Tag Archives: suitcase

Venezuelan Suitcase Superstition on New Year’s Eve

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Venezuelan
Age: 20
Occupation: College student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/08/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Context: The informant, a 20-year-old college student who was born in Venezuela and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, described various rituals and superstitions that relate to both her passion for theatre and her Venezuelan nationality. The following is an excerpt from our conversation, in which the informant recalls a Venezuelan superstition that people take part in during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Text:

Informant: In Venezuela, New Years is a huge holiday. It’s not as big as Christmas or Easter, but it’s still pretty big, and we have a few things that we do that are like really unique to Venezuela. So one thing we do is we grab a suitcase that represents good travels and we run around the block once. This is kind of supposed to represent running around the world and so it’s basically done so that you can travel in the new year. Basically, if you don’t do that, it means that you won’t travel to a different country or somewhere else that’s new. I’ve done it since I can remember, with my family friends. We didn’t have a block when we did it, so we would run up and down their huge driveway. But basically in Venezuela, when it wasn’t… you know… deadly and violent, we would go around the block. We always did it and I always thought that it would come true, and it usually did! I think a lot of people know of it… I don’t know if everyone does it. I definitely believe that there is some truth to it. Because, you know, if you do something then you’ll put it into action. You’ll be like, “Oh, I did that, so now I should probably travel.” But yeah, I think it was definitely a staple part of my New Year’s celebrations growing up.

Informant’s relationship to the item: The superstition is clearly significant to the informant because she started practicing it when she was a young girl growing up in Venezuela. Even after moving to Boston, she continues to practice the superstition at every New Year’s Eve celebration with family and friends. The informant also acknowledges that there is a psychological element to the superstition; she feels that because she practices the ritual, it plants the idea in her head that she should travel and that makes traveling one of her resolutions in the new year.

Interpretation: This Venezuelan New Year’s Eve superstition and ritual serves as a prime example of folklorist Jame George Frazer’s theory of sympathetic magic, particularly homeopathic magic. His theory describes the belief among folk groups that certain practices can be carried out on a smaller scale that then produce major effects on a larger scale, or “like produces like.” An example of a superstition that involves homeopathic magic is the belief that whistling on a fishing boat will encourage the wind to pick up and a storm to start. The act of running around one’s neighborhood with a suitcase in tow in order to have good travels in the new year is very similar. Whether or not the superstitions are valid is a subject of debate, and belief in the ritual’s magic will vary among communities, but there is likely some truth to the informant’s statement about the psychological impact of performing such a specific superstition. Additionally, the country’s current economic crisis has forced more than a tenth of Venezuela’s population to leave the nation in the past few years. Thus, the suitcase ritual now also serves as a reminder of this tragic exodus, demonstrating how the significance of rituals evolves over time.

Works Cited:

To read more about James George Frazer’s theory of Sympathetic Magic, refer to:

Dundes, Alan. “The Principles of Sympathetic Magic.” International Folkloristics, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999, pp. 109-118.

Venezuelan New Year’s

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Venezuelan American
Age: 18
Occupation: student
Residence: usc
Date of Performance/Collection: april 17, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

What is being performed?
TV: There are actually a lot of folk traditions that go along with New Year’s for Venezuelans
AA: Okay, like what?
TV: Well, for one, you’re supposed to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s for good luck.
AA: Does it bring you good luck for the day, forever, or is it just for the year?
TV: It’s for the year, but I don’t know why. I guess it could be cause yellow is a happy color.
There’s also the tradition of running around the block with a suitcase after dinner. It means that
you will travel during the year and everyone I know does it except for me.
AA: Do you believe in that?
TA: I think running around with a suitcase makes you want to travel and maybe that makes you
more likely to book a flight and actually go. But I don’t know how magical it truly is.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: What do you get from this tradition?
TV: I don’t usually partake in it but my family takes it pretty seriously. I guess I see it more as a
symbolic way of hoping for a good year than a magic trick.
AA: Who did you learn it from?
TV: I learned it from my parents and other relatives that wanted to share what color their
underwear was, haha. The suitcase one I just saw happen when I was a kid and still see
happen every New Year’s.

Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
AA: When is this performed?
TV: It’s only performed on New Year’s Eve in Venezuelan culture.
AA: And are you going to perform this with your children?
TV: I think I will.

Reflection
I think these are very interesting traditions and have never heard of them. I think of yellow as a
bright color and could see why it could be connected to luck and good fortune. I think what’s
most interesting is that it is associated with New Year’s. As my informant noted, it seems that
there are a lot of folk traditions that revolve around New Year’s and New Year’s Eve. I definitely
want to try running with my suitcase. It seems a little funny but it means well.