Tag Archives: Seattle

Seattle Autumn Harvest Festival Social

This story is from a Chinese-American friend from Seattle whose mother works for Microsoft. She is a first generation Chinese-American, with both her parents immigrating from China before she was born. The story is about her experience watching her mother dance in the Chinese dance troupe at a big social for the Asian community of Seattle to celebrate the Autumn Harvest Festival.


“Every few times a year, my whole family attends my mother’s dance performance to be her biggest fans. Her dance troupe dances for Chinese festivals, from New Year’s celebration to the Autumn Harvest Festival. When it becomes 8 pm, the light shines on her dance troupe, and she shines the brightest with the prettiest face and prettiest embroidered dress. The performance is an accumulation of all of her love and passion for Chinese dance. She is a busy working mom, who barely has enough time to sleep, but she insists on tirelessly improving dancing because it is her passion.

My family would feel inclined to say that her dance performances are the magnum opus of these events, but my personal and secret favorite part in volunteering in the events. My mother has danced in these festivals for pretty much all my life. I have attended every single one! These festivals would take place in large rented out churches to multiple entire buildings, but they were filled in and out with celebrations of Chinese culture. There were many stages that held skits (I was forced to be part of some before), Chinese puppetry, and many booths that teach Chinese art. When I was younger, I was the one of the children who would run to every corner of the event, collecting every free stuff, getting the sickest face painting, and watch every skit that related to things I enjoyed. My parents weren’t able to keep up with my enthusiasm, so I ran around with my fellow friends.

When I became older, I attended every festival as a volunteer, and brings me lots of happiness to bring the same joy I felt in the past to other children. I am proud to hold the title as the “cool face paint sister who can draw anything.” After being unable to take a break for hours as the lines keep building (i remember eating steamed dumplings covered in paint residue), many of the children and even adults get some sort of mark of my artistry on them. It made me even happier that they loved it after completion. After around like 7 hours of volunteering, I finally get to rest at 8pm though! And watch my beautiful mother dance.”


“This event began to recently be sponsored by Microsoft because all of the performances are usually done by people who work for Microsoft or their kids, and sometimes people who are friends with those Microsoft families cuz in Seattle pretty much all Asian families work for Microsoft or are friends with someone who does. So it’s become a thing where all of the Asian population of Seattle shows up.”


In my friend’s beautiful story, I noticed that there’s a strong family and community element to this event. All ages and occupations, from working mothers to families to little kids, are involved and there seems to be an event for every group (eg. face painting for the kids.) Because it’s a family event, there’s also a strong emphasis on passing down Asian/Chinese culture to the next generation so that the kids who grow up in the United States are still connected with their heritage. Furthermore, I thought it was really interesting that Microsoft itself recognized and supported the Asian community in its workforce, something that was completely optional for them to do. Perhaps Microsoft thought that supporting this community was important to unify company culture and present an image of itself as culturally aware and tolerant.

Secret Monkey Lab at the University of Washington

Background: My informant, ET, attended the University of Washington from 2009-2013. I asked her about campus folklore, and this was her response:

ET: “The UDub Health Sciences Building is known for having a secret monkey lab. They conduct experiments on monkeys because it’s closest to humans for different kinds of testing. But there’s a lot of environmental and animal activists in Seattle, so animal activists try to sneak in and free the monkeys from being tested on. Basically, whenever students are in the building, they try to look for a room full of cadavers to find the monkeys.”

Analysis: I think this legend is really interesting because it not only speaks to the history of some of the buildings on campus, but also the student culture and mentality around the school and in the greater part of the city as well. The story plays to the instinct that some college buildings must have mysterious things going on inside them, particularly a room with a bunch of cadavers and no other context, but also the larger activism presence around the area as well, which adds to the realism of the story. Those in the know with this story would feel a greater sense of–if not attachment, at least more curiosity over the ongoings of the university, and develop a school pride as the one that seemingly houses monkeys in a secret lab in a discrete science building.

Haunted Pike Place Market

Background: My informant, ET, attended the University of Washington from 2009-2013. I asked her about campus/Seattle folklore, and this was her response:

ET: “Pike Place is supposedly haunted. My freshman RA thought it would be fun for the floor to go on a haunted Pike Place Market tour. But apparently people have like, died, at Pike Place Market. They accidentally slipped on the ground with the fish and everything, because you know how they throw the fish around, so there’s apparently lots of haunted fish mongers, and you would see them walking around after the markets closed.”

Me: “Do you feel like Pike Place is haunted?”

ET: “Me? I only go during the day so I hope not, but I also wouldn’t be surprised since it’s so old. It’s also close to the Seattle Underground tour, and people say that place is haunted too, so yeah, maybe it’s just a downtown Seattle thing.”

Analysis: I love a good ghost story. Having been to Pike Place myself, I can confirm that all the traditions–the fish toss across the market every half an hour or so–could naturally progress into ghost stories too. With all of the history and bustle in the market, it seems natural that a place with that reputation would naturally have a few ghost stories as well–it seems entirely plausible that a fish monger in the process of throwing a raw fish across the market died while slipping on the floor. People primarily go to Pike Place for the market itself, but I think the existence of ghost stories like this one once again offer room for multiplicity and variation–I’m sure each fish stall at Pike Place likely has their own variation on this story depending on their brand–but also invites tourists and other visitors to be in the in-group in a location that would otherwise seem like a one-dimensional farmer’s market.

Seattle High School Party Tradition: “Spodie”


EZ is a college student that grew up in central Seattle and remembers attending these gatherings during her high school years.

Main Piece:

“A spodie is like, um, an outdoor party where, but it’s like, with people from your high school so it’s like high school-centric I guess. And then the jungle juice, I’ve never really had it because it scared me, but it’s definitely like, you don’t bring your own drinks because like, a lot of people are still in high school, um, so yeah, for sure. Five dollars a cup, or you just find a cup on the ground and use it.”


‘Spodies’ are a type of party that, while definitely exists elsewhere, only has the name ‘spodie’ in Seattle as far as I can tell. The outdoor setting, usually in a park, is typical of Seattle, where there are many green spaces available as they’re incorporated into the urban environment, and where the high schoolers involved generally do not have access to any indoor locations to throw a party.

‘Jungle juice’ here refers to the practice of mixing together many different kinds of liquids (many alcoholic in nature) in a large container (often a cooler), from which attendees scoop themselves a red solo cup. The price is charged for the cup rather than by the drink, and is usually around five dollars. As EZ mentions, some attendees that do not want to pay prefer to find a discarded cup on the ground to use instead.

All the individual elements of a spodie are common to underage and high school parties, and party settings. The combination of these factors (outside, jungle juice where you’re charged for your cup, high school age) come together to make it a spodie. EZ has no idea where the term came from, but knows that they’re widespread throughout Seattle, and have existed since before she reached high school age.

Jokes about Seattle

BA: There are a lot of Seattle jokes I hear. What do you call two straight days of rain?


BA: A weekend. What do you call the big pointy sign above a tourist’s head?


BA: An umbrella. As you can see, the only jokes I’ve heard about Seattle really just make fun of the rain, or maybe Kurt Cobaine or hipsters. One last one: a tourist goes to Seattle and asks a local kid, “does it ever stop raining here?”. He says, “How should I know, I’m only six”.


One of the defining characteristics of Seattle is its remarkably consistent rain, which the informant knows to be the source of most Seattle-jokes.