years ago. She still goes back during the summer to visit family and that sort of thing. She has learned about this tradition since she was very young because all her cousins and sisters went through the quinceanera so she knows the ceremony very well. However, she did not have one because instead of a party/ceremony, she wanted a car so she got that instead.

Context: I was in the kitchen with my mom and I needed one more collection piece from her so I asked her straight up what’s another tradition that she knows really well because I needed one more. She told me the importance of the quinceanera as I was helping her prepare food and I had my phone out to record our conversation.

Thoughts: I know the quinceanera is a big tradition because I lived it with my sister when she turned 15. I’m not a good dancer, or even like dancing, but I had to for my sister’s ceremony in order to keep with tradition. I can tell it’s a special moment for them because like my mom explained, it is the transition from a girl to a young woman. Everyone in the family enjoys the ceremony and it’s a fun time overall. The girl never forgets her quinceanera because of how grand the spectacle is.

Irish Goodbye

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Orange County, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 15 February 200
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed form a conversation between the informant and the interviewer

Informant: The Irish goodbye is when you leave a party without letting other people know that you’re leaving. You just get up and leave. You might bump into a few people on your way out, and then you would have to announce you leaving, but the point is to not be going around the room and say goodbye to everyone, especially not the host, the host can’t know that you’re leaving.

Interviewer: Why is this associated with Ireland? Why is it called the “Irish goodbye”?

Informant: I don’t think anyone knows the exact story as to who or what in Ireland started it. But it’s just an Irish thing, I guess, and people just call it that now.

Interviewer: Can you think of any reason as to what about Irish culture that would bring up an abrupt departure?

Informant: The thing with Irish people is that everyone’s so fucking kind when they invite you over to their homes. Like my grandma, for example, always always have different kinds of tea, breads, meal, dessert, and more stuff ready. That’s just kinda true for all grandmas, but all Irish people are like that. To invite someone to my house means that you have to satisfy your guests, and that makes these hosts go a little crazy with the antics. So I think leaving without letting people know is actually a kind thing to do.

Interviewer: How so?

Informant: We’re saving the host from having to be all kind and whatnot, we just get up and leave. You’ll know I’m gone when I’m gone.

Interviewer: So this practice isn’t used to show disapproval?

Informant: No, no bad feelings at all. The exact opposite, really.

Background: My informant is of Irish and Scottish descent, his parents being immigrants from those respective countries. He still has most of his relatives living in Ireland and Scotland, and the cultures he aligns himself with are close to those mainlands rather than the diaspora – Irish American or Scottish American. The grandmother that he mentions is also an immigrant, who moved from Ireland to California in the late 80s.

Context: The conversation took place army informant’s house in Orange County, California. It was a familiar, comfortable setting.

My thoughts: I can’t say that I practice the Irish goodbye often myself, I tend to say goodbye to at least my friends. But hearing my informant talk the reasoning behind an abrupt departure, I do understand how it might actually deviate the host from that duty, and how it might actually be a kind gesture.

No Music Party Chant

--Informant Info--
Nationality: US
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

 Informant: It’s simple. It’s just like, if the music cuts out at a party, or if like, the speaker blows and there’s a long stretch of silence someone will stand up and start a “No Music” chant. It’s like, one person will clap three times and then the rest of the party will reply “No Music!” in rythm back. God. And that’ll keep going until someone has the music back on again.

Background:  The informant is a senior here at USC. He is my next door neighbor and we conducted this interview in person at his apartment. He is from Manhattan Beach and has lived there for his entire life. He is a social individual and has attended many parties throughout high school and college. He attended a large high school in Manhattan Beach.

Context: The informant learned of this chant/song when he experienced it first hand. Typically, this kind of chant is typical amongst high school “party” culture. The informant clearly didn’t have high praise for this piece of American high school party folklore. He had no idea when this chant came about, but was certain it had been along for much longer than he had been around.

Analysis: I specifically asked the informant whether or not he had experienced this chant in his own life. I was interested because in own hometown, whenever a situation like this would occur at a social gathering we would break out in a similar style chant. However, In my experience, the chant involved much more rhythm and was significantly more intricate. Another contrast is that I look back on this chant fondly, in comparison to the informant. This could potentially be because my school was much smaller in size and emphasized an arts-based education. This chant is folklore because it contains multiplicity and variation (Dundes) and is an example of artistic communication performed in small groups (Ben-Amos). While the informant’s chant is more simplistic, that could be due to the large nature of his high school. On the other hand, the chant I experienced could be a function of my high school emphasizing artistic performance, making my community more willing to indulge the dramatic nature of the chant.

Quinceanera

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican, American
Age: 20
Occupation: USC Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

I interviewed my informant, a young lady of Mexican descent, in the study lounge of the band office. Because of her upbringing in Mexican culture, she was able and eager to share a lot of folklore and folk traditions. At the top of her list was her experience with the tradition of Quinceaneras, which she learned from her family members. She watched her older cousins performing the event when she was younger, and she had one herself when she turned fifteen. The following is the information she shared with me during the interview:

 

According to my informant, a Quinceanera is a celebration of a young girl’s fifteenth birthday.

 

In the past, they were to show the village/town that this person is now ready to be wed/ now ready to meet suiters. Now it’s more of a celebration of coming into womanhood, and presenting her as such to family and friends

 

Girls wear bridal-like dresses. In modern Quinceaneras, girls wear colors that match the theme color of their party. My informant informed me that she wore a white dress because that was the main color of her party.

 

Quinceaneras also have a Court. The court is made up of seven couple with one main escort to dance with the Quinceanera [here the word is being used to describe the girl herself rather than the entire celebration].

 

At her party, when she enters the room, a waltz is performed with her court. And then she dances with the father/male figures in her family. Her father performs changing of the shoe, which is usually changing a ballet flat to a heal.

 

This is followed by the presentation of the doll. There is a doll that looks like the Quinceanera. She has to present it to a younger female figure (a cousin, or sister). My informant gave her doll to her younger sister at her Quinceanera.

 

My informant also told me that a more recent Quinceanera tradition is the surprise dance. The girl being celebrated will choreograph a modern dance of some sort to entertain guests.

 

It is also expected that the Quinceanera greet every guest and thank them for coming to their party.

 

My information added that Quinceaneras are traditionally for catholic people. There is usually a mass beforehand where they honor the Virgin Mary because she’s the pinnacle of womanhood.

 

I asked my informant for the context of a Quinceanera. She admitted that most of what she shared is based on the American tradition. In the Mexican culture, the whole town would be invited, not just family and friends. The party is usually held anywhere people fit: a ranch, in a dance hall, etc. The entire party also functions as a display of wealth for the family.

 

Analysis

I have ever experienced a Quinceanera party, but I have a great idea of what it’s like based on my informants description. She obviously is well informed about the complexities of the tradition, and was able to explain it to me in a way that was easy to document. I feel that if I ever go to a Quinceanera in the future, I will be knowledgeable of what is happening and why it’s significant.

 

For more information on Quinceaneras (including who celebrates it, and rituals that are part of it), go to https://www.quinceanera-boutique.com/quinceaneratradition.htm

 

Posadas

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican, American
Age: 20
Occupation: USC Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

I interviewed my informant, Brianna, in the study lounge of the band office. Because of her upbringing in Mexican culture, she was able and eager to share a lot of folklore and folk traditions. One thing she wanted me to document was Posadas, which she learned about from her grandmother and her mother. The following is the information she shared with me during the interview:

 

Posadas are special events leading up to Christmas. It’s a movement of the community or church that happened once a week a few weeks leading up Christmas day. The community members follow someone dressed as Mary and Joseph to someone’s home. The home welcomes them in, and they have a big party.

 

My informant made sure to note that in her mother’s village, they put the woman portraying Mary on a live donkey for added effect.

 

She used to do it in her neighborhood back home (San Siro, San Luis Potosi). Everyone was invited for food and a party. A portion of the people were invited early for food, usually close friends and family. Then the whole town is invited after the dinner for the party and music.

 

This all leads up to Christmas day. On Christmas, everyone celebrates at home — which is where everyone celebrates the birth of Jesus. A certain ritual also involves putting a doll figure of baby Jesus in a manger. My informant noted that her grandmothers was 10X bigger than the other dolls because it’s the most important thing in the display.

 

I asked my informant if she had any other thoughts, to which she responded: “The first time I did it, I was in Mexico, so it was pretty wild.”

 

Analysis

I have never heard of such extravagant pageantry to celebrate the Christmas season. This festival in particular is very important because it brings the community together and affirms their identity. It’s unclear whether everyone partakes in the celebration because they are Christian, or just because they are part of the community. Regardless, Posadas is obviously a very important annual event that encourages synthesis through performance.

 

Polterabend

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 56 & 59
Occupation: Journalists
Residence: Washington, D.C.
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/1/2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): German (MT), Spanish and German (AA)

The following is a conversation between myself and my parents about a German Jewish wedding tradition called a Polterabend. My dad, Arthur, is of German Jewish descent and grew up in a secular household in Cincinnati, while my mother, Margaret, is from a secular Episcopalian background. They are referred to by their first initials in this conversation; “L” is my first initial.

M: This is actually uh, Dad’s but I was gonna say that in Cincinnati they have um–among reform Jews in Cincinnati–they have a custom called the Polterabend. which is a-
A: It’s a German custom.
M: It’s a german custom, but isn’t- I think it was celebrated by the German Jews?
A: Yeah.
M: Um and we had one of them before our wedding and the idea was um, the night before, you have like a- a kind of a wild party of some kind to celebrate. But “polter” is y’know from “poltergeist” so it’s like, y’know, goblins or-
A: And you’re supposed to break something.
L: You always do it before your wedding or…?
M: Yeah, the evening before your wedding um, y’know you uh, you break stuff, you make a lot of noise to sort of celebrate the marrying couple and chase away the bad spirits.
L: And like, did your parents do that, Dad?
A: Yeah.
L: And like, all the reform Jews in Cincinnati?
A: Yeah.
M: And when they had a party for us, the evening before our wedding here [in San Francisco]-
A: They called it a Polterabend.
M: They called it a Polterabend, although it was just a party.

My dad’s family, like most German Jewish families in Cincinnati, were not at all religiously observant; in fact, they had a Christmas tree most years growing up. Still, most reform Jews in Cincinnati, my dad’s family included, participated in cultural practices like the Polterabend in order to connect to their culture. Although neither of my parents are especially religious, traditions like this one connect our family to our cultural-religious background. My parents were married by a Rabbi in a Jewish ceremony, and had a “Polterabend” before their wedding; though my mom is not Jewish, their wedding celebrated Jewish culture’s place in their newly formed family.

Luau Themed Party

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/10/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hebrew

Main Piece: Luau Themed Party

My aunt would host a luau themed party once a year. It was a Hawaiian themed event that we used to see the family. The entire house would be decorated in Hawaiian things like flowers and torches. Oh, and Hawaiian bread rolls: they have a sweeter taste than regular bread. Another dish is purple mashed potatoes. She, my aunt, gets them at the “special market” near her house. We really enjoy going to these events and seeing all the family members and eating all the good food. We aren’t Hawaiian and don’t really have any connection to Hawaii, but the theme is really fun.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This is a traditional festival that her family has every year.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

At the luau party every year.

  • What does it mean to them?

It is a chance for her to enjoy time with her family at a fun and non-religious setting.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At her aunt’s house

  • When?

During the summer.

  • Why?

To get all the family members together.

 

Personal Thoughts:

I think it is very interesting that even though they have no connection to Hawaii, they still have a luau themed party each year. Since her entire family is Jewish, and usually only get together for religious celebrations, it must be nice to have a party that is unrelated to a religious holiday.

Ecuadorian Parties in Chicago

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States/Ecuador
Age: 19
Occupation: Student Worker
Residence: Chicago, MI
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/13/17
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Participant marked with CM below. I am noted as LJ.

LJ: What was it like growing up in Chicago as an Ecuadorian?

CM: We had a lot of parties where you pay $20 at the door. We have a lot of Ecuadorian artists that um donate their time. And we have, um, a lot of people who make food for us. Oh, and we all dance from like 7 to 2am.

LJ: What else happens at these parties?

CM: We don’t really like to spend money on outside people. The community supports eachother…we’re a small community so we’re really family based.

 

Context:

I asked the participant to tell me about what it was like to grow up Ecuadorian in Chicago. She touched on parties and food–above is the party aspect of it.

Background:

The participant is a first generation Ecuadorian-American in Chicago. She is currently a first year at the University of Southern California.

Analysis:

The Ecuadorian community in Chicago seems very close knit by the way that the parties seem to operate. The participant spoke about feeling a great support within the community. It is evident in how she mentions that, for their parties they reach out to other people within their neighborhood. Music, food, and fun serves to help the keep the group together.

The participant later went on to tell me that she feels that these parties help maintain the traditions of Ecuador–that they are especially important to those who have never been or can not go back to Ecuador.