Tag Archives: prayer

Palestinian Ramadan and Eid

Informant Details

  • Gender: Male
  • Occupation: Student
  • Nationality: Palestinian-American

Folklore Genre: Religious Observations and Holidays

  1. Text

The informant explained the customs and traditions of Ramadan, a religious observance in the Islamic faith. Ramadan occurs during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting means that no food, water, or other substances are consumed during this time period. No food molecules or water molecules should pass through your lips. Women who are menstruating, young children, elderly people, and very ill people are not allowed to fast because it may be harmful to them. In lieu of fasting, these people can donate, which is called kaffara. Fasting is meant to remind you of those who are less fortunate and don’t have access to food and water. It also is meant to cleanse your mind. In the evenings, the fast is broken during a meal called Iftar. Typically, this begins by eating a date, which is called tumrah. Iftar is typically a large feast shared by family and friends. Then, before sunrise, a meal called suhoor is eaten to prepare for the day of fasting. Ramadan also involves additional praying. During other months, observant Muslims pray five times a day facing Mecca. For Ramadan, after the last prayer at the mosque, they do another prayer called taraweeh, which consists of either 8 or 20 rak’ats. Additionally, during each day of Ramadan, one book of the Quran is read. By the end of Ramadan, the entire Quran has been read. Ramadan lasts for one month. At the end of Ramadan, there is a holiday called Eid. Eid is a celebration that marks the end of the fasting period. It begins with a prayer in the morning. Then, the day is filled with feasts and visiting family and friends. Typically, older people will give money to younger people as well.

2. Context

The informant participates in these traditions and celebrations in the context of his Muslim faith. He learned these practices during his upbringing by his Palestinian family and his religious community.

3. Analysis

The practice of fasting over the period of a month represents a cultural value of discipline and self-control. Since fasting is meant to put people in the shoes of the less fortunate, it also represents values of empathy and gratitude. There is also a cultural value of promoting health and wellness within the community because vulnerable populations are not allowed to fast. Furthermore, the emphasis on charity reflects the cultural values of generosity and supporting other people. Finally, the community-wide prayers and feasts shared among families and friends suggest a cultural value of community and belonging. 

A Lucky New Year

“At the beginning of every new year, my mom and dad put an item related to school in front of Ganesha to bless my brother and I for the year to come”

At the beginning of each year, their parents pray and place an item, usually dealing with education, in front of Ganesha, one of the most worshipped Hindu deities or gods. In Hinduism, Ganesha is associated with success and removes obstacles in one’s life. This is done to bring blessings to the kids for the new year and to bring success and well-being into their lives. For her, her mother places textbooks and a student ID in front of Ganesha. Education is considered to be extremely sacred in Indian culture, specifically for her family. Education, and objects pertaining to it, are symbolic of her whole life “in the eyes of Ganesha” and seen as a sacred pursuit, thus the obstacles on this path will be removed. She also emphasized that it is a ritual and tradition she will carry on for her own family as well.

My first interpretation of this tradition was that it would bring good luck and success into their educational journey, and while that has an aspect, it also encompasses practically their entire life, rather than just the education portion. Due to the importance that education has in Indian religion, it can be seen as one of the more important factors to put blessings into. This ritual was learned through the Hindu culture, demonstrating that something like textbooks can be considered a folklore object, and the act of placing them as a gift for a deity is a folklore practice passed down through families and communities. While folklore is often word of mouth stories and myths, it can intersect with religion and the culture that surrounds it, in this case Indian culture. This practice connects her and her family to their heritage just as folklore intends to do, additionally with the prayers spoken by the parents have been passed down through their ancestors, continuing on today.

The Safety of a Dollar Bill

“Every time I leave to go on a trip, I put a dollar bill in front of Ganesha to bless myself with safety for my travels to whatever destination”

Whenever she is traveling, she never forgets to put a one dollar bill in front of a statue of Ganesha, one of the most worshipped Hindu deities or gods. In Hinduism, Ganesha is associated with success and removes obstacles in one’s life.The dollar bill is an offering to Ganesha in order to receive a blessing of peace and safety on her next adventure. This money is never touched again and never removed. Every dollar bill she has placed in front of Ganesha throughout her life still sits right as she left them. While her parents taught her this practice, this ritual has been passed down many generations of her family and is a largely shared practice in the Hindu religion and culture.

I had never heard of this spiritual ritual before, especially when traveling or embarking upon a new adventure. My familiarity with an act like this is something similar to leaving a dollar or a trinket on a shrine of a god or a spiritual entity one believes in. For example, in Catholicism, Saint Christopher is the saint of protection and guidance for those on journeys, and people in this religion will wear a pendant with this saint on it for a sense of safety. This demonstrates the variability and immense diversity in folklore; some traditions are similar and hold comparable values while coming from totally different heritages and backgrounds. While folklore does not always stem from religious beliefs, this shows that it can interlace with so many different categories of life and be passed throughout centuries, while still holding on to key aspects of the tradition, story, practice, etc. Overall, this ritual that this person practices examples how traditions are passed down throughout generations and entire cultures with adaptability to circumstance and environment. For example, this person and her family use a dollar bill to represent the token given to Ganesha, while in India, or other countries where Hinduism is practiced, these tokens may be different, whether it is a different currency used or something completely different, such as a special trinket. Folklore has the ability to shape individuals practices and beliefs all while creating and sustaining a connection to cultural communities.

Punching Roof of Car While Passing Through Yellow Light

This informant recited a tradition which was very popular in my hometown. My hometown had a very dedicated car community where many members of our high school participated in driving cars precariously fast. My informant, a valid member of this community, retold a bit of driving folklore regarding one of the most dangerous obstacles in our hometown, red lights. More specifically, the changing of the yellow light from green then later to red. When driving at high speeds, it can be difficult to determine whether one can make it past the light in time or not. My informant said that sometimes the best thing to do is speed up and pass through the light, however whenever this is done you must punch the roof of the car for goodluck. This is also a way to pay tribute to the greater powers controlling the vehicle and paying homage to them for guiding the vehicle safely through traffic as well as slowing down the light from changing to red. 

Tracing the precise origins of this superstition is challenging, as it likely emerged spontaneously in multiple locations as automobiles became integral to daily life. The ritual reflects a broader human tendency to create and adhere to superstitions surrounding travel and transitions, which are moments of heightened risk and uncertainty. Similar to other travel-related superstitions, the practice likely spread through word-of-mouth and imitation, becoming a part of the collective driving culture. The yellow light in traffic signals serves as a warning, indicating that the red stop signal is imminent and that drivers should prepare to halt. However, in the fast-paced rhythm of modern life, a yellow light often prompts a decision: to speed up in an attempt to cross the intersection before the light turns red or to slow down and stop. The act of punching the roof of the car while driving through a yellow light is a ritualistic gesture that symbolically wards off bad luck or the potential negative consequences of making such split-second decisions. It can be seen as a way to ‘pay homage’ to the gods of luck and safe travel, seeking protection or blessing for the choice to proceed rather than stop.

Namaz E Janaza

My informant is Pakistani and has lived in many countries worldwide, yet has deep knowledge of his culture and is very associated with certain events and occasions that occur in Pakistan.

Funeral Ritual:

This prayer, typically known as “Namaz E Janaza” is a common type of prayer “performed at funerals”. It is a ritual that has “existed in Islam for a very long time” and is “very important to our religion and culture.” The ritual is illustrated by a “group of people that are praying as the body is put in front of them” He states that it is because “everyone is praying towards god when the body is also there” conveying the influences of religion on their life. The informant also states that it is “the same Islamic prayer from the Qur’an that people read.” It is a widely known tradition in South Asia, specifically Pakistani culture when it comes to funeral rituals and events that must take place in order to properly bury a body.


The ritual is “always performed by men in a room separate to the women,” and the informant continues to assert that “they cannot be together and a woman cannot speak the prayer to the body” highlighting the strict nature of this ritual and the specific cultural customs on death and funerals. It is usually done in Pakistan but also occurs in other Muslim countries that still honour this method of performing the funeral ritual. It is a very important aspect of how the body is sent to heaven and is a pivotal step in “family healing using religion and ensuring they continue in heaven”


The religious aspect of funerals is very common in many cultures, however, in Islamic culture, the split of the men and women into separate rooms signifies the power that the prayer holds as it is part of their tradition. Death and prayer being portrayed in a ritual allow families to use the religious scripture provided to them as a mode of grieving their loved ones in a structural manner, making it easier on the family that is closer to them. Although, the formality of the occasion eliminates personalisation of the funeral and family members when burying and honouring the dead as they must follow the known written words instead of making them uniquely theirs, which is seen in other cultures. However, it is a religious and important part of their cultural identity, therefore, the prayer does not solely mark the death of an individual but paves a path to their god that they are praying to, following the practices of their culture and tradition as it is passed down.