Tag Archives: traditional food

Always eat noodles on your birthday

Context: My informant is a family

My informant states that a Filipino superstition that she knows of is that “you should always eat noodles on your birthday”. Though, she acknowledges that this superstition may not just apply to Filipinos because other Asian countries prominently have noodles as a part of their culture, just like white rice. And in this case, Filipinos eat Pancit.

She says the reason for this is that noodles symbolize having a long life. And her experience with this tradition, and also superstition is that she has always had noodles for her birthday and has always seen noodles (or specifically pancit) in the dishes among many others at family’s birthdays and get togethers.

She interprets this as carrying on noodles as a part of being Filipino, and also because of the length of the noodles.


This Filipino tradition is also a superstition.

Analyzing this piece of folklore, it seems to stem from other Asian cultures. Noodles are a part of many Asian cultures, and I believe that it emphasizes on the idea of “pan-asianism”. Though it does seem to be very harmonizing and it does not mean it is all the same for all Asian cultures. Because the Philippines has their own staple of noodles, which is pancit.

Furthermore, my informant does not seem to state any worry about this superstition. Pancit/noodles are just that important to Filipinos because it is an important part of a celebration meal and a favorite common (but not basic) food. Food can carry heavy symbolic messages for people. In this case, noodles may represent longevity but also embracing and loving a staple food that most people enjoy in all sorts of contexts (not just parties).

Family Christmas Cookie Making

Main Piece

“Every Christmas, our house becomes a ‘candy factory’ – at some point when I was growing up, my mom found recipes for chocolate fudge, peanut butter toffee fudge, and peppermint bark, tweaked some of them so they didn’t have quite as many sticks of butter and cups of sugar, and started making them to give to neighbors and family. My dad started bringing them to work to give to his coworkers too, and now it’s something everyone looks forward to getting from us each year. My brother and I started helping make them pretty early on, at least since I was in eighth grade, and it’s become a key Christmas tradition – responsibility, even – to share with our mom every year.”


Informant’s Interpretation: This tradition holds primary relevance to informant as a family tradition. She likes to spend the time with her mom, but notes that since the whole thing puts a stress on her mom, helping can sometimes “feel more like a duty than a fun cozy Christmas tradition.” However, she notes that she still heavily associates this with how her family celebrates Christmas and thus enjoys it.

Personal Interpretation: I find this to be a classic example of a family Christmas tradition–particularly so because other families recognize it as such and come to enforce the idea of the tradition from a slightly-external perspective. While associated with a religious holiday, I don’t see any particular direct connection to Christian tradition other than perhaps the origins of the types of cookies. That said, it feels pretty removed from any religious context and has more to do with the time of year and family-centric association than anything else.


Informant is a 21 year old college student raised in Rancho Bernardo, California. She is female-presenting, white, and of European descent.

Eating Haroseth for Passover

Informant: M.M

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: Denver, CO

Performance Date: 04/25/2024

M.M is 20 years old and is from Denver, Colorado. She is my friend from USC, and I asked her if there are any festivals or rituals she participates in regularly. She tells me about a holiday custom his dad does for Passover. 

“During Passover, which is this big Jewish holiday we celebrate every year, my dad always makes this special dish called Haroseth. It’s kind of a mix of fruits, nuts, and spices, and it tastes amazing. What’s cool about it is that the recipe has been passed down in our family for generations. Passover is pretty much the only time Dad ever cooks, which makes it extra special for me because Mom usually handles the kitchen. It’s kind of a treat to see him in there, taking over for once. This tradition has been around since I was a kid, and I interpret it as a way for us to connect back to our Jewish roots and kind of remember our ancestors through this longtime, shared recipe.”

Personally, this recipe keeps a part of their history alive. Culturally, it connects them to their Jewish heritage, celebrating freedom and resilience, which is what Passover is all about. Their passed-down recipe signifies how long this celebration has stood in their family and ancestors. So I assume this holiday was really important for them. It gives them a chance to remember where they came from and strengthen their identity.

Capirotada Cultural Dish

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Age: 50
  • Residence: Los Angeles 
  • Primary language: Spanish 
  • Relationship: mother 


Capirotada(cultural food) 


EP explained to me the cultural and religious significance of the traditional Mexican capirotada dish. The capirotada dish is made during a specific season, as EP says, “la temporada de cuaresma.” Cuaresma is basically the Lenten period, in which Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter occur. She views this period of time in which she prepares for the death and the resurrection of Jesus by fasting and making this cultural dish. She learned this traditional dish from her mother who would make it during the Lenten period. EP goes into depth on the ingredients of the Capirotada, “La canela, clavo, y piloncillo se cuece, y así se hace la miel que se pone arriba de todos los ingredientes antes de hornear.” She first makes a sort of sweet juice/syrup to put on top of the ingredients. The ingredients consist of: white bolillo bread, tortillas, bananas, apples, queso fresco, raisins, prunes, viznaga, different types of nuts and dried fruits, etc. She said that you put the syrup that was made prior on top of all the ingredients and then you can bake it. 


Capirotada is made in different ways, and it also depends on the preference of the person making the dish. Not everyone will make it the same; each person has their own touch. I have grown up eating capirotada as well, but when I would ask other people if they had tried or heard of it before, they would say no. It is a dish that is not as commonly made or known. When I was younger, I always thought it wasn’t something I wanted to eat, but as I grew older I learned to appreciate and actually love to eat the dish. While the capirotada might not look as physically appealing as other desserts, it is truly delicious and holds a special place in our Mexican culture.

Unwrapping Tamales For Christmas

Background: The informant is a 52 year old man. He was born in Tulare, California. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context as that when the informant was eating tamales, he was reminded of Christmas.


MD: “Well typically, uh, mexican families, they make, uh, tamales for Christmas, and, you know, it’s kind of like a seasonal food, and that’s considered traditional to make tamales for Christmas, and uh, the big joke about tamales and mexicans is that the reason why mexicans make tamales is so they can have something to unwrap for christmas. And so uh, I used to help my mom make ‘em, and we would kind of like interchange, like, you know, sometimes I would like, layout the leaves and spread the masa, which is like corn dough, on them, or other times she would do that, and she would allow me to put the meat inside of it. It’s like a meat sauce, and uh, she didn’t like me putting the meat with the sauce in the tamale because I would typically put too much and, uh, she’d kind of strive for balance between the masa and the meat, the problem though too is like when you steam them, if you, if you put too much meat inside them, they kind of overflow, and they, they break apart the tamale, you know? It is what it is.” 


Informant: He is very humorous and recalls both the joke and the tamales in good fun. He reminisces about his time with his mother and looks to it as a great bonding moment between the two of them each year.

Mine: First, the joke’s context is that Mexicans are considered poor in America and will not have the money to buy presents for their family. While on the surface, the joke seems like a laughable jab, it speaks to a much deeper social context, about how Mexican families are treated in the greater societal context of the US. Typically, they do not have higher paying jobs or may be supporting a larger family and much more. However, the joke is prevalent in Mexican communities in order to make light of their hardships. It shows how humor is consistently used to make a situation seem better and it’s a source of hope. Second, making tamales on Christmas is very widespread in Mexican culture. Given how the informant would always complete the task with his mother, it provided a way for the two of them to connect through their culture of making food.