Tag Archives: Religion

God is Bowling

Background: Informant was born and raised in Florida, where there are very frequent thunderstorms, and this was told to me in person.

Informant: My mom would always tell me whenever there was thunder in the sky that God was bowling… and there’s a lot of thunderstorms because I’m from Florida, so she said it a lot.

Me: Do you think she said it to lighten the mood or make you less afraid as a child?


Informant: Oh maybe…I never thought about it that way, but maybe? It definitely made it feel less intense thinking about bowling instead of thunder.

Thoughts: This is something that I’ve heard before and I always found it kind of funny and sweet, but the religious undertone is interesting in it as well. Being a little kid who was afraid of thunderstorms because of the loud unexpected noises, thinking of it as a game of bowling played by god definitely lightens the mood and giving a younger kid a cartoon-like image for the phenomenon of thunder can put a child at ease and even though logically it doesn’t make too much sense.

The Devil is the Smurfs

Background: The informant was raised east of Los Angeles by a mother who was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and was very active in the church. The informant was and is not religious herself, and her father was not a member of the church either. This was told to me in person.

Informant: I wasn’t allowed to watch the Smurfs as a child because my mom said they were demonic… but I don’t know if that’s folklore, that’s just my childhood.

Thoughts: I’d never heard of anything like this before, but I feel that anything that is viewed as demonic even though it isn’t specifically stated to be is very interesting to me. Looking into it, it also appears that this wasn’t just isolated to my informant and her mother. I found a book called Turmoil in the Toybox, written by Phil Phillips, who claims that many childhood books, shows, and toys have a satanic and demonic presence that are supposed to “program and influence the minds of our children towards the occult and witchcraft.” The show The Smurfs was included in this book, being branded as “undead corpses,” as they are “blue with black lips,” and the Lake Hamilton Bible Camp spreads the notion that children who have Smurf toys are more likely to be attacked by vampires. For more, there is a brief excerpt of the originally 90-minute long video interview between Phil Phillips, and Pastor Gary Greenwald included in this article:

Emmett, Neil. “‘Turmoil in the Toy Box’ Revisited.” Cartoon Brew, 23 Oct. 2013, https://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/turmoil-in-the-toy-box-revisited-90147.html.

Blessing the Rice

Background information: My mom is a second-generation Filipino-American, meaning she was born here in the US. Her parents immigrated from the Philippines when they were both relatively young, and my mom’s family grew up with a lot of relatives in San Francisco, CA. 

Mom: I don’t know if this is something you and the boys have noticed all the time, but I try to use the rice spoon to bless the rice before we eat every time. I draw a cross on rice with the spoon. I think this is just something all Filipino families do.

Me: Where did you learn to do this from? 

Mom: I learned it from my mom, so your grandma, and it just became like a practice to bless the rice before eating. Probably like…I still do it because of the connection to grandma, so there’s nostalgia there, and of course the gesture of like actual blessing. It’s like a comforting thing. I don’t always remember to do it, but I try to do it more now and I tell your brothers to do it when we eat too. 

My family did not raise me to be very religious, but my mom does always remind me to pray and have faith in a higher power, and to stay connected to my loved ones who have passed away. For my mom, I think that her relationship to religion, and religious practices like this, are mostly connected to her upbringing and relationship to her own parents. This small custom that has become an everyday practice for my mom shows how folklore and traditions that are passed down through constant performance in childhood can have such strong emotional roots for the person practicing them many years later. 

Milagros

–Informant Info–
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 30
Occupation: Lead Associate of Operations, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).

HS: So what are milagros?

MR: So they literally mean “miracles”, but from the perspective of my Catholic family, they are kind of like a blessing that we would do in my parents’ hometown. Like not a lot of people would know saints from my hometown. People hear about Saint Jude, you know, or, La Virgen de Guadalupe, but there are also lesser-known saints that are only known in the small towns that they had an effect on.

HS: So what is an example of a saint that was special and important in your town just outside of Guadalajara?

MR: Well in Guadalajara the saint that everyone knows is Virgen de San Juan de Los Lagos, but in my mom’s town of Guanajuato, they all know the miracle baby Jesus.

HS: So what are some examples of Milagros that you have?

MR: So you’d ask your saint, for example, I had a major issue with my car motor that would have cost me thousands and thousands of dollars and I didn’t know what to do because there was no way that I could afford that expensive of a repair. So I asked my saint for a Milagro/blessing to help me with the situation and it ended up costing half as much, and so I promised my saint that when I return to my town I will visit and show my appreciation. Another time, at the beginning of COVID, I asked the Miracle Baby Jesus from my parents’ hometown of Guanajuato for a Milagro to protect me and my parents. Luckily my parents never got COVID so I plan on also showing my appreciation for fulfilling my Milagro when I am home.

Background:

My informant is my co-worker from my job. She is essentially my supervisor and she enjoys helping me to practice my Spanish and telling me a lot about her culture and heritage. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by two parents who both immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She comes from a devout Catholic family and has taught me a lot of traditions that I didn’t know pertain to Catholicism, seeing as to the fact that I myself was raised in a Catholic family.

Context:

These religious traditions were brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. We were discussing a tradition/ritual of crawling on one’s hands and knees to honor one’s saint when she brought up the topic of Milagros. She had told me about these traditions before but I asked her to go more in-depth for the sake of the collection project. We were sitting next to each other on the teller line at work and we would chat in-between customers.

Thoughts:

I found this tradition to be very interesting. Although not discussed in this transcription, my coworker showed me a list of tributes that she planned on giving to her respective saints once she arrived back in Mexico. Included in this list were 25 dollar coins for the Miracle Baby Jesus and some pictures of her family. While researching Milagros, I found a very precise explanation from an online article, a “person will ask a favor of a saint, and then, in order to repay the saint after the favor has been granted, one must make a pilgrimage to the shrine of that saint.” This is a very cherished and respected tradition in the social circles of my coworker, and she emphasized how personal a lot of Milagros get, going on to divulge some sensitive details about how the use of Milagros has helped her family through particularly hard times. I had never heard of anything like this before and found the tradition to be rather beautiful and unique. I also came to the realization that Milagros are a way to keep people who have left their hometowns connected to their community in some way. Because the saints that people make their Milagros to are usually particular to the region that they are from, Milagros provide people with an incentive to come back home after they have departed.

The article where I found a good explanation of Milagros:

https://zinniafolkarts.com/blogs/news/36153281-what-do-milagros-mean

Nowruz

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MK).

HS: So can you tell me about the Persian New Year?

MK: Of course! So we celebrate the beginning our our spring as the beginning of our new year. We call it Persian New Year or “Nowruz,” which translates to “New day.” The celebrations usually happen between March 19th and March 23rd. There’s a specific day, time and second that we go into our new year, much like the American New Year. So this year, for us, it was March 20th at 7:40AM PST. It sounds like a weird time but it’s because we’re here in California. Iran is almost 12 hours ahead of us and so the that time makes a lot more sense there. So anyways, a week before the new year, we get new, fresh bills as gifts and we set a table with seven items that start with an “s.” The item spellings are from Farsi and not English so they’re not what you would expect, like apples and garlic, for example.

HS: Do these items have any sort of deeper meaning?

MK: Oh yes. So first of all, each item starts with the Persian letter, “seen,” which again, is like the English letter, “s.” Each item corresponds to the seven creations and the seven holy immortals protecting them. The Haft-Seen table and the items on it are kind of a representation of nature.

Background:

My informant is a coworker from my job. She has the same role as me and so we spend a lot of time talking in-between customers. She immigrated to the United States from Tehran, the capital of Iran, when she was 16 years old and has a lot of family here that she enjoys continuing her traditions with. She has enjoyed telling me a lot about her culture and traditions in our time working together.

Context:

So we were just talking in-between customers when I became a little curious. I work in an area that has a large Persian population, and according to my coworker, the concentration of Persians in this area is second only to Los Angeles. So back in March about a week before Persian New Year, I noticed that a lot of her Persian clientele were coming in to buy new one-dollar, five-dollar, and ten-dollar bills. I was curious about why this was happening, and so I asked my coworker about it.

Thoughts:

My first thought when I heard about this tradition, was what religion is this derived from? My immediate assumption was Islam, as that was the only religion that I was familiar with from the Middle East, besides Judaism and Christianity, of course. What I found was a lot more interesting. The tradition is derived from Zoroastrianism. I had never heard of this religion, and so I thought maybe it was some fringe religion that was particular to the region that my informant was from, but I could not have been further from wrong. Zoroastrianism predates both Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, the religion has a large following; 300 million people celebrate Nowruz every year. It is important to note though, that Zoroastrianism is considered to more of a cultural tradition in a lot of social circles, including that of my informant. The tradition of Nowruz, for example, while having its roots in its own ancient belief system, is widely celebrated by Muslims and Christians. The “book of wisdom” that is placed on the Haft-Seen table is even considered to be interchangeable. People place the Quran, Bible, and other books such as the Avesta on the table. This sparked a lot of curiosity and interest about this topic and left me with a lot of questions. Where do you draw the line between religion and cultural belief?

For an interesting article showing the popularity of Nowruz, even during the COVID pandemic, see:

Kaffashi A, Jahani F. Nowruz travelers and the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran. Infection control and hospital epidemiology. 2020;41(9):1121-1121. doi:10.1017/ice.2020.152