Toothpick Star Trick

“You take five toothpicks and break it in half, but not enough so the halves separate, just enough so that there are still some fibers holding the halves together.  The halves will be at a little less than a ninety-degree angle, right?  Then you put them together so the broken part of the toothpicks are in the center and almost touching.  It will form a kind of five point star, but it’s kind of compressed.  So what you need to do is make sure that the surface is a smooth and slippery surface, and then you put drops of liquid in the middle, and then when the liquid enters the interior of this, uh, figure, it gets automatically pushed out because the liquid kind of levels itself off and it kind of pushes the rest of the frame open so it looks like a star.”

My informant learned this folklore from some older children when he was around five years-old.  He remembered being at a wedding ceremony with a bunch of older kids, and they were asked to keep him and his younger brother company, and that trick was one of the things they had taught them.  He believes that this trick is used mainly to entertainment purposes because, as a young kid, he thought it was just the coolest thing in the world to watch a star come to life before his eyes from just five toothpicks.  The movement of the toothpicks, he said, was magical and mesmerized him as a child.

I definitely agree with my informant’s interpretation of the child’s game: it is mainly used to entertain children during ceremonies or gatherings of socializing adults.  The folklore seems to be passed on from one child to a younger one, representing a culture that has some sort of separation between generations—while the adults socialize at their events, the children are left to play amongst themselves, so consequently, they come up with their own forms of play—games, tricks, jokes, etc.  This toothpick star trick was probably passed down as a result of boredom in children circles.