Monday, February 11, 2013

Pelele: Carnival straw doll to kill!

One of the blogs I regularly read is American in Spain.  Blogger Erik (the American with a Spanish wife) often writes about his three-year-old daughter, Nora.  During my year in Madrid as an undergraduate student, I was mostly exposed to the Spanish university life.  As a teacher in Madrid during the 2011-12 school year, I spent my working time around 16 to 22-year-old Spaniards.  Point being that apart from my English lessons with Pablo (at ages 6 and 8), I don't really know what things are common for Spanish children.

In my elementary school in Wisconsin, we had a Pioneer Day in fourth grade where everyone dresses and acts like a pioneer for a day.  We would do Johnny Appleseed activities, sing ring around the rosie, had field trips to Cave of the Mounds and Little Norway.  These all seemed "normal," since my older siblings had all done them, so it was no surprise to me when these events or activities came up in the elementary years.  Through Erik's blog, I learn about things that could be considered "normal" for some Spanish children.

El pelele
At the end of January he posted about a celebration in Nora's class that may seem like anything but normal to you.  The celebration was in honor of Pelele, a rag doll that a group of women throw into the air during Carnival (Mardi Gras) celebrations in Madrid -- while singing about beating Pelele to death.

The lyrics (and his English translation of them) are definitely worth a look on his post.  In fact it was the lyrics of this song (sung by children) that really caught my eye and got me thinking:  How did this tradition get started?  Do the kids understand what they're singing about?  Do their parents?  Or is it just so commonly heard around this time of year that it's built into the culture, no one questions it?

The wikipedia article linked to above helps answer some of those questions, about the history of the song and tradition.

Can you think of any American celebrations, customs, or songs that would seem extra strange to a foreigner?

1 comment:

  1. The yanks are way too uptight puritan for something like that. The closest thing is probably the bunny-as-fertility-symbol around Easter.

    I can't imagine Americans singing songs about impotency or hymens or something as overtly sexual, even if not to children, as the Pelele.