Tag Archives: wealth

Pork and Sauerkraut

Background: The informant is a 55 year old mother of three who was born in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Chicago when she was 28 years old. She participated in this tradition in her own childhood while she lived in Pennsylvania. Most often, her grandmother would make the meal and serve it at her home.

Context: The context of the piece is sitting at a restaurant and the table next over was eating pork, reminding TC about her own childhood tradition. She appeared nostalgic for her own childhood.


TC: It reminds me of when I was younger, my grandmother would always make pork and sauerkraut for New Years Eve. The family would gather in her house in Pennsylvania, where I was born. I think it’s, uh, a German tradition that is supposed to provide the family good luck and wealth  in the coming year. It makes sense as, I believe, my great-grandparents, on that side, are from Germany, which is where my grandma picked it up.

Me: Do you make it for your own family now?

TC: No, no I don’t. Honestly, it’s something I never did after I moved away from Pennsylvania – like to college and work. I think, in a way, it’s more reminiscent of my grandmother and childhood. Usually, my family now will have turkey dinner on New Years Eve, which is like having a bountiful upcoming year.


Informant: She views it as something rooted in the past, as an integral part of her childhood and her relationship with her grandmother. She doesn’t think about reviving it because there are already new traditions in place with her children.

Mine: Traditions, though they may fade away, can still remain integral to how one views themself. Even though the informant no longer eats/makes pork and sauerkraut, she still considers it to be vital to who they are as a person because of how it affected their relationship with their grandmother. As such, the tradition embedded special memories into the food and always serves as a reminder of childhood. Having a tradition can transform something “ordinary” into a symbol of remembrance – no matter how far away they become from participating in it. Additionally, past folklore can serve as a template for creating new traditions. The idea of having food on New Year’s Eve has the same spirit – providing wealth for the upcoming year – but is in a more modern form. Interestingly, the use of a turkey dinner may showcase the high prevalence of Thanksgiving in how traditional foods from that holiday are spreading to other parts of the year.

Jin Chan

In the mornings, you turn the Jin Chan statue towards the door and chant while stroking his back
金蟾金蟾上外叼钱, 金蟾金蟾上外叼钱
Jin Chan Jin Chan Shang wai diao qian, *repeats*
Jin Chan Jin Chan go out and fetch money

Then towards the night, you turn him back towards the inside of the house and say while stroking his back
金蟾金蟾回家吐钱, 金蟾金蟾回家吐钱
Jin chan, Jin chan, hui jia tu qian, *repeats*
JIn Chan, Jin chan, come home to drop the money

C is an older Chinese immigrant who migrated to the US over 20 years ago. She still has very close contact with relatives in China and regularly participates in Chinese cultural practices.

Context: I interviewed C about Chinese cultural customs and beliefs. A Jin Chan, or 金蟾 in Chinese, is a mythical three legged frog monster represented in statues as a three legged frog with red eyes an standing a pile of coins.

This is particularly interesting to me because according to online sources, the Jin chan should not be facing the door at all as it will cause the money to flow out. My family’s tradition differs in that we see the frog going out as a good thing, something to desire as when he goes out, he is on the hunt for luck and money. He is working his nine to five. When he comes back, he is bringing the wealth and luck he has gathered into the house and sleeps for the night.

Palabok, New Year’s, and Circular Shapes

On New Year’s Eve, I always cook palabok… it’s a, it’s a rice noodle dish with shrimp stock and pork… but the most important part is the stuffs you put on the top.  You know how I always have you arrange everything in a circle, right? Have you ever noticed that even the toppings are circles?  So I put the noodles in a circular serving platter, and we have the slices of hard boiled egg, the chopped green onions, the boiled shrimp, squid rings, the calamansi halves.  All of that is supposed to be circular to invite wealth and abundance in the coming year.  Di ako sure kung talagang Pilipino yung tradition na ‘yun… (I’m not sure if that tradition really is Filipino) because the idea of circles is usually part of the Chinese culture.  Maybe it’s an influence, I don’t know, I didn’t really ever think much about when I started doing it or why.

Background: The informant is a 48-year old Filipina immigrant to the United States who is married to a Filipino-Chinese man.  She learned how to cook traditional Filipino foods from scratch from her mother and oldest brother in the Philippines, where cooking meals from household items was essential to maximizing the volume of food when money was scarce.

Context: This conversation happened at the dinner table, where the informant and I were eating store-bought palabok that was not arranged in circles.

I am not really very well-connected to the Chinese aspects of my identity, since I was raised only in the Philippines and the United States, where even my Chinese relatives had largely assimilated to the cultures of their respective environments.  Arranging food in a way that invites wealth from a different culture’s beliefs is a practice of my mother’s that I found more interesting after I began to reflect upon what she told me.  The circular food and arrangement is a call back to her previous life in the Philippines, where financial stability was a primary concern at every turn.  The sprinkling of a different culture’s traditions (likely my father’s influence) reminded me of myself, the way that they are mixed together.  Food is an incredibly important aspect of family life in the Philippines, and families in a household scarcely eat their meals separately.

Frugality Proverb

Original Script: “Kung may isinuksok, may idudukot”

Transliteration: koong my ee-sin-ook-sok, my ee-doo-doo-kot

Literal Translation: If there is something put in, there is to take out

Smooth Translation: If there is something to put in, there is something to take out

Background: The informant is a 68 year-old Filipina immigrant who moved to the United States with her two children when she was 40 years old.  She heard this proverb from her father, who raised her and her siblings frugally in her childhood.  She had to use these skills as she started her life in the United States from scratch.

Context: This piece was told to me at a luncheon after our weekly Sunday services.

This proverb refers to being wise with one’s money, that if you invest or save for a rainy day, then it will be there to use when you need it.  Many of the informant’s relatives migrated from the Philippines to the United States from the 1970’s all the way to the 2010’s.  As new immigrants, it was essential that they were prudent with the money they had so that they could provide their children with a bettr life.  Prior to that, the informant was also raised in a context where financial stability was difficult to achieve.  Therefore, her father often only saved their money for the family’s essentials with little room for the “wants” in life so that they had extra money for unexpected situations.

New Homes

“Our LoPing taught us that when you are building or buying a house, climb the steps leading to the front door saying oro (gold), for the first step, plata (silver) for the next one, and mata (death) for the third one and so on. The last step should be oro or plata, never mata which is considered bad luck. He also said the front door or gate should face the rising sun. When we move into a new home, my Ninong taught me to always bring rice and salt into the house before anything else. It’s a symbol for continuing prosperity (that we will never go hungry in that home).”

Background: The informant is a 60 year-old woman who was raised in a context where her entire extended family is deeply connected and often support their cousins, nieces, and nephews when they are moving into new homes.  These beliefs were given to the informant when she bought her first home for her family.

Context: This piece was told to me at our church’s weekly luncheon after our Sunday services.  Many of our relatives live locally, so the extended family has opportunities to see each other often.

Buying a new home is a huge deal for people in the informant’s extended family, as it serves as a sign that the individual has created a strong foundation for themselves and can now stand alone as a unit of the extended family.  Therefore, whenever someone buys a new home, members of the family and community often provide these guiding superstitions and beliefs in order to invite prosperity and wealth for the new household.  The informant was also raised to be frugal with their money, so prosperity, luck, and financial gain were important values to emphasize for when they bought a new home.