Tag Archives: tradition

Wedding Bells – Irish wedding rituals


KT: “This is a wedding tradition that mostly comes from my dad’s side of the family [Irish heritage], but I did it at my wedding and I believe my mother did it at her and my father’s wedding too. So, after me and your dad left the church, all the guests rang little silver bells that were passed out before the ceremony. Bells are said to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck in a marriage. They also rang the church bells too if I remember correctly, which is pretty normal for church weddings. The guests got to keep the bells and they rang them as we can in for the reception too which was really pretty. I really liked that.”

Me: “Where did you learn about this wedding tradition?”

KT: “I learned about it from my parents, I think. Like I said, I think they did something similar at their wedding. Your grandmother isn’t Irish, but your grandfather is, so they incorporated some Irish traditions into the wedding. I think he must have learned it from his family because I think I remember my mom saying my uncle did the same thing at his wedding too.”

Me: “Do you know what generation American you are?”

KT: “Yes, so my dad’s dad came from Ireland. That means my grandfather and grandmother, which would make me a 2nd generation American, I think. So, I guess that tradition is probably pretty popular in Ireland, at least in our family. I don’t know anyone in Ireland, from our family or otherwise, so I don’t really know. It’s funny too because I don’t think my sister or brother did it at their ceremonies, I can’t really remember, but they both got married first, and my mother was insistent that I do it. My dad passed when I was three months old, but you know, my mom remarried, so I was the last of her kids from my real dad. I think that’s why she really wanted me to do it since I was the last one from that side of the family.

Me: “Did you incorporate any other family or cultural traditions into your wedding?”

KT: “Well we had a Catholic wedding ceremony, which has specific things to complete the Sacrament of Matrimony. I don’t know if we really have any other specific family traditions. Well, I guess besides the bells, that’s kind of a tradition now.”

Me: “Did it feel important to connect to your Irish heritage, and in a way your dad?”

KT: “Yeah, it was nice. I never really knew him, only my stepfather, so doing something like that I like to think my dad would have appreciated it. My stepfather was Irish too, so we still did a lot of Irish things and such growing up, but it was special because my real dad did it at his wedding.”

Context: KT is a 59 year old from California. She is of Irish decent. This wedding celebration was passed down to her from her parents, and she is unsure of how far back the tradition goes in her family, but it is a very popular wedding tradition in Ireland. She told me this story in-person, and I recorded it to transcribe.

Analysis: This is a relatively common Irish tradition, one that has influence in even non-Irish weddings. As my informant mentioned, even churches for non-Irish ceremonies have a practice of ringing the church bells after the ceremony is concluded. This Irish tradition has been acculturated into a religious tradition as well, in part, likely due to the strong religious ties in Ireland. This practice is directly linked to folk legends of fairies and spirits in Ireland, as the bells are to ward off evil spirits that could cause strife for the celebrations or the new couple. It is also important to note that this tradition was encouraged by KT’s mother to connect KT to her heritage and her father, even though it is not a practice from her culture [KT’s mother is Russian]. She wanted KT to connect to her culture and the important cultural practices. It was also a way that KT was able to remember her father and have a link to him on a very important day in her life, one that is centered around family. KT also mentions that she got married in a Catholic church, and in doing so, took part in the Sacrament of Matrimony. This is a religious tradition, which has its own set of specific rites that are completed. To receive this sacrament, certain things must be completed by the bride and groom, no matter what cultural background they are from, since it is purely religious in nature.

Baptisms for the Dead and Spirits – ghost story


“You’re going to think I’m crazy, but ok so in my religion we have a practice called Baptisms for the dead. It’s not about like forcing anyone to join the religion, but it’s about giving people who have passed the opportunity to be saved if they accept it [the baptism]. So, I did one for my grandparents, and they were like very present. I don’t know how else to describe it. My grandma had the sweetest spirit when she was alive, and while performing the baptism, just this sweet presence come over me, I can’t really describe what it felt like, but I knew it was her.”


T is from Joshua Tree, California. She told me this story while we were in our dorm room together. She is Christian, along with the rest of her family. Baptisms for the Dead is a common practice at her church. This practice she learned from her church, but she experienced feeling the presence of her relatives herself.


This is an example of a personal narrative, specifically a ghost story. She does not use the word ghost, but instead utilizes the word spirit. This phrasing shows how this story is held close to her. Often when we are talking about ghosts, it is in a much less personal context and is discussed with less reverence. When we use the word spirit, it is often in relation to a family member or an important figure, however both are essentially referring to the same thing: some sort of apparition of someone who has died. This connotation can help distinguish how truthful and unbiased a personal narrative is. Every event a person experiences is influenced by their emotions and beliefs, especially one as personal as seeing/feeling family members who have passed. Personal narratives are an important part of folklore, because they often blend many aspects of a cultural group into the narrative. For example, if there is not an already strong held belief in spirits or the soul within the cultural group, then it is less likely someone will experience seeing a spirit.

New Years Eve Ritual

text: “Every New Years Eve, my family puts a $100 dollar bill in their pockets before the clock reaches midnight. We do this because it brings prosperity in the New Year and the hope that you will be rich. My grandparents on my Filipino side put round objects in their pockets, such as coins or grapes, which also will bring wealth and good fortune in the New Year” -Informant

context: The tradition and superstition of these comes from both his Italian side and his Filipino side. He is 50% Italian, and 50% Filipino and has multiple traditions for every holiday. On his Italian side, his mom introduced putting a $100 bill into his pocket, maybe to just give him a hundred dollars, or maybe to bring him good fortune. On his Filipino side, his dad would make him put grapes, coins, or anything round also in his pocket to bring wealth and prosperity in the New Year.

analysis: What’s interesting about the combination of both of these New Years rituals, is that the informant will probably pass down these traditions to his kids. It will be a combination of them and be his way of passing down his culture to his kids. These New Year’s Eve superstitions and rituals serve as a prime example of Jame George Frazer’s theory of sympathetic magic, in specific, homeopathic magic. In his theory, he explains 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, that if which affecting the future.

Christmas Eve Ritual

text: “Every Christmas eve, on my Italian side, we eat seven kinds of fish. My mom is Italian and her parents came to the U.S. from Italy. They taught her that eating the seven kinds of fish combines their old Italian traditions and unites them with their new ones in America. The fish we eat are, clams, mussels, halibut, shrimp, calamari, etc.” – Informant

context: This is a yearly tradition on Christmas eve done by his entire Italian family. Even when they’re traveling, if they have no access to all of these fish or any of them, they will jokingly buy Swedish fish candy in order kind of fulfill the tradition. The informant learned this from their mother, who is Italian, and she learned it from her parents, who moved to America from Italy.

analysis: This is a holiday ritual but also a cultural food tradition done yearly by Italian people and immigrants. Done by a lot of Italian/Americans, this tradition combines their old culture with a new culture.

New House Ritual

text: “In Filipino culture, when you move into a new house, you put coins in the corner of every room in that new house. This supposedly brings prosperity and good fortune for your new chapter in life.” – Informant

context: This superstition/ritual was learned from the informant’s grandmother on his Filipino side. She learned this from her parents whenever they moved houses and passed it down to her son, the informant’s father. It is a huge part of Filipino culture, and the informant stated that superstitions are also huge in his culture. In Filipino culture, money is the biggest part of becoming successful, therefore, putting coins in the corners of rooms can act as a way of helping one achieve that wealth.

analysis: This is both a tradition and a superstition because it is passed down from generations, but also used to supposedly bring prosperity. When moving into a new house, it seems like a way to make it your own and ward off any negative energy. Everyone wants to be successful and there are coins are a huge motif to display that.