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Examples of Oral Tradition

Oral tradition is information passed down through the generations by word of mouth that is not written down. This includes historical and cultural traditions, literature and law.

Oral Traditions in Customs

  • Blowing out candles at birthday celebrations
  • Not wearing white to a wedding, unless you are the bride
  • Celebrating the bounty of the harvest at a festival
  • Babies wearing white at christenings
  • Rituals for new members of a fraternity or sorority
  • Taking a gift when invited to someone’s house for dinner
  • Throwing a baby shower for a mother-to-be
  • Having bachelor or bachelorette parties before a wedding
  • Having a bridal shower for a new bride
  • Tip a waiter or waitress for good service
  • Greetings like a nod, bow, smile, handshake or verbal greeting
  • Removing shoes before entering a home

Oral Traditions in Beliefs That Are Superstitions

  • Find a penny, pick it up and all day long, you’ll have good luck
  • A black cat crossing your path will bring bad luck
  • Friday the 13th
  • Cross your fingers for luck
  • Break a wishbone and the person with the bigger portion will have good luck
  • Knock on wood for good luck
  • Step on a crack, break your mother’s back
  • Finding a horseshoe brings good luck
  • Blow out all of the candles on your birthday cake with one breath and your wish will come true
  • Make a wish upon a falling star and it will come true
  • Animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve

Oral Traditions in Beliefs About Weddings

  • It’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding
  • The bride wears white to symbolize chastity
  • The bride needs something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue
  • Sweden – gold and sliver coins are placed inside a bride’s wedding shoe
  • Norway – the bride wears a silver crown with charms to ward off evil spirits
  • Czech newlyweds are showered with peas instead of rice
  • The groom carries the bride across the threshold
  • Hindu tradition states that rain on your wedding day is good luck
  • The fourth finger was chosen for engagement and wedding rings because it was once believed that it contained a vein that led to the heart

Oral Traditions in Prose and Literature

  • Jokes
  • Riddles
  • Stories
  • Rhymes
  • Tall tales
  • Ghost stories
  • Stories of tragic events
  • Stories of local heroes
  • Creation stories

Oral Traditions in Proverbs and Adages

  • A watched pot never boils
  • If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong
  • Actions speak louder than words
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
  • Necessity is the mother of invention
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill
  • A penny saved is a penny earnem
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
  • Good things come to those who wait

Oral Traditions in Legends

  • Atlantis
  • Big Foot
  • Camelot
  • Chupacabra
  • El Dorado
  • Fountain of Youth
  • Griffins
  • Hercules
  • Johnny Appleseed
  • The Loch Ness monster
  • Medusa
  • Pegasus
  • Robin Hood
  • Shangri-La
  • The Bermuda Triangle
  • William Tell
  • Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman

Oral Traditions in Songs

  • Alphabet Song
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
  • Found a Peanut Happy Birthday
  • Frere Jacques
  • Jack and Jill
  • London Bridge
  • Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • Mulberry Bush
  • Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall
  • On Top of Spaghetti
  • Ring Around A Rosy
  • Ten Little Indians
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Oral Traditions in Dances

  • Hawaiian hula
  • Polkas
  • Square dancing
  • Waltz
  • Two step
  • Western line dancing
  • Round dances of Native Americans
  • Break dancing
  • Flamenco
  • Greek circle dances

As you can see, there are all kinds of different oral traditions expressed in different ways.

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