The Life Cycle:
Folk Customs of Passage

Steven Zeitlin

The Life and Age of Man
The Life and Age of Man

1848 (147K)

The Life and Age of Woman
The Life and Age of Woman

1848 (147K)

In our journey through life, ideas about the life cycle are part of our cultural baggage. Even children on the playground build insights about the life cycle into their games and rhymes. They sing, "When I was a baby, a baby, a baby/ When I was a baby, this is what I did;" then, "When I was a teenager, a teenager, a teenager..." until their circle game spans the life cycle to grandmotherhood and death.(1) In autograph books too, children express a sense of the life cycle as they write on one another's pages, "When you grow old and ugly / as some folks do / Remember you have a friend / Who's old and ugly too."(2) One also is reminded of the nursery rhyme about Solomon Grundy, who was born on Monday, christened on Tuesday, married on Wednesday," and died as early as Sunday, with the simple postscript; "This is the end of Solomon Grundy."(3)

As adults, we continue to comment on the life cycle: "If a man is twenty and not a revolutionary, he has no heart. If he is forty and is a revolutionary, he has no mind.", The ancient riddle of the Sphinx asks what walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon and three legs in the evening. The answer is man, who crawls on four legs as a baby, then walks on two until toward the end of his life, he may acquire a cane.

Popular iconography divides the life cycle into differing numbers of stages. One common analogy invokes the four seasons with youth emerging and blooming in spring, maturing in summer, mellowing through fall, then facing the vicissitudes of winter. On the streets of Chinatown in New York, Mr. Ng Shung Chi sings, a capella, the Muyu laments he learned as a boy in Toi Shan in southern China:

A person's life seems like a weeping willow,
Middle age is the arrival of fall
Withering and waning away as the fall goes on,
Who will pity this fading figure?
Green willows come back with the spring,
But old age will never go back to youth.(5)

Other images depict life as a series of ascending and descending steps or as a journey on which the past is a place to explore and the future a mysterious frontier.

Rites of passage are the mileposts or landmarks that guide travelers through the life cycle. Arnold van Gennep, writing in 1909 about tribal ritual, first noted the similarities "among ceremonies of birth, childhood, social puberty, betrothal, marriage, pregnancy, fatherhood, initiation into religious societies and funerals."(6) All were rites of passage and consisted of three distinct phases: separation, transition, and incorporation. Half a century later, Victor Turner examined the transitional or "liminal" stage in the well-developed initiation rituals of the Ndembu of Zambia. He analyzed the momentous reordering of the neophyte's world that occurs as he is in limbo between his childhood and adult selves.(7)

"Rites de passage," Turner observes "are found in all societies but tend to reach their maximal expression in the small-scale, relatively stable and cyclical societies, where change is bound up with biological and meteorological rhythms and reoccurrences rather than with technological innovations."(8) Certainly, our rites are not nearly so complex or of such magnitude as the Ndembu's. Rarely do we find elaborate three-part rituals, and the symbol-laden liminal phase is probably least developed. In fact, although we frequently use the term rites of passage and often employ it metaphorically, what we have today are, strictly speaking, often customs rather than rites of passage.

In contemporary American life, folk customs abound. Van Gennep's rites of birth, puberty, and marriage may have lost some of their power, but the ritual urge still engenders a plethora of customs and simplified rituals celebrating the growing number of transitions in an increasingly complex society. For us, the event may be an office retirement gathering, an occupational initiation prank, or a birthday party, and the custom may be as simple as dining at a favorite restaurant, opening a bottle of champagne, or dancing around the living room to celebrate a child's first step.

Quinn Family Photo Album
Quinn Family Photo Album

Watercolor and photographs. Philadelphia, early 20th century (280K)

The advent of photography and the development of easy-to-use cameras have added the act of photographing to our rituals and have strengthened consciousness of the life cycle by giving memories and phases of life tangible form. "My life falls into eras," Joan Bernick explains, "anyone's does. I have my high school period, courtship, and marriage. You enjoyed those things as you did them and you enjoy them again as you organize the album and again as you look through them."(9)

Contemporary customs of passage stress incorporation more than separation or transition. Many are celebrations welcoming an individual into a new status or role. The symbolic transition may involve only shifting a tassel from one side of a cap to another or blowing out the candles on a cake, but such informal rites define our movement through twentieth-century American life.

Although many psychologists have studied the common characteristics of particular age groups, the most influential has been Erik Erikson, who was the first to divide the full life cycle into stages. In his 1950 book Childliood and Society Erikson discussed four childhood and four adult stages, each characterized by a particular dilemma or issue.(10) Folklorists also have studied the life cycle, applying their discipline's ideas about the "folk group" to particular age brackets. Beginning with the turn-of-the-century collections of Alice Gomme and William Wells Newell, children have received doting attention from scholars in the field.(11) More recently, a new generation of folklorists, intrigued perhaps by the traditional elements in their own lost youth, have written about adolescence and young adulthood.(12) The courtship years now are of increasing interest to folklorists as are parenting and most recently, aging.(13)

Taken together, the works of folklorists and anthropologists on the different phases of the life cycle provide us with a valuable framework for exploring American customs of passage. The accompanying chart illustrates how in the course of our life spans, we pick up and discard certain kinds of folklore and traditional behavior at different times, leaving behind a body of material that remains associated with a particular age.

Each of Erikson's stages yields a recognized corpus of customs and lore: adolescence is marked by lore of the teenager, young adulthood by courtship customs and lore, adulthood by the folklore of parenting, and maturity by the traditions of old age. There are overlaps, Of course, and the correspondences are loose, but this approach treats discrete bodies of folklore as part of a larger whole.

Thinking about life in this way can help us appreciate some of the subtle rhythms that are a part of our own lives and those of the people we study. Many of the traditions folklorists study are affected by the ebb and flow of the life cycle. When Lucy Long began her work with Appalachian cloggers, she was puzzled that while they all seemed quite old, the tradition of clogging never seemed in danger of dying out. In time she realized that the children learned from their grandparents. Though no middle-aged people danced, in their later years they always would replenish the pool of active, older cloggers.(14)

Doris Dyen observed similar patterns among shape-note singers in an African-American community in southeast Alabama. Young teenagers dropped out of the singing group. Only as adults in their late forties would they begin to return, one by one, and only in their early sixties would they become full-fledged singers once again. Among the listeners, of course sat the mid-lifers, often with babies on their laps.(15)

According to Alan Jabbour, the traditional fiddler's life follows the same course. A child learns the instrument from his parents; or he plays it as a young man and then puts it away when he settles down to raise a family. When his children are grown, the fiddle becomes part of his life once again. Jabbour writes that, although each of the fiddlers he interviewed had his own reasons for quitting, the pattern was unmistakable. By the time Jabbour had heard thirty different versions of the story from fiddlers in the Upper South, he began to realize that something bigger and more fundamental was going on. "I was not simply finding a few [older fiddlers] who still played. Rather I was learning that old age was precisely when one played the fiddle."(16) As Mary Hufford and Marjorie Hunt summarize, "The implications are astonishing. Fiddling, clogging, carving, and needlework, then, are not dying arts just because their practitioners are elderly. They are, in fact, the things that elderly people do."(17)

"What happens once in a minute, twice in a moment, but not once in a thousand years?" my daughter asked me. The answer to this children's riddle was not nearly as philosophical as the question--it was simply the letter m. Because riddling is associated with childhood and proverbs with the wiser mind of age, the movement from telling riddles as children to using proverbs as we grow older parallels the rhythms of the life cycle. At the Jewish Senior Center in Venice, California, where proverbs functioned as part of the standard social currency," anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff recorded this exchange:

"Learning is what makes us stay young forever," said Abe. "So that a Jew, a real Jew, is ageless."

"This is true," said Sophie. "My grandfather used to tell me, 'If you are ignorant, old age is a famine. If you are learned, it is a harvest.' "

"And what do you think my grandfather said?" asked Nathan in return. "I'll tell you. 'When the brain is green, it does no good, even if the hair is gray.' "(18)

"In their material culture," write Hufford and Hunt, "children often produce ephemeral models of the adult world that surrounds them. They transform the material of everyday life into paper airplanes, clothespin pistols and darts, grass blade whistles, and daisy-chain necklaces. Their playhouses and townscapes of sand are not meant to last, built as they are of scraps borrowed from the world of older people. Thus their play might be seen, in part, as a rehearsal for roles they will assume in later life." (19) In contrast, the folklore of older adults is often characterized not by rehearsal but by review, as their reminiscences and life stories interpret and frame past experiences.(20) These are the subtle rhythms life-cycle studies enable us to discern.

In the consciousness of members of a particular culture, the life cycle serves as what might be considered a prototypical or proto-life story. It takes place at a different level from, but still comments on, an individual life. As a proto-life story, the life cycle reads in both directions, forward and backwards, so we can use it both to plan our futures and to reminisce and integrate our past life experiences. It is a lifescript which, as it is filled in, becomes life's manuscript.

An individual life cycle emerges from a family, community, historical, and ethnic context but in its broadest contours a contemporary United States life-cycle tale, or proto-life story may read something like this:

Greek Orthodox baptism
Greek Orthodox Baptism

Elkins Park, PA c. 1950. (65K)

In the hospital delivery room
hospital delivery room

Brigham & Women Hospital, Boston, 1986 (56K)

We begin as children and among our first scheduled activities are rituals such as the baptism or the briss (although some Americans now even photograph the birth, ritualizing the biological, rather than the cultural passage). The subsequent transitions of childhood also are marked and celebrated with the aid of the camera. Birthdays are major events at which children happily extinguish the past by blowing out the candles on a cake. On the first day of school, a whole new body of folklore opens up. For example, birthdays take on a new dimension; school children may bump, slap, kick, or pull the hair of one another once for each year of life.

Adolescence ushers in a new body of folklore. Puberty, menstruation, and losing one's virginity may be celebrated secretly, and informally among friends as there are few cultural rites. Many graduation customs emphasize separation and are rituals of nostalgia. Seniors are featured in high school yearbooks, and they often have their books inscribed by friends and teachers, creating a personalized compendium of folklore in which printed pages and inscriptions abound with references to characteristic expressions, nicknames, legendary events, private jokes, and personal tradition. Some are "catalogues of memories" (remember Nov. 8, the peddlerman, writing names on envelopes, skip day, slave day, Jane, etc.). Or they refer to classes that were dull or disgusting. ("I speak first of Chemistry, the Light! The joy! The glory of it! Oh God, from whence shall come another class such as this!")(21)

"Each society and each culture," writes Erikson, "institutionalizes a certain moratorium for the majority of its young people... The moratorium may be a time for horse stealing and vision quests, a time to go out west, or a time for pranks."(22) Americans expect young men and women to "raise Cain" and "sow their wild oats" and to go to college, where membership in a fraternity or sorority helps them fulfill those expectations. In The Rites of Passage in a Student Culture, Thomas Leemon traces all three of van Gennep's phases-- separation, transition, incorporation--throughout a fraternity's month-long pledging period.(23)

Whether it follows college or directly after high school, working life too is filled with customs of passage, initiations, welcoming dinners, promotion celebrations, and retirement. In many occupations a novice is initiated into a work group by means of traditional pranks. Workers in a factory are asked to fetch a bucket of steam; in a garage, fledgling mechanics are sent for a nonexistent "duberator"; new pilots have their shirt tails torn off when they receive their licenses.(24)

Courtship, too, has its own customs. Some families formally open a "courtship season" with a debutante ball or a sweet-sixteen party. Jewish girls from Long Island drown flowers from their sweet-sixteen corsages in a glass of champagne, wine, or occasionally water, then seal them in wax.(25) In a white dress, presaging a wedding gown, a Puerto Rican, Cuban or Mexican-American girl celebrates her quinceañera , signaling a renewal of devotion in the church, but also the age at which she is old enough to begin dating boys.

For parents the cycle begins anew. The rituals associated with children, such as those celebrating the first word or the first step, happen once again, but this time from the perspective of parenthood. Parents often are remarkably self-conscious in their efforts to institute effective family rituals, such as "calm time" or "the goodnights," a bedtime ritual in the Strasser family.

Then at some point in an adult's middle age, the death of an elderly parent seems to move an entire generation a step closer to death--with no older generation to stand as a buffer.

Retirement, birthday parties, and wedding anniversaries mark the passage through old age, and new customs and rituals help the elderly establish a satisfying, integrated life story. As they studied a group of Spanish-American War veterans, whose average age was eighty- one, Paul Rhudick and Arthur McMahon observed that the most inveterate storytellers lived longest.(27) "Reviewing one's life and reminiscing," Myerhoff writes, "much practiced by the very old, are expression of their attempt to find themselves to be the same person throughout the life cycle."(28)

Many informal rites surrounding death ease the transition for friends and relatives who assume the responsibility of reminiscing for and about the deceased. Folklorist Kenneth Goldstein describes the stories that were told during the seven-day formal Jewish mourning period, the shiva, following the death of his father. Speechless grief gave way first to stories of his father as a saint; later came stories of his father as an ordinary man and finally tales of his father as a trickster, a shrewd and funny man, good and bad by turns. These last entered the family repertoire and maintain his father's spirit as a vital force in the life of the family.(29)

But does the prototypical life-cycle journey, the proto-life story, capture the reality for any one individual? When Myerhoff, who previously had studied the Huichol Indians, embarked on her research project with elderly Jews, she realized, "However much I would learn from that [my work with the Huichol] was limited by the fact that I would never really be a Huichol Indian. But I would be a little old Jewish lady one day; thus it was essential for me to learn what the condition was like, in all its particulars."(30) Barbara Myerhoff died tragically from cancer at the age of 49; even when our lives are cut short, the model of the life cycle still affects us-- for, not knowing our destinies, we still plan for phases we may never reach.

Indeed the life-cycle tale can become especially painful for those who are denied the full circle. Recently, a thirty-year-old friend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer caused by a common fertility drug which her mother was given in the 1950s. For this young woman, the irony is that, a generation earlier, women who were afraid that they would not be able to partake fully in our culture's life cycle because of difficulties conceiving, were encouraged to take the drug and, as a consequence, many of their children were denied precisely that phase of the life cycle the drug was designed to foster. My friend had a hysterectomy, from which she has been able to recover physically, but from which her psychological recovery--dealing with not being able to participate fully in the life cycle she envisioned for herself--is far more difficult.

We progress through the life cycle individually, but we are bound into communities by sharing in the life cycles of others. By attending bar mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals, we rehearse our own roles and scripts. Our life cycles interconnect in intricate patterns. In the same generation, marriage joins and death separates the strands. But there are metaphorical deaths and births as well; when a baby is delivered, a mother, too, is born; and, Kenneth Goldstein observed, when his father died, suddenly, he was no longer a child.(31)

Although the life cycle is a popular belief rooted in folk communities, its contours are often defined and underscored by American institutions, corporations and the media. For instance, the powerful advertising campaigns for Kodak film influence and, unfortunately, homogenize the way rites and customs of passage, or "the times of your life" as Kodak calls them, are celebrated. So too Hallmark has made the greeting card a part of the way occasions in the life cycle are commemorated, and the categories of cards on the shelves--birth, bar mitzvah, wedding, "get well", sympathy-- chronicle the life-cycle tale.

Because life-cycle customs and rites are interwoven and celebrated in ethnic, family, and community contexts, rites of passage involve choices which define a person's relationship to a particular family or ethnic group. Individuals often carry in their minds multiple life-cycle patterns with different customs and rites of passage in each. "Carmen Neris was given the choice," writes folklorist Joan Gross for the Philadelphia Folklore Project. "She could have a thousand dollars to use for a car or she could have a Sweet Sixteen Party (or quinceañera) for her birthday, but as the date approached she began to think that a car might be a better idea."(32) Buying a first car is also a custom of passage, emphasized in American society, and Carmen Neris chose the car. After her family talked with her, however, she changed her mind and decided on the party. When two different life-cycle patterns presented themselves to her, she ultimately chose the one offered by her ethnic community, in which a quinceañera celebration is a custom of status and transformation.

In Los Angeles Celia Gonzalez faced a more difficult dilemma as she tried to plan a quinceañera ceremony for her daughter. According to Jeordan Legon, a shortage of Spanish-speaking priests has led the Catholic Archdioceses of Los Angeles to try to alter the traditional celebration.(33) New guidelines suggest the ceremony should be conducted for three or four girls at a time and that the emphasis should be on the religious aspects of the event, not on the social ones for which "people spend money that they don't have." The guidelines also prescribe a series of classes on Bible study, Hispanic history, and quinceañera history along with a church- sponsored retreat for the girls and their parents. Celia Gonzalez was incensed that there was no priest willing to support the kind of elaborate ceremony and party that she grew up with. As far as she was concerned, a girl and her family in deciding on a quinceañera, now must make decisions that set them in conflict with their church, on the one hand, or with their peers on the other. This conflict suggests the potential contentiousness of these rites, as well as ways they tie into issues of status in the community.

Sometimes rites of passage entail less difficult choices. "I work with Americans all around," says Shenaz Hooda, an Ishmaeli Muslim who managed a branch of the Duane Reade drugstores in Manhattan. "I speak their language, dress up like them, but in the evening when I go home I still preserve my own traditional values and cultures of which I am proud. Just by disguising yourself as American you don't lose your identity..."(34) At Shenaz Hooda's wedding shower, or mehendi party, her hands and feet were painted with floral designs in henna paste in keeping with a custom which originated when only the hands and feet of the bride were exposed. But she laughs as she talks about some American elements that crept into her wedding:

In a traditional Pakistani wedding the bride is not carrying a bouquet--she usually has a garland of flowers [on] her neck. [But] here it's very difficult to get a garland of flowers so I carried a bouquet. And since I was carrying a bouquet, I thought, why not follow the American tradition and do the ceremony of throwing the bouquet.(35)

As we use the rites and customs of passage to mark our relationship with time and shape our lives according to prescribed patterns, we determine what is to be given the stamp of importance, what traditions we like and want to perpetuate. By deciding to get married or to give our child a formal bar mitzvah or quinceañera, we tie ourselves to older aspects of our communities; by deciding not to get married or not to give our child a particular ceremony or by drastically altering a ritual, we tie ourselves to less traditional lifestyles and newer ideas about community. Through its pattern of rites and customs, culture establishes in the proto-life story an itinerary which we may follow or from which we may digress as we make decisions about our own lives in the present and as we plan our own futures and reconstruct our pasts.

Although the proto-life story or life-cycle pattern of each group is rooted in its history, the patterns that bind contemporaries were not those shared by their predecessors. Rather, every generation tends to embark on a different journey and find its own pathway.

For example, our lives today are much more compartmentalized than those of our forebears. We have more different identities and more fully developed stages in our lives. We also have more diverse bodies of folklore and folk custom instead of a single corpus of awesome force in our lives. Our rituals and ceremonies for birth, puberty, and marriage may be less important, but because we recognize more changes of status and more new identities, our opportunities for celebration have multiplied.

Several generations ago, when a family was far more likely to operate as a single economic unit, the differences between occupational and family roles were diminished. Learning, earning, and growing up were all more closely intertwined, and because marriage was so important to a family's economic survival, the courtship of individuals was a far shorter, simpler process. Older adults lived in the family home, and they usually did not live as long as people do today.

Childhood too, was different. Philip Aries makes a convincing case that the separateness of this phase of life is a product of just the last few hundred years. In Centuries of Childhood he argues that children were simply miniature adults who dressed and acted like smaller versions of their parents.(36) Other evidence suggests that what we now consider children's folklore and literature, Grimm's folktales, American play-party songs, and African-American children's games once were shared by adults and children and belonged to the entire family.(37)

Tamara Hareven writes:

[Americans] discovered childhood in the first half of the 19th century and "Invented" adolescence toward the end of it ... However, despite the growing awareness of childhood, adolescence, and youth as pre-adult stages, no clear boundaries for adulthood in America emerged until much later, when interest in the "middle years" as a distinct segment of adult life arose out of the need to differentiate the social and psychological problems of "middle" from "old" age.(38)

Although tradition-steeped communities so often studied by folklorists seem to have a single corpus of folklore and folk custom that applies across the life cycle, each of the numerous stages of the life cycle defined by American educational and economic institutions has its own body of lore and custom. So, too, does each of the ethnic groups that make up our multicultural society. In contemporary United States, many Americans have multiple courtships, marriages, jobs, even families in the course of their lives. Modern life has its own rewards, which stem not from the vitality of one community's cultural expression, but from the multiplicity of forms and styles available to each individual in the course of his or her life.

Ultimately, one of the measures of our society is to foster and nurture each of these stages, and to assure the continuance of diverse possible life-cycle patterns for us to follow. As we become activists in our own culture, we have a stake in assuring that different phases are clearly marked with customs of passage, and fully developed. Not only folklorists, but psychologists and educators working with children and parents, social workers advising the elderly, and even funeral directors shaping rituals of death, need to be aware of how the nuances of the life cycle influence each of life's phases for our communities and ourselves.

Perhaps folklorists are no different from others if they occasionally imagine their world as a devolution from a better age. And yet, if we can create a society in which our apocryphal Solomon Grundy can play his heart out on Monday, raise hell on Tuesday, get a job on Wednesday, court all day Thursday, parent Friday, then retire, travel and reminisce about it all on Saturday--and if he finds traditional expressive material that is vital at every stage of his life--that really is not such a bad life for Solomon Grundy.

Steve Zeitlin received his Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. He currently serves as directory of City Lore: The New York Center for Urban Folk Culture, and is co-author of A Celebration of American Family Folklore with Amy J. Kotkin and Holly Cutting-Baker, and The Grand Generation: Memory, Mastery, Legacy with Mary Hufford and Marjorie Hunt.


click on note number to return to text.

I would like to thank Mary Hufford and Marjorie Hunt, my two collaborators on The Grand Generation: Memory, Mastery, Legacy (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1987) for many of their insights which are reflected in this paper. Some of the ideas were also developed for the Conference on American Folk Custom at the Library of Congress, October 3-5, 1980. I would like to thank folklorists Amanda Dargan and Judy McCullough for their careful reading of the manuscript.

(1) Bess Lomax Hawes and Robert Eberlein, Pizza Pizza Daddy- O, film notes (Berkeley: University of California Extension Media Center, 1969).

(2) Simon J. Bronner, American Children's Folklore (Little Rock: August House, 1988), P. 89; collected by Cynthia Bough from the autograph album of Mary Ashcraft, Kokomo, Indian (typescript, Indiana University Folklore Archives, 1969), The verse is signed "Jack Sims."

(3) For variants of "Solomon Grundy" see Iona Opie and Peter Opie, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), pp. 392-393.

(4)Mary Hufford, Marjorie Hunt, Steven Zeitlin, The Grand Generation: Memory, Mystery, Legacy (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1987), p. 18.

(5) Tony Heriza, Robert Lee and Jean Tsien, Singing to Remember, video distributed by the Asian American Arts Center, New York, New York.

(6) Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), p. 30.

(7) Victor Turner, The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967).

(8) Ibid, p. 93.

(9) Steven Zeitlin, Amy J. Kotkin, Holly Cutting Baker, A Celebration of American Family Folklore (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), pp. 192, 193.

(10) Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and Society (New York: W.W. Norton, 1963).

(11) See for instance, Alice Bertha Gomme, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland, 2 vols. (1894-98; rpt., New York: Dover Publications, 1964); William Wells Newell, Games and Song of American Children (1883; rpt., New York: Dover Publications, 1963); Roger D. Abrahams, Jump-Rope Rhymes: A Dictionary (Austin; University of Texas Press, 1969); Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ed., Speech Play: Research and Resources for the Study of Linguistic Creativity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976); Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes, Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage (New York: Harper and Row, 1972); Iona Opie and Peter Opie, Children's Games in Street and Playground (London, Oxford University Press, 1969); Brian Sutton Smith, The Folk Games of Children (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972).

(12) See for instance, Sheldon Posen, "Songs and Singing Traditions at Children's Summer Camp" (Master's thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1974); Gary Alan Fine, "A Group Space Analysis of Interpersonal Dynamics" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1977); Jay Mechling, "The Magic of the Boy Scout Campfire," Journal of American Folklore 93 (1980), 35-36; James Patrick Leary, "The Boys from the Dome: Folklore of a Modern American Male Group" (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1978); Lydia Fish, "The Old Wife in the Dormitory: Sexual Folklore and Magical Practices from State U. College," New York Folklore Quarterly 28 (1972), 30- 36; Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (New York: W.W. Norton, 1981).

(13) See for instance, Barbara Bacon, "The Personal Narrative Courtship story" (paper presented at the 1979 meeting of the American Folklore Society, Los Angeles, Calif.); Barbara Myerhoff, Number Our Days (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1979).

(14) Personal communication with Lucy Long, 1979.

(15) Personal communication with Doris Dyen, 1980.

(16) Alan Jabbour, "Creativity and Aging: Some Thoughts from a Folk Cultural Perspective," in Perspectives oil Aging. Exploding the Myth, Priscilla W. Johnston, ed. (Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Company, 198 1), p. 144.

(17) Hufford, Hunt, Zeitlin, p. 27.

(18) Myerhoff, P. 94; quoted in Hufford, Hunt, Zeitlin, p. 13.

(19) Hufford, Hunt, Zeitlin, p. 22.

(20) Ibid, p. 24.

(21) Inscriptions in the yearbook of Steven Zeitlin, Sao Paulo Grade School, 1965.

(22) Erik H. Erikson, Identity, Youth and Crisis (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1968), p. 158.

(23) Thomas A. Leemon, The Rites of Passage in a Student Culture: A Study of the Dynamics of Transition (New York: Teachers' College Press, 1972).

(24) Jack Santino, "The Community That Works Together," in Festival of American Folklife Program Book, Jack Santino, ed. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1979), P. 30. See also Working Americans: Contemporary Approaches to Occupational Folklife, Robert Byington, ed., Smithsonian Folklife Studies 3 (1978): 3-18.

(25) Personal communication with Lydia Fish, 1979.

(26) See Zeitlin, Kotkin, Cutting Baker, p. 174.

(27) Arthur W. McMahon and Paul J. Rhudick, "Reminiscing: Adaptational Significance in the Aged," Archives of General Psychiatry 10 (1964), pp. 222-98; see also Harriet Wyre and Jaccqueline Churilla, "Looking Inward, Looking Backward: Reminiscence and the Life Review," Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies 2 (1977): 98-106.

(28) Myerhoff, p. 108.

(29) Personal communication with Dr. Kenneth Goldstein, October. 1985.

(30)Myerhoff, p. 19.

(31)Personal communication with Dr. Kenneth Goldstein, October, 1985.

(32) Joan Gross, "Las Princessa for a Day: Sweet Sixteens in Philadelphia," Works-In-Progress Newsletter of the Philadelphia Folklore Project, Vol 2, No. 1, Fall, 1988.

(33)Jeordan Legon, "'Sweet 15' Dispute: Archdiocese Hit for Guidelines on Quinceañeras," The Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1990.

(34) Amanda Dargan and Susan Slyomovics, "The Painted Bride," videotape, Queens Council on the Arts, 1991.

(35) Ibid.

(36) Philip Aries, Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1962).

(37)For good examples of this see liner notes to Kate Rinzier and Bess Lomax Hawes, Old Mother Hippletoe: Rural and Urbtan Children's Songs, New World Records (1978); Bess Lomax Hawes, Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs and Stories from the Afro- American Heritage (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).

(38) Tamara Hareven, "The Last Stage: Historical Adulthood and Old Age," Daedalus 105, no 4 (1976), p. 15.

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