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Folklore Q&A

Thanksgiving Stories

    In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The thanksgiving observance at Plymouth was prompted by a good harvest. Initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed the colonists, but the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the settlers by providing seeds and teaching them to fish.

    Christmas Stories

      December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For more than two thousand years, people have been observing Christmas Day with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, sharing meals with family and friends and waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.

      Holiday Ghost Stories

        Come celebrate the spooky side of the holidays.  Ghosts, Saint Nicholas, Der Belznickel and other characters haunt these stories that take place around the holidays.  We’ve also included a couple of ghost stories from the African-American tradition for folks to read during Kwanzaa!   Christmas Stories Haunted ChristmasThe soft thud of following footsteps echoed behind him as he hurried through the snowflakes toward home.  They kept pace with him, quickening when he quickened and slowing when… Read More »Holiday Ghost Stories

        Hanukkah Stories

          Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar. It is celebrated for eight days and nights. In Hebrew, the word “hanukkah” means “dedication.” The holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

          Kwanzaa Stories

            Kwanzaa is a seven day festival which celebrates the African American culture and history. It is a time of community gathering and reflection. Kwanzaa begins on December 26th, the day after Christmas, and continues until New Years Day, January 1st.

            New Years Stories

            New Years Day stories

              New Year’s Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar. Since most countries use the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Day is a truly global public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the New Year starts.

              Saint Nicholas Day

                December 6 is the Feast of Saint Nicholas of Myra, a bishop from the fourth century. He is the model for our modern-day Santa Claus, because Saint Nicholas’s generosity was legendary. The night before Saint Nicholas Day, children place their shoes in a prominent location– by a fireplace, or outside their bedroom door. The next morning–usually very early–the children find their shoes filled with little presents from the great saint.

                What are some Funny Tongue Twisters?

                  Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
                  A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
                  If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
                  How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

                  What is Halloween?

                    Halloween or “All Hallows Even” is a yearly celebration observed on October 31st which combines traditions from festivals of the dead such as the Celtic Samhain (Summer’s End) with medieval Catholic observances on the eve of All Saints Day; a day of pray which commemorates saint and martyrs.

                    Halloween Superstitions

                      Halloween is a time when common superstitions, folklore, myths and omens seem to carry more weight, due to a thinning of the wall between the physical and supernatural worlds. A superstition is a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck.

                      Why is a Black Cat bad luck?

                        Black Cats weren’t always considered bad luck. In early Egyptian times, dating back as far as 3000 BC, the domesticated cat became a symbol of grace and poise and was praised for its ability to kill cobras and other vermin.

                        What are some American Folksongs?

                          Oh a chipmunk, chipmunk sitting on a limb/And he winked at me and I at him/So I picked up a chip and I hit him on the chin/And he said: “Young man, don’t you try that again!”

                          More Folklore Resources

                            Here is a list of folklore books recommended for teachers. These collections contain a variety of folktales, from Native American Myths and Legends to Ghost stories. There are also Urban Legends and some really funny Tall Tales.

                            What are some Folklore Definitions?

                              So, what is folklore, anyway? What exactly is the difference between a myth and a legend? A folktale and a tall tale? Where do you draw the line between a fable and a fairytale? What is the difference between a normal legend and an urban one? For those of you who have spent many a sleepless night pondering such mysteries, I have written up a quick folklore vocabulary list to help solve the murky intricacies of folklore and allow you to sleep at night.

                              What is folklore?

                                The term folklore is generally used to refer to the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people which have beem disseminated in an informal manner…

                                Writing: A Lesson Plan on Beginnings

                                  A lesson plan on writing for grades 3-5 which introduces different types of story beginnings to students, allows students to write different beginnings, and engages students in the process of revision.

                                  Storytelling Lesson Plan

                                    A lesson plan for grades 4 and 5 which engages children in the art of storytelling and develops public speaking skills.

                                    What are some Folklore Lesson Plans?

                                      Here is a list of lesson plans that have been created using stories from the American Folklore site or appropriate for use with the Spooky Series by .

                                      Do you have any more Nursery Rhymes about People?

                                        There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
                                        He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.
                                        He had a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse
                                        And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

                                        What are some Animal Nursery Rhymes?

                                          Baa, baa, black sheep,
                                          Have you any wool?
                                          Yes sir, yes sir,
                                          Three bags full.
                                          One for the master,
                                          And one for the dame,
                                          And one for the little boy
                                          Who lives down the lane.

                                          What are some Rain Proverbs & Sayings?

                                            Looking to do a little weather forcasting? These old proverbs claim to predict stormy weather. If after a rain you can see enough blue sky to make a man a pair of pants, it will clear, at least according to some weather predictors. Read them all and see which ones work for you.