Tag Archives: Rituals

Campfire song: ‘A Boy took a Girl in a Little Canoe’


NP: “We sang this song at campfires once a week. It was a traditional thing that they would do every week since the camp started in 1924. And the whole thing is that we would sing the same songs every year that the girls had always sang.”

The song:

Well, a boy took a girl in a little canoe with the moon shining all around

And as he applied his paddle

You couldn’t even hear a sound

So, they talked, and they talked till the moon grew dim

He said you better kiss me or get out and swim

So, whatcha gonna do in a little canoe with the moon shining all around?

Well, a boy took a girl in a little canoe with the moon shining all around

And as he applied his paddle

You couldn’t even hear a sound

So they talked, and they talked till the moon grew dim

He said you better kiss me or get out and swim

So, whatcha gonna do in a little canoe with the moon shining all a—

Boys paddling all a—

Girls swimming all around?

Get out and swim!


The informant is my sister. She is a 22-year-old college student from New York City who attended a girls’ summer camp in Kent, Connecticut from ages 12 to 15. Though she thinks this song sends an archaic message, promoting gender stereotypes and heteronormativity, she remembers singing the song fondly. NP remembers feeling a sense of safety during these weekly congregations at the campfire, which fostered a sense of connection between her and the other girls.


I think that this song sends a simplistically feminist message. While one could interpret it as empowering or as an espousal of female courage and independence, since the girl in the story refuses to kiss the boy despite the unpleasant and possibly dangerous action she must take to avoid doing so, it also conveys sexist, heteronormative ideals. The song promotes gender stereotypes and, whether intentionally or not, problematic ideas about the value of female chastity. 

         Still, the song feeds into the atmosphere conjured by the campfire tradition, which can be seen as a celebration of girlhood and female community. I think that this environment is intended to make girls feel supported, empowered, and safe. With this weekly tradition, girls are free from the pressures of the male gaze and experience a sense of connection with the other campers as their voices blend. Moreover, the fact that these songs and the tradition of congregating at the campfire have such a long history connects current campers with previous generations of girls who attended the camp.

Loi Krathong/Loy Kratong

“Ok this one’s a festival–there’s–it’s called

Thai: ลอยกระทง
Phonetic: Loi Krathong
Transliteration: River Goddess Worship Festival
Translation: Loy Kratong

and it’s like a water festival. You make–how do I describe it in English? You make a float. The word in Thai is

Phonetic: Krathong
Transliteration: Float
Translation: Float

it just means like the float or whatever. It’s kind of like a lantern festival. But yeah, that occurs. Why? It’s like semi-religious, but also Thai people just celebrate it in general, for like, the rainy season. Like the end, the end of the rain. There’s like normal festivities for celebrations, like dance and food, but like the main activity is thanking the water goddess, a water goddess for like the entire season that came before. People also use it for like, good vibes. Where it’s like sending a wish or sending a prayer. You’d make it for someone else; like, ‘oh like for my family to be safe,’ and then you’d send it down the river. When I used to go to temple a lot, like, when I was younger when you would have like the festival everyone does it in like one small pond–cause the temple only has one small pond–and it’s really fun when the pond like fills up and like everyone’s wish is like together. Oh, you also–a big part of it is also making the float, to begin with, which is like made traditionally from like banana leaves. But in America, we make–well, no, not in America–but in the modern age, we use styrofoam, which is the funniest thing to me because the most environmentally damaging thing that you could do is to make it using styrofoam. But you have the plant styrofoam and you put like fake flowers in it if you don’t have like the real thing and then you take like three yellow candles and you put them in it and like make your wish on it.”


Informant (WP) is a student aged 19 from Chino Hills, California. Her parents are from Thailand and Laos. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview in the informant’s apartment. She learned this from family and from going to the temple. To her, it is a way to give gratitude for what a person has and to ask for more.

This festival is very similar to lantern festivals that are prevalent throughout East and Southeast Asia. It is very interesting to see how the festival has changed in the modern era with Thai people being unable to obtain banana leaves in parts of the world and instead resorting to styrofoam. Historically, agriculture has been incredibly important in Thailand. A festival based around thanking a type of water goddess at the end of the rainy season, while also asking for more rain in the future, makes perfect sense for this culture. Add in the variation on lanterns, being floats, and Thailand has a festival that is both related to other Southeast Asian festivals and uniquely Thai.

Una Limpia

RITUAL DESCRIPTION: This ritual is called a “Limpia” which means a “Cleaning” in English. A woman will grab an egg and fill a glass with water. The person who is receiving the Limpia needs to be naked. Then the woman will rub the egg all over the person’s while chanting Hail Mary in Spanish over and over again. Once the egg has been rubbed all over the body she will crack the egg into the glass filled with water. Then you must wait and watch the glass. If the layer of white that comes up from the yolk comes up in little spikes then you are filled with the evil eye and it is being removed. If not, you did not have the evil eye on you.


CONTEXT: This ritual is done when life is not going well for someone and they have reason to believe they are filled with the evil eye. I saw this ritual be preformed life onto another woman. The woman told me this ritual has been passed down through woman for centuries since its indigenous origin. It combined the indigenous shamanistic ritual with Catholicism in an effort to clean someone from evil spirits. She would have it done when her life seems to be filled unnaturally with bad luck and said that after doing a Limpia her life would always turn around for the better. It means a lot to her and she says that she prefers to only have it done by someone who is familiar with the ritual and believes in it the way she does.

THOUGHTS: I was very taken with the performance of the ritual. As it was happening I was apprehensive and was feeling doubt. But as the women looked into the glass and saw the white leaving the yolk, they were so joyful and relieved it made me happy to watch. I figure it doesn’t matter what it is but to change your energy or believe you have been cured from bad luck can only improve your life.


RITUAL DESCRIPTION: This ritual is called Kapparot. The ritual is done on the Eve of Yom Kippur. The ritual consisted of waving a chicken over everyone’s heads on the eve and the chicken was to be slaughtered. 

INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Male, 83, Polish, Jewish

CONTEXT: His mother used to do this ritual up until they immigrated from Poland to Mexico in the 1940s. Then his family stopped. It was supposed to be a sort of charity or sacrifice in order for future prosperity. The ritual could also be done with money and then the money donated but his mother believed the blood of the chicken was more powerful. To him this ritual was dated, and he recalled being young and slightly uncomfortable by it. He also felt sad his mother had to give it up when they immigrated because he saw how important it was to her. 

THOUGHTS: I think this ritual is definitely a very specific one in its cultural significance. I think it is slightly extreme to me but that is because I am not close to it culturally but if I were it would not be so surprising. I think all different cultures have rituals that can all sound strange but are significant in their own way. I also felt bad to hear his mother had to give it up in order to assimilate to her new country.

New Year’s Eve Tradition: Run Outside

Informant: My informant is a current sophomore at the University of Southern California. Her parents are from Jalisco, Mexico. However, she grew up in Denver, Colorado. 

Context: The following is an excerpt of the informant and their description of their New Year’s Eve traditions. These customs are performed only during New Year’s Eve. 

Main Piece/Text: My family and I are very superstitious people. In fact, we are so superstitious that when it comes to New Year’s Eve, we do all kinds of funny and strange practices. For example, my sister loves traveling, and she always wants to travel more. Therefore, in hope for this wish to come true what she does every single year is that she runs outside with her suitcase, in hopes of the new year bringing her travel. And then I’ve also seen it with people who want to have kids who like are hoping to get pregnant. They’ll walk out with a baby stroller or like a diaper bag, something that symbolizes. what they want in upcoming New Years. 

Analysis: I think these rituals are interesting. I myself have heard from all of them in TV. In fact, they have all been encouraged be performed on TV! These performances demonstrate/express excitement for the year to come. In addition, it also reflects a future oriented perspective and a strong determination. There are these ideas of faith vs. hope. How much can one control their destiny? The fact that the family runs while doing these performances demonstrates everyone desire to move forward.