Tag Archives: summer

Taiwanese festival: Dragon Boat Festival

Nationality: Taiwanese
Primary Language: Taiwanese, Mandarin
Age: 46
Occupation: Branch Manager
Residence: Taipei, Taiwan
Performance Date: 19 April 2024

Tags: Taiwan, dragon, boat, rice cakes, summer

Text:

The Dragonboat Festival is a holiday that happens on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Lunar Calendar, which equates to around the summer solstice for non-Lunar calendars. The story behind it is that there once was a wise advisor who failed to convince his king that a great enemy would destroy their land, causing him to commit suicide by drowning himself in a river. The people were so saddened by his death that they made rice dumplings wrapped in leaves called ‘Zong Zi’ and threw them in the river to let the fish eat those instead of the advisor’s dead body. Nowadays, we eat ‘Zong Zi’ to remember him, and to celebrate the summer festivities. The epynomous dragonboat races take place around the rivers, and since it’s around the time of the summer solstice, the earth’s position is at the perfect place to allow eggs to stand up on their own when placed on a flat surface, so people often go to their homes or outside and attempt it.

Context:

C was born and raised in Taiwan, and has traveled the world various times due to her work and studies. She regularly participates in Taiwanese and Asian festivities with friends and family. She has been said to be quite good at the egg-standing activity during the Dragonboat festivals, and has participated in a smaller version of the dragonboat races.

Analysis:

Interestingly enough, even though the festival is named the ‘Dragonboat Festival’, the origin didn’t actually start with dragonboats or races, though I suppose it would be weirder to call it the ‘Rice Dumpling festival’. The mandarin name of the festival is ‘Duan Wu Jie’, literally “dual five festival”, but perhaps the name wouldn’t make sense in english due to the different ways of tracking time. This is an example of how globalization makes its way into tradition and festival, giving new names and meaning to already-existing festivities.

Topsfield County Fair

“In middle school and high school, I really enjoyed going to the local county fair, Topsfield County fair. The fair is in Mid-October, around Columbus Day, so we’d have the day off from school to go. I enjoyed it, and my friends and I made it a sort of tradition to go to the festival! There were a lot of good food options, a lot of fried food, exhibitions in barns, etc. Also, there was a pumpkin weighing contest, where people, usually farmers, would bring in pumpkins that were outrageously large (weighing hundreds of pounds) and everyone loved to stick around and check out who won!”

Context:

I had this conversation with a friend of mine over the phone, through video call, so I was able to record and later transcribe what was said

Interpretation:

County fairs or state fairs are quintessentially American, and usually happen sometime in the summer, acting as a perfect ritual to transition from the school year to a relaxing summer, for students. It’s also a way for entertainment and commercial endeavors to be exhibited together (in the forms of merchants, rides, and other forms of amusement) to reach a wide audience! This particular fair is the oldest in the US, being a few hundred years old, standing as a testament to the long history of these events in American culture.

Windsor/Detroit Friendship Festival

Context:

The informant grew up near Windsor, Ontario in Canada which was right across the US border from Detroit, Michigan. Since the United States celebrates Independence Day on July 4th and Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1st, the two towns would join to celebrate together at some point over the long holiday weekend.

Main Piece:

“Detroit and Windsor would do this thing, The Friendship Festival, because it was international friendship. And so they would have shared fireworks between, and they would compromise, do, like, whatever day worked out best over the long weekend, but, you know, sometimes it would be on my birthday, which was July 3rd, so it was especially great to go to Windsor and they’d have fireworks for my birthday.”

Analysis:

These two cities were so close to each other and both celebrate a major holiday on the same weekend, so it makes sense that they would join forces. Some other compounding factors include the fact that the drinking age is two years lower in Ontario than in the US, which already made Windsor a popular destination for those slightly too young to drink alcohol in the States. This tradition makes me consider how a folk does not necessarily end at a national border. These towns, only separated by a river and an artificially enforced border, institutionally celebrate their national holidays three days apart. But because their proximity to each other, and therefore their connection, cannot simply be negated by the borders of their nations, they compromise to create a new festival out of the two.

Cherry Festival (Blenheim, ON)

Context:

AS grew up in Blenheim, Ontario, and attended this festival annually while growing up.

Main Piece:

AS: “So, the area I grew up in, full of orchards, all kinds of tree fruits. And one of them was the Cherry Festival, and it was known because, I swear to god, people compete spitting cherry pits. And the world champion cherry pit spitter came from our town. We were like ridiculously proud of someone who could expel a cherry pit, like, a really surprising distance.”

Analysis:

The Blenheim Cherry Festival (identified in online sources as Cherry Fest) is a great example of the practice of festivals celebrating a key local industry. Since, like the AS stated, the area is “full of orchards, all kinds of tree fruits,” cherries are a large part of the culture of the town. The festival occurs in mid-July, the peak of cherry season in Canada. This peak falls later because the Ontario weather is colder than in many other cherry-growing areas.

One of the central activities at this festival is a cherry pit spitting competition. Immediately, this makes sense because it directly involves cherries, but it also makes sense on further levels. Where the entire festival celebrates the growing of cherries, a full industry that is not especially approachable or accessible to enter for the lay person within Blenheim. If you do not already work in the Cherry industry or own an orchard, it is difficult to start commercially growing cherries. So much of this festival has a clear delineation between the industry insiders who participate in the trade, and the festival attendants who are not involved in the industry, but may still connect with the town’s cherry-centric identity (or just enjoy a good festival). But the cherry pit spitting competition, while it is still centered around cherries, evens the playing field. Anyone can be good at spitting cherry pits; there is no need for start-up capital or a commercial orchard. This competition invites the non-industry lay person into taking an active role within the festival, and therefore invites them into the community of Blenheim.

Traditional Arabic Dish – Koosa and Ejeh

Text/Context

EM – Koosa is a traditional Arabic dish. First, squash is hollowed out using a special scoop. My grandmother uses a scoop that belonged to her mom and grandmother. The squash is stuffed with a seasoned ground lamb meat and rice mixture and cooked in a tomato soup seasoned with spearmint.
And of course the squash seeds can’t go to waste, so they are salted to draw the water out and squeezed to drain as much as possible. They are then mixed with eggs, parsley, onions, and Syrian pepper to make an omelette-like batter. They are then deep fried into little cakes called ejeh. Fun to make and heavenly to eat.
Interviewer – Any special occasions to eat these recipes?
EM – We usually make koosa and ejeh in the summer when we can get fresh squash from the farm.
Interviewer – Are they always made side-by-side? Do you eat them at the same time in the same meal or do you eat them separately?
EM – Sitto (Arabic word for grandmother) doesn’t always make ejeh, but when she does, its always with koosa. We don’t usually eat them together, though. I like ejeh as a snack or breakfast, and koosa is always lunch or dinner.
Interviewer – If your grandmother has the special scoop, can no one but her make them “properly” or do you use whatever scoop you have? Is the scoop actually made specifically for koosa, and what does it look like?
EM – There are other scoops out there. I have my own, but Sitto’s is special because it’s been passed down. I don’t actually know if anyone uses the scoops for anything else but we call it a koosa scoop. It’s a long metal half-tube basically.
Interviewer – Does someone make them better than anyone else?
EM – Sitto makes them the best.
Interviewer – Have you learned both of the recipes?
EM – I know the recipe fo koosa, but not ejeh yet.
Interviewer – Do these recipes feel culturally significant to you personally, or are they just food you are glad you get to eat? Do you feel connected to your family through these recipes?
EM -The recipes are culturally significant to me because I feel close to my family when we make and eat them.
EM – All of my family’s recipes are either in our heads, or in the case of ka’ak and other desserts, the recipe is written down but no directions are given, so the only way to learn to make them is to observe and learn from our elders making special bonds and memories

Analysis

The dishes are usually made in the summer for maximum freshness. Because I collected the story during the winter, the story was not performed with the actual food but rather in a context of discussing favorite foods.
Koosa and Ejeh are examples of food connecting a person to their family and their heritage. The informant has never traveled to Lebanon, and knows only a few words in Arabic, but is proud of their heritage and feels connected when they learn the recipes that are passed down through family, learned by memory, and made with and for their family.