I caught my friend watching her family videos on YouTube so I asked her what was going on, and she explained to me some of her family traditions.
Informant: “Every Christmas eve, everybody gets a stuffed animal in my family and we put on Dolly Parton and Kenny Loggins Christmas CD. And play it around the house. And you select a leader so the leader is doing a dance move, and everybody copies.”
Collector: “Can you tell me more about these artists? Is there a reason why…”
Informant: “Cause ‘I believe in Santa Claus’ is the best Christmas song ever.”
Collector: “Does she sing the best version, or the most popular version? Or why that one specifically, because I’m sure there’s many versions of that song.”
Informant: “Its catchy. Everybody loves Dolly Parton. I don’ know, my mom likes country music, so…”
Collector: “Is this just your family, or do other families in Ukiah…”
Informant: “I think it’s just my family. We have so many stuffed animals. Like, everyone. I think I probably, when I was growing up I probably had like 20 stuffed animals. Maybe people just gave me stuffed animals for like, every holiday”
Collector: “Do you know why?”
Informant: “I don’t know why. It’s probably like an easy gift. When I was a baby. That’s probably why.”
Collector: “So this family tradition… when did it start? Did it start with your parents?”
Informant: “That’s a good question… it started with my parents’ generation for sure… but also, my parents’ parents, my grandma like, had this space where there was a fireplace in the center of the room, and they lived without electricity, so they’d always play the record and dance around… and then like, having no access to like, electronics or whatever… like, their popular culture was record players… or records, not record players.”
What the informant mentions at the end about records is particularly interesting because it points to a cultural shift in the way that family members interact with each other. This Holiday tradition started with my friends’ family at a time with a lot less technology than we have now, and they have maintained their family tradition of doing the Teddy Bear Dance, even though technologically they could engage in other more “modern” forms of entertainment. Although instead of using a record player they probably use a CD player or some sort of speaker system that hooks up to a digital music player, the spirit of the dance is probably kept largely the same. Family traditions like this are fairly common, and can vary widely depending on the family.