Tag Archives: Rituals

“Cheers” Before a Shot

The informant described a ritual where people taking a shot together tap their shot glass on the table before saying “cheers” and taking the shot. This is done any time taking a shot of alcohol with others, including friends and family, no matter the place or time. This is done to signal everyone to take their shot and as an announcement of celebration, of sorts. “Cheers” is often said to encourage good will as one drinks, and the meaning is the same here.

The ritual demonstrates a culture which engages with alcohol as a means of celebration. The involved parties want to encourage good will and acknowledge celebration as they dive deeper into their party-atmosphere cultivated by alcohol by saying “cheers” and clinking glasses on the table. There is no magic necessarily associated, just a soft of acknowledgment of good will. The sound made serves two purposes, it seems. One, to signal everyone to take the shot so they can time the drink to be taken at the same time. Second, to signal celebration in the same way that a “woop” does. Noises to announce a celebration are common, such as clapping, “wooping,” whistling, clinking glasses, etc… These are not necessarily to start a celebration but for the announcement of continuation of a celebration. The ritual is widely spread, at least around the United States. Other cultures have similar versions, saying something that imitates a sort of blessing before drinking. This is likely due to the spread of the ritual as folklore, stemming from a traditional blessing around food and drink.

Folk Belief: On Money and Hands


Informant E is a 21 year old USC student studying American Studies and Ethnicity. She identifies as Chicana and and was born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. E is a junior at the university and is the interviewer’s roommate.


E: “So if my right hand – the palm of my right hand – is itchy, I put it in my pocket, because it means I’m gonna get money. If the left palm/hand is itchy, that means I owe someone money. So I have to scratch it.”

Interviewer: “Did you learn this from someone?”

E: “My family.”

A friend, also in the room: “If you scratch it does it mean that you don’t owe them money?”

E: “Like I’m not gonna get – it could mean, like, ‘Oh I have to pay rent soon,’ so it’ll start itching. Or I have to go pay someone back because they took me out to go eat. So then that means I have to get them back.” “If I scratch my hand, I don’t have to pay them back. Sometimes.”

Interviewer: “So who taught you this?”

E: “My grandma and then my grandma taught my mom and then me.”


E’s folk belief is a kind of self-soothing ritual and, though a bit more complicated, I would compare it easily to knocking on wood or throwing salt over one’s shoulder. It’s clearly been passed down to her as familial knowledge. I did search for more information online and found that the superstition originates in the Caribbean which, although not part of Latin America, is close to it, and the belief itself seems to have spread easily throughout the world. I find it interesting that this belief has to do with hands, as I feel there’s a through-line in history. Bartering relied heavily on hands, and handshakes or palms are often symbols of such agreements. Trade and bartering then became money or payment, which is still then associated with hands, and is what I would argue led to this superstition. In general, money obviously is a good thing to have and a bad thing to lose, so this self-soothing ritual can be comforting and seems so common because of that universal truth about the value of money. The scratching part of this belief makes it a ritual or a form of jinx (re: like knocking on wood) in my opinion, as the participant is doing something tangible, as if to put the belief into effect.

Greek Egg-Breaking Easter Ritual

Text: “So every Easter, the day before we will dye hard boil eggs and everyone will have an egg and on Easter we will go around and one person will try to crack a side of your egg. and you’ve got two chances So you go in a circle until everyone has broken both sides and one person has at least one good side left. So yeah. And then they win.”

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying Psychology, originally from Palos Verdes, CA from Greek-Jewish descent. We speak in the dining hall, and she is very excited and happy to be recounting her experiences.

“It’s epic and it’s fun and you get to do something with your dyed eggs. I don’t know, you know. It was just something my parents, I guess we were doing. We do it on both sides of the family. But I believe it’s like a Greek thing, and I have heard of at least one other person who does this. Well, I never win, so you know, like I, I enjoy it because it’s something our family does every year. It’s a way to use the eggs. You know, it’s fun to color eggs and stuff. So like then you get to actually like play a game with it.”

Analysis: This tradition is an example of a ritual performed in celebration of a holiday. The term “Easter” comes from the name of a pagan goddess and symbolizes new life and fertility. The ritual furthers this symbolism with eggs also being reminiscent of reproduction and fertility. The bright colors which they were being dyed are representative of the season of spring and the blooming of colorful nature. Although Easter is now largely recognized as a Christian holiday, rituals such as these have little relation to the biblical story of Jesus Christ. This ritual could be argued to be an example of ritual license because of how the eggs are dyed and played with which are activities usually discouraged when they relate to food items.

Thanksgiving Ham

Text: “My family always buys pre-sliced ham from our local grocery shop on Thanksgiving, and it’s really good with the special glaze that it comes with. It’s like this honey pineapple type glaze that’s sweet and then you combine the sweet with the savory from the ham, and it’s just an amazing concoction.”


Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying human biology, originally from St. Louis, Missouri from Nigerian descent. We speak alongside a few of her other friends, and she carries a somewhat sarcastic, comedic tone.

“It’s a classic Thanksgiving staple in our family. And I honestly prefer eating the ham over turkey any day anytime. We began doing it when we moved into my new house which is my current house back at home. So probably 2013, 2014 ish. I think we do it because it’s way easier to prepare than a Turkey, and it tastes better. I’ve heard of other people doing it, but not for Thanksgiving more for Christmas. This tradition makes me feel so excited to wake up on Thanksgiving morning. I can smell the sweet, savory aroma of the ham tickle my nostrils. Wow.”

Analysis: Having this specific dish on a certain holiday is an example of a ritual. It is a ritual which commemorates something, namely the early days of colonized America. It is performed within a certain group of people at a specific time of year. It is also an example of ritual inversion in how modern folk tradition places ham on the menu for Christmas and turkey on the menu for Thanksgiving, but the informant’s family reverses these traditions. They are able to invert the normal social rules because they have claimed their own celebration as their own time for traditions and rituals.

Birthday Football Game

Text: “For my birthday, my dad and I used to go to the first UT Austin football game of every season.”


Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying mechanical engineering, originally from Austin, Texas from Chinese descent.

“My dad really likes UT football and my birthday always fell around the time of the first game of the year. I haven’t really heard other people doing this. I mean, I’m sure people did it, but I haven’t heard. It’s fun, I like it, it’s good time with my dad. When I go, I remember the previous years.”

Analysis: This is an example of the ritualization of individual life cycles. Ritualizing individual life cycle is a way in which we derive our identity and symbolize the identity we are trying to project. For the informant, this ritual integrates football, her hometown, and family as a part of her identity. The when is clearly defined as the ritual occurs at a scheduled time each year and commemorates a very specific event of her birth alongside her father who also symbolizes her birth somewhat.