Folklore comprises the unrecorded traditions of a people. The study of folklore analyses these traditions because they reveal the common life of the mind below the level of formal culture which is recorded by civilizations as the learned heritage of their times. Folklore is handed down by example or spoken word, by the older to the new generations.
Folklore can be verbal (proverbs, rhymes, myths, legends, folksong, ballads), partly verbal (superstitions, customs and festivals, folk dances and games) or non-verbal (folk gestures, folk music, architecture, handicrafts, folk costumes and foods). The study of folk life is that of man’s mental, spiritual and material struggle towards civilization.
A custom is a traditional practice, a mode of individual behavior or a habit of social life. When customs are associated with holidays they become calendar customs and when such events are celebrated annually by a whole community they become festivals. Most true folk customs in the USA are associated with special events, especially with those that require rites of passage – birth, marriage and death.
Children’s birthdays almost invariably are the occasion for spanking – one spank for each year, with extras “to grow in” or “for good measure”. Children in some regions maintain schedule of extra-punishment days before and after the birthday- “pinch day”, “hit day”, “Kiss day”… Birthday gift at a party may be held over the head of the celebrating child for him to guess the donor or to announce the use to which he intends to put the gift. For each correct guess he is granted a wish. The loss of “baby teeth” is one of the few other non-holiday occasions in a child’s life when customs are followed.
Courtship and engagement begin a new round of customs that lead to a grand final at marriage, the most tradition-regulated personal ceremony in American life. Wedding customs begin with the “shower” often several of them, to emphasize different kinds of needed gifts.
Customs of the wedding itself are numerous and largely regulated by tradition. They include the dress of participants, the seating of guests, the choice of attendants, kissing the bride, throwing rice, passing the bride’s shoe around for money, playing pranks on the married couple, and decorating the car.
There are many traditions in Great Britain. Halloween is one of them; it is celebrated on the 31st of October. This is the night when witches, ghosts, demons, skeletons, goblins come out. In the weeks before Halloween children decorate the windows of their houses and schools with pictures of witches, black cats and bats. They make lanterns out of pumpkins. They are called jack-o-lanterns. On Halloween children dress up as ghosts, witches, skeletons and vampires and have noisy parties. They go to houses and ring at the bell, shouting “treat or trick”. The person who opens the door should give them a treat, or the children would play a trick on him.