Tag Archives: snow

Snow day wishes

Date: April 15, 2022 

Source and Relationship: Gavin, younger brother

Type: Tradition, Practice, Folklore

Folklore/Text: Snow Day Wishes: “During the winter in Portland it is really fun when it snows because there is no school and I can sled all day with my friends. When I really want a snow day to happen, my Kindergarten teacher taught me to sleep with a spoon under my pillow, my pajamas on backwards, and to perform a Snow Dance to the sky before going to sleep. It worked about half the time, which is good enough for me.”

Explanation/Context: Snow days were a huge deal in my childhood because they only happened every couple of years and there was a huge hill near my house that all of the neighborhood kids would slide down when there was no school. The silly little practices that we were all convinced were the perfect equation to conjuring up a snow day are actually products of folk tales and Native American rituals from years past – Native peoples have a profound relationship with nature, so special dances, songs, and ordered actions are certainly believed to be closely related with the outcome of weather and yielding crops. The Snow Dance is a real ritual that continues to be practiced today, especially in the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe tribes in Utah who experience harsh winters each year. 

Throwing Ice Cubes

What is being performed?
JJ: You never got to be around snow growing up so you wouldn’t know this but when I was in
elementary school, we all thought we could make it snow.
AA: How did you make it snow?
JJ: My first grade teacher, uh, I think it was first grade. Whatever. She told me that if you throw
ice outside your window at night then the next day it would snow.
AA: Wow. Has that ever worked?
JJ: Yes, actually. Everytime. But I think it was because whenever my teacher would tell us to do
that, there was already snow predicted on the weather forecast.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: What did that tradition mean to you growing up?
JJ: I mean now it’s just silly but when I was a kid I felt powerful. You know? Like I could control
the weather even though I was just throwing ice cubes out a window.
AA: Did you hear it from anyone other than your teacher?
JJ: The other kids at school believed it. I think my brother also told it to me growing up too.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
This is usually performed during winter in places where it snows. My informant is from
Newburyport, Massachusetts and claims that it was a big deal there. I am from Los Angeles and
have never heard of this so it must be performed in places where it snows in America to small
children.

Reflection
I really like this folk belief and find it funny. I could see little kids throwing ice outside of their
windows hoping for snow. I had never heard of this before but my roommate from Boston has
and remembers throwing ice outside of her window.

Chicago Parking Chairs

Informant is a 19 year old female who was born in Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is my roommate.

Informant: So there’s this really strange tradition where I’m from in Chicago. And I mean, I don’t know if it’s only a Chicago thing, I don’t know if they do it in other parts of the States too, but it’s very common to see in Chicago. So like, basically, what the tradition is is that during the cold months, when people have to shovel the snow off of their parking spots, they have to remove their cars, right? So what people do is that they will put a chair, sometimes they put other things, but usually it’s a chair, and they will put the chair in their parking spot so that no one takes it. Because parking in Chicago is really hard. And like people will do this for games too. Like I’ve done it before when I went to a Cubs game. That’s a baseball team in Chicago by the way. But yeah, so it’s super popular to go to, and everyone’s looking for parking, so people will put chairs in their parking spaces to reserve it for them.

Collector: Do people actually respect these chairs?

Informant: Yes. I mean, of course there’s some people who don’t. But most of the time, because everyone does it, yes, they respect it. Like you won’t really see someone removing a chair unless it’s their chair, and they’re taking their parking space. It’s just because parking goes so fast there, because there’s so many people. But people tend to be respectful of it, it’s a pretty big tradition there.

Collector: Is there anything that you particularly like about this tradition?

Informant: Well, I always find it funny when I go down the streets and I see a bunch of chairs all over the place. I like it because it reminds me that it’s going to be the holidays soon. But other than humor, I’m pretty indifferent towards it.

I think this story is really cool because its so different from my culture. Where I’m from, Sao Paulo, there are a lot of people and also difficulties finding parking, but if somebody were to put a chair to save their parking space, people would laugh, remove the chair, and park their anyways. I think it’s interesting how this has become such a tradition in Chicago that people respect other people’s chairs and parking spaces. It’s also cool to see how a tradition can arise from external factors such a temperature and spacial arrangement.

The Snowmaiden, Snegurochka

Folklore Piece:

“Ok, so, there’s these two parents. Well, wait, not parents. There’s this couple, and they can’t have kids, and they’re, like, pretty old now. So it’s snowing one day, and the husband goes outside, and has an idea to build a snowgirl…? So like a little girl instead of a snowman. They made her look really realistic and then a stranger comes by one night, and he, like, does some sort of magic and then he leaves. Then, at night, the snowgirl comes to life. And so they’re really excited, because now they have a daughter, so they take her inside. But, she’s, like, snow, so they keep her from going outside as it becomes spring and summer, and in the summer the girl wants to go outside, um, and her parents always tell her ‘no’, and they don’t tell her why, they don’t tell her why, they don’t tell her that she’s snow. Um, so, the parents go to like the market, or they leave the house one day, and the girl goes outside, and she melts. And the parents come back and she’s, I guess, dead.”

 

Background information

I mean, I like it. It’s stuck with my all of these years. I don’t know, I didn’t do, like, a great job of telling it. I think the message is to always be honest, I guess? And I like that, I think if the parents were, um, more honest with their daughter they could’ve saved her.”

Context

My parents got, like, a little set of stories from India. It’s not an Indian story, but they used to read it to me at night. Sure enough, I actually met the informant’s mother later that day. I asked her about the story and she said, “Oh yes, we used to have plenty of books filled with little stories that we’d tell the kids before they went to bed. Not necessarily Spanish, or Indian, just some fairy tales and little stories.”

 

Analysis

I had originally asked this informant to participate because I knew that her and her family were very much still in touch with their roots. She visits India nearly every year, goes to Indian weddings, lived in Spain near her family for half a year, talks about all the traditional Spanish food her mom makes. So when I asked her to share with me some form of folklore, be it a proverb or a cultural event, or a story, that this is the one she thought of.

To be honest, it could have been because she had been around a previous informant who was also telling a tale, but I still believe it is telling. Out of all the stories that her mother told her over the  years, and I’m sure countless relatives had told her, she remembered “the one about the snow girl.” She couldn’t remember exactly what the story was for some time, and I suggested that maybe she think of something else. But she was adamant about teling this story; she called her mom, called her dad, called the house, and finally it clicked.

After more of my own research, I found the origin of the “Snow Girl” tale to be, in fact, Russian. The Snow Girl, or Snow Maiden, is formally known in Russian folklore as Snegurochka. There are many tales of Snegurochka, and many variations of this same story that the informant had told me. Here is a variant where she melts, but does so intentionally, after her parents compare her to the value of a hen when a fox brings her home from being lost in the woods. However, in this story, she refuses to leave with the fox, and her once banished dog brings her home and is rewarded, and she remains in tact and happy. To read yet another version, you may want to check out The Snow Maiden and Other Russian Tales by Bonnie Marshall. (Marshall, Bonnie C. The Snow Maiden and Other Russian Tales. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. Print.)

Beyond the interest of all these variations, however, is the context of this informants nationality telling this story. Clearly, with so many stories, the Snegurochka is something that Russian’s identify their culture with. Yet, here is a girl, whose parents are from countries that don’t even traditionally see snow, retelling the tale in Southern California as the one piece of folklore that she would like to share. This just goes to show that while one’s heritage and self-proclaimed culture are important, they are not all encompassing of the folkloric artifacts that they hold dear.

No Friends on a Powder Day

Information on the Informant: Troy Dixon, the informant of this particular saying, is a 20 year old student who attends Lafayette college in Pennsylvania. He plays college football there and is a linebacker. Troy grew up in Santa Monica, California and attended high school in Los Angeles. Ever since he was born, Troy was an avid skier. He went up with his family to their house in Mammoth every week that was possible during the winter. Because he skied so often he became extremely skilled and became a member of the Mammoth mountain ski team. This only lasted for a few years, however, because it was such a large time commitment. However, Troy has remained an expert skier who frequently travels around California skiing the tallest and fastest mountain. This particular proverb was something he introduced to me numerous times since I met him in 2012 and something he frequently told me while we were on the mountain together.

Me: “What exactly is the proverb that you always say when you’re on the mountain and there is fresh snow?”

Informant: “The saying goes, ‘There are no such thing as friends on a powder day’.”

Me: “So what exactly does this saying mean?”

Informant: “Okay so what this means is that when there is new snow on the mountain, or ‘powder,’ as a lot of skiers and snowboarders call it, you have no friends, aka skiing the fresh snow takes priority over skiing or conversing with your friends. It pretty much means that nothing, especially not your friends, can distract you from being able to ski the amazing snow.”

Me: “Where was the first time you heard this saying?”

Informant:”My dad told me about it when I was 6 years old and when I went to the top of the mountain for the first time and skied in powder. My dad has skied for 30 years and is an expert skier so he learned it from some of his friends who he went to the mountain with over the years.”

Analysis: This saying is a traditional skiers proverb. It appears that it is one of those sayings that most people know but aren’t exactly sure of the direct origin. The informant, Troy, also stated that his father has skied all over the world and heard the saying before in other states besides California.