Tag Archives: tradition

Turning on of the Plaza Lights


My informant, from Kansas City Missouri, describes a Thanksgiving tradition in his town: “Every Thanksgiving night, Kansas City has a big thing which is the turning on of the Plaza lights. We have a big sorta commercial area/cultural center called the Plaza and they have like a million Christmas lights that stay on from November through January. But when they turn on it’s a big thing and often we try to get a local Kansas City or Missouri celebrity to do it.”


“I think it’s a source of local pride, I mean the Plaza is an important place in Kansas City and the fact that we try to get native celebrities shows that desire. There’s also like a commercial element with drawing in people and making it a big event in an area full of shops also during a time of year with shopping and stuff. It has a similar but lesser energy to like Rockefeller tree in my mind of like creating a spectacle for the holidays.”


The importance of this spectacle is that it allows the group to create a spectacle that brings pride for their town. Perhaps the people of this town want there to be something that they have that other towns may not, emphasizing what it is that makes them special. They focus on the celebrities from the town, perhaps as a way of elevating the social status of the town as a whole.



My informant, from Kansas City Missouri, describes a Christmas tradition in his family: “So later on the day of Christmas Eve, my family helps organize a neighborhood tradition called Luminaria. I think the tradition is very Christian and comes from like Italy or Spain but we do it as a non-denominational neighborhood thing. Basically you light a bunch of candles and place them along the street on Christmas eve.”


“There’s probably a religious reason behind it that we’re unfamiliar with, but afterwards people walk around and look at the candles and it’s like a nice moment to talk to people and stuff. I think the Luminaria thing is just a source of coming together as a neighborhood for the holidays. Everyone helps and it’s a big neighborhood thing and people walk and talk and stuff. It has a sort of religious connotation but it’s kinda lost it for us and our area. I think it might be organized with other neighborhoods through a local church but our area is kinda disconnected from that.”


The informant is aware of the religious origins of the traditions, but does not perform the tradition for religious reasons. What matters about the tradition is not what it is meant to represent religiously, but what it represents to the community now: It’s a way of bringing people together and connecting the neighborhood through conversation and common activity.

Sharing Music Videos on New Years


My informant, from Kansas City, Missouri, describes a New Years family tradition: “My family does this thing every New Years Eve after midnight (so after the ball drop) where we sit around and play music videos for each other until people get tired and leave.”


“It’s kinda weird but I think it started with the fact that TV is a big deal in our family and that televised New Years specials already have people performing during them so it’s like a logical progression. Beyond that, I also think it comes from my parents’ love for MTV airing music videos which they sometimes did after midnight on New Years which me and my siblings grew to love and eventually evolved into a moment of sharing our music tastes and cool videos in a fun family moment. I should also mention that my dad used to be in a band and is very big on music so he pushed this tradition a lot.”


This family tradition represents how traditions can change with the rise of the digital age. The ritual of watching the ball drop in New York on New Year’s Eve is accessible to anyone because it is televised, but this family takes the ritual a step further by transitioning the event into a period of sharing with each other pieces of art and culture from the cyberspace that they have come to enjoy. The informant’s parent’s connection to MTV is indicative of their generation, and this has since evolved to reflect the online culture of the informant’s generation. This ritual represents a connection across generations through music and virtual media.

A Christmas Pickle


Talking about Christmas traditions

L: Also, whoever– The way we decided who opens their presents first is that there’s one uhhhh ornament on the tree that is a pickle, and whoever finds it first gets to open the first present.

ME: I heard about this from my friend A!!

L: really?

ME: A was talking about a Christmas pickle

L: do you know where it’s from?

ME: no I have no idea

L: I don’t know where it’s from 

ME: her [A’s] guess was like: someone in America was like let’s make a Christmas pickle and try to sell it. That was her guess. 

L: yeah, no yeah, we have a Christmas pickle. It’s sparkly

ME: You have a Christmas pickle that’s uh an ornament 

L: I’ll show it to you

ME: tell me what– tell me about the Christmas pickle

L: ok so the Christmas pickle, that’s from my dad’s side of the family. Ummm. I don’t even know where it came from, I should really ask them. But like I just remember ever since I was a little kid ‘find the pickle.’ it would always be my grandparents who would hide it on the tree and then like we would all search for it. I usually was the one to find it first. I’m not kidding, like almost every year. I don’t know why, I’m usually not that observant, but umm yeah the Christmas pickle. Loved it. Umm yeah, don’t know where it came from. And we would always go from there, youngest to eldest for opening presents. One at a time, always. Like that stuck.


This tradition was shared with me by a friend after going grocery shopping together when we sat in my bedroom to do schoolwork together.

L is a Jewish-American USC student studying sociology who grew up in Colorado.


Christmas games and present-giving styles vary greatly from house to house. The Christmas pickle seems one such game/style. Before this year I was unfamiliar with the tradition.

L says she has no idea where the practice came from, but that she loves it. I offer that the tradition may have been started by a company with the intention of profiting off of selling Christmas pickles. This style of tradition creation is not unprecedented, especially in America.


Informant Info

Nationality: Indian

Age: 55

Occupation: Chief Information Officer

Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada

Date of Performance/Collection: 2023

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Tamil

Relationship: Father

Referred to as JS.  JS was born in India and moved to the United States when he was 22. 


The parai is a traditional percussion instrument commonly used in South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.  Predominantly, this instrument is played at funerals.  It is also played at many events, including weddings and religious festivals.


While growing up, JS heard this from his parents and relatives.  He has witnessed this instrument being played at funerals and some religious festivals.  He also saw this during his father’s funeral.

The music is often played by professional parai players who are skilled in the art of traditional drumming.  The rhythm of the Parai is believed to have a robust and mournful quality, which is supposed to help mourners express their grief and sadness.  The playing of the Parai is often accompanied by singing, and the songs and stories sung during death rituals are believed to help the deceased journey to the afterlife.  In addition, at funerals, the parai is often used to provide musical accompaniment during the procession and to announce the dead’s arrival.


The interpretation of parai music at funerals is tied to its cultural and historical context. In Tamil Nadu, music and dance have long been an essential part of funeral customs, and the parai at funerals is seen as a way to preserve this tradition and pay tribute to the dead.  In traditional rural communities, the parai music at funerals is also seen as a way to respect the deceased and remember their life and legacy.   In addition to its cultural and historical significance, parai music at funerals is also seen as a way to comfort and support those grieving. The powerful sound of the drum is believed to bring a sense of closure and peace to the mourning process.

Overall, the Parai is an essential and profoundly symbolic instrument in Tamil Nadu, and its use during death rituals is a testament to the region’s rich cultural heritage and traditions.