Tag Archives: tradition

Rakhi

Main Piece: 

Informant: Oh, during ​​Rakhi, so Rakhi, when you the sisters in the family will tie a string like if you can, you can see them on my arm. (gestures to his wrist where he’s wearing strings). Of course that’s not going to be known but like you can see them on my arm. You tie them around the brothers. And the point of it is for the brothers to say I will protect you no matter what like this. I do it with my sister as well as my cousins every single year because they’re near and dear to me and I want to show that I will protect them through whatever happens to them. So every single year we do that I give them money as well. And then on top of that, and then they give me a specific treat that I prefer the most. So for my uncle and myself we both like this Indian treat called Jalebi it is-all Indians treat like desserts and everything are really sweet in general, but this one’s like- It’s like fried and then dipped in syrup. It is the sweetest thing you can get. But it is it’s so good. It’s amazing and that’s what I tell them to get me every single year. It’s my favorite. 

Context: 

My informant is a 21-year-old Indian American gerontology major at USC, this folklore was told to both me and his girlfriend (my roommate) in my living room. 

Background: 

He said that this is one his favorite celebrations because he gets to renew his commitment to his female relatives while also getting one of his favorite desserts. 

Analysis: 

It almost sounds like siblings are bartering for protection in this ritual, but my informant wears the proof of his commitment to his female relatives and is reminded of his promise every day. There’s visible proof of his relationship with his family and this ritual is a way to celebrate it. 

Bake Your Own Cookie

Background provided by NN : NN was born and raised in Southern California. They were raised in a Chinese-American household and experienced many different forms of folklore. 

Context: NN was approached about folklore, they conveyed it through a telephone call. NN says that her father tells this tale whenever they are lazy. They also revealed that this particular folklore had evolved to be a joke after they learned how to cook and bake. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information):

NN: “ So … like … my dad tells me this story … ALL the time. He usually tells me … when he thinks I am being … lazy, or whatever. The story kinda … always begins … with “There was once a rich man” (accompanied by air quotes) who had … like everything done for him. He never had to … umm … lifted a finger … like AT ALL. Servants … wiped his butt, like … fed him,  they did everything for him. (Pauses for effect) One, day, after he got married his, ummm … wife had to … like … uhh … visit her family for the … the … holiday. She baked her husband  a large cookie, and like put in on … a … string  and put it on around his neck. AND she left to visit her family … for … like a week. When she came back home,  she …  her husband was dead.  Like … he was in the same position … like when she left him … and like the cookie around his neck was not eaten. He was too lazy … to even lift the cookie … to like … eat … so he died. My dad would always say something, like … (deepens voice to imitate their father) “See … work won’t kill you, but being lazy will. Do you want to have someone bake your cookie for you … or what.” 

Analysis: This particular short story is has morbid humor. The laziness of the man is obviously dramatized to highlight the importance of hard work. It seems like the story is told orally and had even evolved into a joke amongst close family members. The moral of the story remains despite the context of the perfomance. It also acts as a representation of Chinese values. The lazy man can also be interpreted as subtle commentary on the partriarchal society. The wife had provided substance for her husband, but his choice led to his own demise. Another interesting layer to this tale is the financial component; the lazy man had never done anything for himself because he had the financial means to outsource all his tasks. This tale could have originated from the working-class as way of encouraging their chidren to embrace work instead of focusing on the scarcity of money.

Raksha Bandhan in Hinduism

Folklore/ Text: Raksha Bandhan:

SM: “Although my parents are not very religious, my grandparents still practice Hinduism– sometimes my parents will practice certain traditions to appease my grandparents. One of them is called ‘Raksha Bandhan’ which is a ritual that surrounds siblings and the importance of a brother-sister relationship. But it’s mostly about the brother, which is a little sexist if you ask me! On the day of August 18th, the sisters have to tie a bracelet, known as a Rakhi, to the brother’s right wrist. But before doing so, you dip your finger in water, place the water on your forehead, and attach a piece of rice to the damp part of your forehead. Later, the sisters have to hand feed the brother something sweet. And as return, the brother rewards the sister(s) with some sort of gift which is usually money. Traditionally, we are investing a shared responsibility of care because the brothers take care of us as women. But now my aunts and uncles will send my sister and I money as well, as to make sure we are not only celebrating men during Raksha Bandhan.”

Explanation/ Context: Raksha Bandhan, while deeply connected to Hinduism, certainly has some dated ideals and beliefs. On this annual holiday, only the male siblings of the family are celebrated. However, my informant’s family finds a way to similarly celebrate the female siblings by gifting them money. This is an example of how certain lore can change over time with the ever-changing climate of society and culture. This is their family’s attempt at fighting against certain sexism. Not to say Hinduism is a sexist religion, however, this family acknowledges that not only men should be praised. The females are just as capable of being “responsible” for the other siblings.

Classroom Leprechauns

Content:

Me: Where did you get the idea to have a leprechaun visit your class?

LS: Well really it goes back to when I was in first grade. So I remember, I guess we made a trap or something, but I remember putting out, um, Lucky Charms cereal and I think we had some kind of like class trap. I could be wrong, but I just remember, like we were trying to trap the leprechaun and um, we, I mean, I don’t remember for sure cause you know, that was many years ago, but I guess the leprechaun did like set our trap off, but we didn’t catch him. You know? I don’t remember if he left anything. I think he left a pot of gold or something, you know, like the chocolate gold, but I don’t really remember what happened there, but I remember that somebody in my class like went to the bathroom and then they came running back and they were like, “I saw the leprechaun!” And they were like claiming they saw this like little hat, like peek out of the ceiling tile in the bathroom. Which, I mean, for me, I was like, I don’t want someone looking at me in the bathroom. Like, it’s a little weird. But to me it kind of was like, almost like, “oh my God, they’re real.” Like, you know? And so that was just like always a fun memory. And I don’t really remember doing a lot with St Patrick’s day after that. Like I remember we all wore green and like, you know, everyone was like, “oh I’ll pinch you,” if you didn’t. But like that’s the one time I remember like having that experience. And so then when I started teaching, of course, like you find ways to make every holiday fun and you know, engaging. Um, and so somewhere along the way, I guess it was my first year teaching, um my parapro at the time, she was like, oh yeah, we usually like to trash the room. And she had some old green Garland and like some decorations that they had used before. And they’re like, oh yeah, we just like wreck it and leave like a treat. And so I think we left gold coins at their seat and like gave them like a cookie or cupcake or something with green frosting. And we like just tore up the and then she threw like the Garland and other decorations, like up on the board and like made it look like, you know, I, I think there was like a cutout leprechaun that got like taped on the board, you know? And, um, the, you know, the kids went nuts and they got back in the room and it was just so fun. And then the kids would be like, “oh my gosh, the leprechaun trashed our room!” And then they’ll help you clean it up, you know? Um, and so I kind of just continued that from I was in kindergarten. Um, but of course then with the pandemic, we couldn’t do it for the past couple of years. 

Background: LS has taught kindergarten in Athens, Georgia since 2015. She went to elementary school in a suburb of Athens in the 1990s. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. Analysis: I also remember leprechauns visiting my classroom in elementary school. I was particularly interested in L’s story because she touches on the consumerism of the tradition. She talks about using Lucky Charms as a leprechaun trap, for example. Lucky Charms are not traditionally Irish, yet there’s an association between them and what’s considered an Irish holiday. Additionally, when I looked into the lore behind leprechaun traps, it seems that the idea has almost solely existed for elementary schools or other gatherings of children. 

Christmas Pickle

Content: 

C: It’s really pretty straightforward. Um, so ever since your mom was little, we put this pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. Just like a ceramic little pickle. But, um, you put it on and, and whoever finds it first wins a present. 

Me: Where did you get your pickle ornament?

C: Um… I think mine right now is from The Christmas Mouse.

Me: What’s the prize for the winner?

C: Anything. Candy or money or something like that. 

Background: C was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, where she resides today. Her family claims German heritage. The Christmas Mouse is a local holiday decor store. 

Context: This story was told to me in-person by my grandmother, C. 

Analysis: The Christmas Pickle has always been a big deal for my family. I grew up with two sisters, and we often got competitive in the days after Thanksgiving when the tree was being decorated. When we spend Christmas at my mom’s, there isn’t a prize for finding the pickle. I remember us having prizes when we were younger, but she stopped as we became teenagers. Now, finding the pickle is purely for bragging rights. When we go to my grandmother’s for the holiday, however, she still takes the hunt very seriously. The prize nowadays is often a gift card or mug- things that are more appealing to adults than candy and toys.