View Full Version : bean throwing, tree trimming and maypole dancing

Layla Nahar
08-25-2017, 05:18 PM
Hi all - I'm trying to get an idea of some culturally specific rituals that people do on holidays. I have four so far (listed below) I'm trying to expand this list. Does anybody here know of any other rituals like this that go with a holiday? Any culture/region is fine.

thx :)

bean throwing - part of Japanese New Year - people throw a certain kind of bean into corners in the house while saying more or less 'Oni, get out!'

tree trimming - we all know this one. Which apparently was just some local custom in one part of Germany until the early 1800s (popularized by Goethe??)

maypole dancing - not done anymore except for maybe nostalgia's sake, but at one time it was a big part of ritual life in England (and maybe other parts of Europe?).

Lighting the Haunnaka candles

Marissa D
08-25-2017, 05:39 PM
First foot on New Year's Eve: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-foot

Siri Kirpal
08-25-2017, 11:26 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Sikhs throw flower petals at the end of a wedding ceremony. In America, brides throw their bouquet, and people throw rice (or birdseed when the bride and groom leave on their honeymoon.

Japan has a day for girls when they set out dolls of the imperial family (old dress). On the 2nd Monday in January, the girls who turn 20 that year don special kimono with a fur stole. The spend the day outside in temples and on the streets. The event marks their coming of age.

Easter eggs!

I'll be back if I think of more.


Siri Kirpal

08-26-2017, 12:03 AM
maypole dancing - not done anymore except for maybe nostalgia's sake, but at one time it was a big part of ritual life in England (and maybe other parts of Europe?).

It still is done quite a lot, at least in my experience. When I was a kid we learned to do maypole dancing at primary school, amongst other folk dancing. Barn dancing is probably the most popular form of English folk dancing, though AFAIK it's not as popular as the Irish and Scottish kayleighs*, albeit the format is fairly similar.

*I don't know if this is the correct spelling

The origin of maypole dancing is pre-Christian, I don't know if it's Anglo-Saxon particularly, or if it's something learned from the Celts (seeing as they have kayleighs). It's done on May Day (which is still a bank holiday in the UK even if people don't do that much for it nowadays), usually on the village green, and even if people don't do that much for May Day, having a fete on the village green with a maypole isn't uncommon. When I was a kid, they used to do one every year, and a barn dance in the evening. Though barn dancing isn't specific to a holiday that I know of.

There are many different European cultures that are very different from one another with their own traditions. Even the different traditions between the English and the Celtic nations of the UK are very different. You can probably find loads of folk traditions all around Europe that are still done nowadays to a greater or lesser extent.

Guy Fawkes night, November 5th, you build a bonfire, have fireworks and make a fake person out of old clothes and newspaper called a "guy" and burn it. In honour (or not honour) of Guy Fawkes who was burned at the stake for trying to blow up the houses of parliament. There's one town in the UK that has a tradition of building huge effigies to burn on a bonfire. Most famously, a massive effigy of David Cameron with a pig (http://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/1/590x/Giant-effigy-of-David-Cameron-holding-dead-pig-s-head-burned-for-Guy-Fawkes-night-617409.jpg). You can pretty much bet your life and everything you own that Trump's going to be a popular one for Guy Fawkes this year.

Halloween/Samhain (meaning summer's end) - traditionally (long before trick or treat was invented) people would slaughter the animals that would not survive the winter (the cold would preserve the meat to keep people fed through winter), and it was believed that the barrier between the living and dead was thinner, so people would do small things to honour their dead. When European pagans were Christianised this was turned into All Saints Day and they tried to remove the connotation with things Christians considered evil, but retained the belief that the dead would walk among the living for one day before the saints would send them back to the underworld. This is where Halloween comes from (All Hallow's Eve) but Samhain is the Celtic name for the original pre-Christian festival. Other Northern European peoples would've done similar things at the end of summer where the climate was cold enough to make it hard to keep animals alive through winter, but their beliefs surrounding it may have been different and it would've been called something in their own languages.

For that matter, the summer and winter solstices are still celebrated at Stonehenge, by druids, wiccans, pagans etc. This isn't an unbroken tradition, more of a modern revival of old beliefs however it's an example of a very old tradition that exists today as well. Also, it's not just at Stonehenge, there are places all over the country where pagans etc may worship and also just wherever they happen to be.

Marissa D
08-26-2017, 12:49 AM
neandermagnon, my (American) college celebrates May Day every year with maypoles (five of them) and Morris dancing, among other things. :)

Christmas tree trimming dates earlier than that--when George III married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1762 (I think that's the date), she brought Christmas trees to England, though the custom didn't catch on there till Victoria and Albert made more of a big deal of it. But there's the custom of putting out shoes or stockings for the elves to leave little gift in at Christmas. And Yule logs, and Christmas puddings with a sixpence and other little charms baked in.

India has some lovely ones, like Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with fireworks and special family meals, and Holi, to celebrate the coming of spring, where throwing colored powders around is part of the fun.

And there's the ritual dinner, the seder, celebrated at Passover.

Siri Kirpal
08-26-2017, 03:58 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Seconding the throwing of colored powders on Holi in India.

Kissing beneath the mistletoe.


Siri Kirpal

08-26-2017, 11:39 AM
Look up Wren Day - celebrated on Dec 26th in the west of Ireland

08-26-2017, 08:29 PM
Throwing salt over the shoulder after a spill at the table to ward off any more bad luck.
Knocking on wood (I use my head) to delay/prevent something bad that was just said from ever really happening.
Crossing your fingers for luck, or so you can tell a white lie 'sinlessly'.

08-27-2017, 01:00 AM
My wife and I started school at different schools in 1952. For the first few years we attended, both schools had kids participating in dancing around the maypole every year. This took place here in Appalachia, where the English, Scotch, Irish influence was still quite strong back then. Still is to a certain extent in some areas.

Siri Kirpal
08-27-2017, 02:01 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

It was a tradition in my junior high (now known as middle school) that the girls elected a May Queen and danced around a may pole. That was in the mid-'60s.


Siri Kirpal

08-27-2017, 02:24 AM
Long sword dance - A form of morris dancing from the UK. Apparently it originated in Yorkshire. As I am half a Yorkshire lass it would explain why it's one of things you know about but dont know why.
It takes place on Boxing day or plough Monday at the start of the agriculture year. Its a dance where a swords are woven together in such a way that when all swords are drawn together it decapitates the chosen victim. These days its just a ritual and no one gets hurt, but my knowledge of it is that the victim would be a stranger who happened to wander in to the wrong village at the wrong time. The point of the dance as I know it is to bless the fields with a blood sacrifice and secure a good harvest. As with most obscure British traditions it proabably dates back to the Druids who used human sacrifice to fulfil any number of beleifs.

08-27-2017, 04:28 AM
St Patrick's Day: Green beer, green rivers, and gay parades.

Locally we have the Fremont Solstice Day with a great parade that includes the infamous nude, painted bicyclists along with some crazy floats.

There are also some local parades: Seattle has the Torchlight Parade and Seafair Pirates.
Portland has their Rose Festival with a Grand Floral Parade.
Not to be confused with the famous Pasadena Rose Parade.
We have a version of Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with lots of giant balloons here.
Seattle has Bumbershoot and the Folklife Festival.

Dia de los Muertos is mostly a Mexican holiday where people make food for the recently dead and take it to the cemetery for their journey to the afterlife. There are lots of sugar skulls for the kids to enjoy.

Semana Santa is the Latin version of Easter, lots of cities bring out their Madonna and carry it through the town often followed with fireworks and other various rituals.

08-27-2017, 11:32 AM
In honour of the world champions of women's rugby (though I'm gutted 'cause they just beat England in the final of the women's world cup :cry:) there's the Haka - Maori traditional war dance that New Zealand sports teams (rugby especially) do before international games.

Black Ferns (NZ women' team) Haka before last nights game (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzg4rJJNX30)(the video says after the game no idea why because this is the one from before the game, but they did the Haka again after.)