Tag Archives: wishes

Hope You Get Rich—恭喜发财

The informant was from a southern province in China called Guangdong, or Canton. He heard the saying from relatives that came from the same region. This tradition is a four-character word that expresses the best wish, which is the hope people will get rich. It has variations such as adding another four characters that meant “give the red pocket,” which involves the tradition of the Chinese New Year.

Every Chinese New Year, people would visit relatives and hang out with families. When my informant’s families greet each other, they say, “hope you get rich” instead of “happy new year.”

Main Piece:
translation: hope you get rich

The Chinese New Year is the most important time of the year, and people express their best wishes to their families. The fact that Cantonese greets each other with “hope you get rich” reflects their values about wealth. Canton has long been a place where trading is happening. Many people have a family business or participate in businesses. Thus, “hope you get rich” is an appropriate wish for businessmen, which is why it is prevalent in Canton.

Wish Upon A Star

Context :

W is my 17 year-old brother. He was born and raised in Utah, like me. He wishes on shooting stars because they are so rare. By wishing on such a rare thing, your wish will come true. But you can’t simply make a wish, you must also recite a specific phrase. W believes he first heard the phrase from his mother, who got it from her mother. The phrase has been passed down through generations as a positive superstition for getting wishes granted.

Text :

“Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.”

Analysis :

There are many different ways to make wishes, like blowing out birthday candles or loose eyelashes. Wishing upon a star has been around for centuries, and like the other wishing ways, originated because of the rarity of the event. Everyone has wishes, but wishes rarely come true. By wishing your wish on something as equally rare, there is supposedly a higher chance of the wish coming true. The saying itself seems to speak to a higher existence, unlike other wishing spells, which are just spoken internally. Because of that, wishers are not just saying their wish to anyone, but to what they think will grant the wish.

New Years Grapes: Folk Belief/Ritual During a Holiday


Me: “Hi AA do you have any rituals, practices, or festivals in mind?”

AA: “um, I have this unique ritual or I guess you can call it a folk belief, it actually takes place during New Years Eve.”

Me: “Does it have to do with your culture?”

AA: “Yes, so on New Year’s Eve my Dominican family and I often gather around as we wait for the countdown to midnight. As we wait, my grandma passes out 12 green grapes and a glass of champagne to everyone. In theory, once the clock strikes 12, we are supposed to eat the 12 grapes while making 12 wishes or aspirations for the 12 months of the new year ahead. If you take too long or If you don’t eat the grapes by the time the firecrackers, the cheers, and the celebrations stop, you will have bad luck in the upcoming year; that is why people usually eat their grapes first and then wash it down with champagne before hugging people and celebrating the New Year.”

Context (informant’s relationship to the piece, where they heard it, how they interpret it):

-AA’s relationship to this folk belief/ritual stems from her Dominican culture, family, and household considering this practice and belief system is seen in many parts of Latin America. AA would hear about this ritual/belief all her life given that she has always been exposed to it; she would either host New Years Eve at her home or be invited to other households where the ritual/belief will take place. AA interprets this ritual/belief as a fun, creative, and silly way to pass the time during such a transitional period during the end of the year. AA has noticed that the older people in her family tend to take this belief/ritual more seriously as they often sit alone and think very diligently about each wish. AA believes this has to do with the fact that older generations seem to be more adamant about their religion and faith. In contrast, AA often interprets this practice as a silly entertaining act that shouldn’t be classified as a serious matter.

Analysis(what kind of personal, cultural, or historical values might be expressed) YOUR interpretation:

-The overall cultural value within this New Year’s folk belief/ritual stems from Hispanic culture given that it is typically correlated with Latin American communities and households. Many assume that this ritual/belief is practiced by Hispanic cultures because it involves a profound way of believing which can be found within religious Catholic practices of Hispanic communities. The personal values that can be seen within this belief/ritual is that it allows an individual to embrace their spirituality in a way to remain hopeful for the next year. The factors of religion, beliefs, faith, and optimism are all key factors that one needs to find within themselves personally, in order to truly believe that their 12 wishes will come true; this idea exemplifies one’s conscious beliefs considering the goal is to not receive bad luck. I interpret this ritual/belief as a wholesome manifestation practice. Considering that I have participated in this ritual/belief process during New Year’s Eve as well, I am able to see this process as a familial activity that can bring on hope, optimism, determination, and faith for the upcoming year. I believe this is stemmed from one’s spiritual beliefs, considering if you truly believe in your wish, you will do everything in your power to make it come true. This ritual/belief can be seen as an overall superstition given the fact that the idea of one’s wishes coming true is a striking concept that an individual can choose to believe in. Not to mention, this New Years belief/ritual is a subjective ideology that can be determined by one’s overall level of value and meaning that they place upon it; this can be seen within older generations as their religious and spiritual beliefs allows them to be more invested in their wishes, as depicted by AA’s family. A similar ritual/belief that involves the same notions of wishes and manifestations is the practice of walking outside with a suitcase as the clock strikes midnight during New Years as well; this is done to signify luck for travel in the upcoming year.

New Year’s Traditions


SD is my close friend here at USC. Her parents are both from Columbia and immigrated to the US. Her mother is from Cartagena, Colombia, and immigrated to Newark, New Jersey, when she was sixteen. Her father is from Salento, Colombia, and immigrated to Clifton, New Jersey, when he was twenty. They all now reside in Orlando, Florida. 


DO (interviewer): I’m interested to know if your family has any New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day traditions that you practice to ring in the new year?

SD: I think we have a couple different ones in my family. The first one has to do with grapes. With eating grapes. Basically, you get a bunch of grapes New Year’s Eve early in the morning. Then you wait until it’s ten minutes before the New Year comes. So 11:50. Then you start eating grapes. 

DO: Is there something specific that you do or say when eating the grapes? And what significance do the grapes have for your family’s New Year? 

SD: Yes! So. Each grape is the equivalent of one wish. So for each grape that you eat you’ll have one wish granted. So you just have to close your eyes and make a wish and really believe that the wish is gonna come true, then eat the grape and it’s done. 

DO: Nice. I like that. Are there any other traditions that you especially like? 

SD: I wouldn’t say that I like this one per say, but my sisters do. This one just says that you wear a specific color of underwear to sleep on New Year’s Eve and when you wake up on New Year’s Day the process to getting you that thing starts. *pauses* 

SD: Wait, that sounds confusing, let me reword that. Essentially, let’s say that you want to manifest love into your life. You’ll wear red underwear. And so on for all the colors. The colors go like this: yellow is money, green I think is more time outside or in nature, pink is friendship, white is peace, and blue is health. So you wear whatever color underwear to bed right. Then you wake up the next morning and lets keep with the red example. So you wake up the next morning and the universe or God or whatever you believe in is now making the path to get you a nice relationship.

DO: You mentioned that your sisters like this one a lot. How do you feel about it?

SD: I think I’m more of a grapes type of person. Honestly, I’ve been doing that one since I was a kid so I think to me it still has that spark of childhood magic to me. But the underwear thing seems like a scam to me. But who knows. 


After speaking more with the informant, she said these beliefs came from her parent’s Colombian roots. In my family, we also share a similar tradition both with the grapes and the colored underwear, so I believe that this holiday tradition does have ties to Latinx folklore. The grapes can also be considered children’s folklore in this informant’s case. She mentioned how when she was younger, she started off performing these “rituals” so even if they may not actually grant her wishes, she chooses to continue to do so. This shows the importance of children’s folklore and the types of impressions that it leaves on us as we continue to grow. Sometimes things that we consider “magic” as children continue to be a connection to that feeling as we age. 

Wishing on 11:11

Main Piece:

What is this ritual?

“When it’s the minute [11:11], I close my eyes and make a wish. I try and repeat is as many times as I can until the minutes is over. It usually involves crossing my fingers because I’ve been told that it makes it better.” 

When and how did you learn this?

“I’m sure in elementary school, it was one of the few luck superstitions I was taught. I heard in passing, like no one teaches you ‘sit down and do this.’” 


My informant is my roommate. She went to public elementary school in Los Angeles. I noticed her pointing out the time 11:11 am, so I asked her to explain it to me. We were standing in our kitchen looking at the digital clock on our oven. 


Wish-making rituals are very common (wishing on a star, making a wish on an eyelash, etc.) but what’s so interesting about this ritual is that it’s origin can be dated, and a terminus post quem can be established. The time 11:11 only looks special on digital clocks because it’s four 1s in a row. It doesn’t look or feel special on an analog clock. Therefore, this ritual must have been established after the invention and popularization of digital clocks.