Tag Archives: tradition

Christmas Pickle


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. 

Danza del Venado (the deer dance)

–Informant Info–

Nationality: Mexcian

Age: 31

Occupation: Lawyer

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish

(Notes-The informant will be referred to DA as and the interviewer as K)

Background info: DA was born in Mexico and moved to the United States when he was 15. He would go back to Mexico to visit family, and while there saw the deer dance performed by various members of his community. While telling me about the dance, he would occasionally perform small parts of it.

K: So what’s the dance called, and what’s the context of the performance? Like when or under, uh what circumstances was it performed.

DA: Its called Danza del Venado, or the deer dance in English. There’s a few different reasons why it would be performed. After Catholicism mixed with Mexico, it was performed around Lent or Easter. When my people still hunted, it was performed before hunting to ensure success, or as a welcome to spring.

K: Ok, so whenever you’re uh…ready to tell me about it go ahead

DA: I already mentioned when it’s performed but I forget to say that it’s now, along with the easter practices, a means to communicate with the spirit world, in which deers’ spirit resides. The dance is simple; it consists of a few men who are dressed in a cloth wrapped around them like a skirt, held up with a belt made of deer hooves. He has more hooves tied to his ankles and holds dried uh…calabaza (gourds) filled with beans or rice to make large rattling sounds. They would also have deer skulls attached to their heads with red uh…Cintas (ribbon) tied around the horns. All of this is meant to sort of thank the deer and celebrate how hard it fought and ran not to be hunted. All the noise from the hooves and calabaza is like it running and us chasing, while the cinta is meant to represent flowers actually, like rebirth and growth from spring. The entire dance is a thank you to earth.

This was the first folklore I had collected specifically on a dance and it was so interesting to read about. The change in the dance from how it originally was, it being dedicated to the hunt and directly to spring, to the version it became after Catholicism was introduced, with the dance now being dedicated to easter, was so interesting to hear. DA also showed me a video he had taken of his family performing the dance, so I got to see it actually be performed. It’s a beautiful dance full of color and culture. What DA did not mention is how much audience participation there is. In the video I was shown, the entire audience was chanting and singing along with the dancers, and young children were even at the front of the room dancing alongside them. People in the audience were also dressed in ribbons and a few even have a hoove or two with them.

El Vaporu Magico – The Magical VapoRub

Informant: My informant is my Mexican mom, who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. While she stayed with her mom for about 16 years, she learned many remedies to keep herself away from developing colds, and flu, and even erase bruises. My mom stated that the reason why she turns towards magical Vicks/mentolato is that she has a stronger belief in home remedies than in actual prescribed medicine. 

Context:  This conversation occurred when I asked my mom why she always brought extra Vaporu, when we already had some at home. 

Main Text: Cuando yo crecí mi mama siempre me dijo que cuando me sintiera mal que siempre tuviera un vaporub a la mano. Ella siempre me decía que esto era mágico y de lo mejor porque siempre ayudaba a mi mama con sus migrañas, moretones, y cuando tenía síntomas de algún resfriado. Lo que hacía mi mamá específicamente es que nos ponía un chingo de vapor en mis pies y me ponía calcetines. Y luego me ponía detrás de la espalda y enfrente del pecho. Para mantenerlo caliente entre medio de mi ropa me ponía papel. Al final antes que nos acostáramos a dormir nos ponía un poco alrededor de la nariz para que pudiéramos respirar mejor. Sabes, mi mama no solo me enseño a usar esto para resfriados pero también para la piel y infecciones. Si te pones poquito de esto en tu barro es más que seguro que se te quite al otro dia, Por ultimo, si te duele el oído lo que tienes que haces es agarrar un algodón, ponerle un poco de vaporub y ponerlo en oído.” 

Translation: “Growing up my mom always told me that when I felt bad I should always have a vaporubby my side.. She always told me that this was magical and the best because it always helped my mom with her migraines, bruises, and when she had cold symptoms. What my mom did specifically is she put a lot of  thi product on the sole of my feet and with socks on me. And then she would put some behind my back and in front of myst chest. To keep the warmth, my mom would put paper between my clothes. In the end, before we went to sleep, she put a little around our noses so that we could breathe better. You know, my mom taught me not only to use this for colds but also for the skin and infections. If you put a little of this on your pimples, it is more than certain that it would go away the next day. Finally, another use was for infection. If your ear hurts, what you had  have to do was take a cotton ball, put a little VapoRub on it and put it in your ear.”

Analysis: It is interesting how this product, which was not initially created to be used for bruises, nor for infection has become a huge part of the Mexican culture. I believe it just showcases, how my mom and many other who use this product have become accustomed to use it and has become integrated so much into their health lifestyles. So much to the point that many rather than going to a doctor, now rely on VapoRub. I for one have no problem in relying in folk medicine, because I also have the belief that VapoRub fixes almost all. I myself, coming from a low-income family, rely on this product so much. Why? Because when a member gets sick, we pull out the VapoRub. VapoRub is efficient, cheap and lifesaver for many low-income families.

Happy Birthday Song

Main Piece: Happy Birthday Song

“Happy birthday, happy happy birthday, we’re in love with you, so in love with you,

May happiness be near throughout the coming year 

And all the best to you and all the best to you

May you keep on smiling everyday

And all your troubles fade away 

And may you never ever ever be blue

So happy birthday (name) 

Happy happy birthday to youuu youuuuu youuuuuuuuu!”

Background Information:

This was taught to L when she was a child by her Uncle and Aunt. They made it up because they thought that the normal happy birthday song was much too dull.

Context of the Performance:

This is sung when it is somebody’s birthday at the same time as when people would normally sing the well known happy birthday song. Usually, this occurs when the birthday cake is brought out to the person whose birthday it is.

My Thoughts:

I like this version of the happy birthday song better than the well known version of the happy birthday song because it is more lively and interesting. It is a little bit more complex than the original version of the happy birthday song; however, it is not overly complicated and still easy for people to learn in a short period of time. Additionally, this song mentions that the singers are in love with the birthday recipient and therefore I presume that it is only sung to people that the birthday recipient is very close with because singing this birthday song to somebody that you are not familiar with would not be as comfortable.

Wear red on 12th birthday

Main Piece: Chinese Superstition/Tradition

“It is a Chinese superstition/tradition to wear the color red every 12th birthday in order to ward off bad luck.”

Background Information:

This is a part of Chinese tradition and the informant learned this from one of her Chinese friend’s mother. The superstition also postulates that if you do not wear red on that birthday you are more susceptible to bad luck

Context of the Performance:

This tradition occurs every twelfth birthday. This is a Chinese tradition and it falls in line with wearing certain colors for certain reasons such as wearing white when getting married or wearing black during a funeral.

My Thoughts:

I have not heard of this tradition, but I have heard about other similar traditions that involve wearing certain colors for certain reasons such as communication or as a signal.