Tag Archives: wishes

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. 

12 grapes

BACKGROUND: My informant, IC, was born in the US. His entire family is from Ecuador and is bilingual (English and Spanish). IC and I were having a conversation about our families and party customs among immigrants and he brought up this custom that his family uses for good luck.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend. We originally started talking about our families and the different family parties we’ve been to and that eventually morphed into IC explaining a custom his family has on New Year’s.

IC: For new years, there’s 12 grapes that are meant to represent the 12 months in a year. Right before the new year, when it’s like 11:59, you eat all the grapes. Basically, after each grape you eat, you have to like, make a wish. Oh and — oo! Wait… (long pause) I’m literally stupid as sh-t, I just remembered um, during the new year too, like once it hits 12, you need to throw rice around your whole house. It’s supposed to be so that the next year you have food.

THOUGHTS: This custom is interesting to me because I feel like it is much more in line with the idea of the new year being a time of celebrating change and preparing for the future. In American culture, it is customary to give someone a kiss at midnight for good luck. The 12 grapes however are almost like 12 different resolutions, preparing the person for what they want in the coming year.

Thanksgiving Wishbone

Main Text: 

Thanksgiving Wishbone 

Background on Informant: 

Currently a student, she grew up in an American household with heritage links to her Polish and Irish backgrounds. She has shared with me her many traditions and the folklore she has been exposed to through her experiences. 


She explains: 

“Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays we have here in the States, and with that my family and I have our own traditions that have developed throughout the years. 

Specifically we have this thing called the ‘Thanksgiving Wishbone,’ which  obviously comes from the typical wishbone custom but we’ve added a Thanksgiving twist to it. 

After someone finds the wishbone in the turkey, two people (usually my mom and me, or my dad and me) take one side each and then attempt to break it in half. 

The person who gets the bigger half is blessed with good luck for the year and sometimes we do a variation where we make a wish and whoever ‘wins’ has their wish come true. 

It’s very simplistic but it is a huge part of my Thanksgiving and it is something I look forward to every year.”


I knew before this interview about the wishbone tradition, but I loved how the person I interviewed had her own little family twist with it. I love how Thanksgiving has a standard set of ‘rules’ when celebrating but how everyone that I’ve ever talked to about Thanksgiving has developed their own little side traditions. 

I also find it fascinating how universal the wishbone custom is and how it is practiced so frequently and has remained an integral part of a lot of peoples’ cultural background no matter where they are from. Overall, I find it interesting to see how this tradition has continued overtime and how even if people don’t understand or know its’ origins, it is still something people value. 

Peruvian New Years Tradition: 8 Grapes on Years

AS is a USC game design major who’s family hails from Peru, she enjoys spreadsheets, Dungeons and Dragons, and spreadsheets about Dungeons and Dragons.

Interviewer(MW): So you mentioned earlier that in Peru some holidays are celebrated differently?
AS: okay so I guess I’ll start off with New Year’s so there’s like two weird holidays that occur on New Year’s for Peruvians for some reason

AS: We do the normal thing where it’s like you used to stand by you wait until you know the countdown starts and you drink the champagne you do all that jazz.

AS: But the things that you do is after you drink the champagne you down like 12 grapes in the champagne each one’s supposed to be a wish so down your champagne you eat individual grapes as quickly as possible

MW: I’ve spent New Years in Lima, I know they have some interesting New Years Practices, so are there things that do you have any particular set things that you associate with the grapes like there’s some things that you’re supposed to wish for?

AS: There isn’t anything you’re supposed to wish for I think, like generally it’s stigmatized in Latin Society for good health to be a thing or like wish your family good health like general well-being.

AS: I guess would be something that people would would generally stick towards at least want to do one or two wishes to be around there

The use of champagne as a marker of the new year exists across culture but using fruit as a conduit for wishes ties the sweetness of the fruit to the hope for a sweet new year, this invokes a similar tradition to the Jewish Rosh Hashanah practice of dipping apples in honey for a happy new year. The wish too carries meaning, like a birthday the new year is full of promise and marks a transition and making a wish is a way to codify that promise in a fun and festive way. Likewise AS’s note that there’s a focus on well-being represent anxieties about that transition, the bitterness of the alcohol in the wine might invoke this anxiety, tinging the sweetness of the grapes with a fear of the unknown and the challenges that the new year will bring.

There are 12 wishes as well, this factors into the cyclical nature of the tradition as well as each grape likely represents a month of the year thus the wishes are meant to carry the participants through the entire year.

Wishing on a Star

Informant: “One interesting thing I remember doing as a kid was wishing on a star. The idea was that you had to wish on the first star you see at night, so if there was only one star in the sky, you would make a wish and not tell anyone, and it would come true.”

Informant’s daughter: “That’s weird, I had always heard the same thing, except it was supposed to be a shooting star, not the first star in the night sky.”

Informant: “Yeah, it was supposed to be the very first star you see. I actually don’t remember where I first heard about this, I don’t think I heard it from my mother. I think it was just something that kids would say. I know my sister and I both did this, and we would always wish for the same thing. We had a cousin who was blind, and we would both always wish that she wouldn’t be blind anymore…She’s still blind, so I guess that says a lot about how well this works…”

Informant is a middle aged mother of three who lives in the suburbs in the Midwestern United States. She identifies as of “American” heritage, which she bases on her admission that she never particularly looked into her family’s European heritage. The informant’s daughter is a recent college graduate.

Collector Analysis: It’s curious to see how for this particular piece of folklore, not only does the informant not know where she first heard it, but the informant’s daughter had heard an entirely different version of the same piece of folklore, making this folklore the inverse of a generational piece of folklore. Yet at the same time, there is some familial aspect to it, as shown by the fact that the informant’s sister had the same belief, and that the two of them would always use their wish to try to help their cousin.