Folklore from the Working Folk of America

By Tristram Potter Coffin; Hennig Cohen | Go to book overview

RITUAL, DRAMA, AND FESTIVAL

Rituals associated with May Day, Christmas, and New Year persist long after those who participate in them have forgotten their meaning. They have incredible durability, varying, evolving, but surviving. Out of them come most, perhaps in some sense all, the dramas, festivals, games, and dances performed by the folk. In American occupations, especially where the occupations are semifolk, full-fledged drama does not exist, although festivals, games, and dancing are common enough.

Folk drama does not survive readily in any part of oral tradition, largely because a whole community of persons is involved in the recollection process; and in America where the occupations are made up of migrants and immigrants there is almost no chance that folk plays will flourish. Here and there mimic fragments such as a Chicano farm workers' protest skit may crop up, but such performances are not fully developed in the way that the Mexican-American coloquios or even the British St. George's plays are.

Festivals, and they include football Homecoming Days and bullfights as well as fishing festas and New Year's shoots, are widely enjoyed. Often encouraged, elaborated upon, and sometimes revived or even invented by Chambers of Commerce and local merchants, festivals associated with the varied ethnic, religious, regional, and occupational groups involve millions of Americans each year, although few of the onlookers or participants have any clearly developed idea of their meaning. Correctly, festivals have been labeled "rituals without religion." Students on a college campus rioting because it is spring are at best vaguely aware they are performing an act whose history goes back through medieval church schools all the way to the earliest Dionysian rites.

Dance, too, is close to ritual and to drama. There are dances

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Folklore from the Working Folk of America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Sources xxi
  • Folk Literature 1
  • Songs 50
  • Verse 112
  • Riddles 144
  • Superstitions, Practices, and Customs 177
  • Folk Expressions 258
  • Games 296
  • Ritual, Drama, and Festival 328
  • Famed in Song and Story: A Dozen Legendary Figures 369
  • Occupations 452
  • Index 454
  • Collectors, Informants, Sources 457
  • Titles and First Significant Lines of Songs and Verse 460
  • Index 463
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