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Travus Carlson riding bareback, detail from poster. Photo by Dan Hubbell 1996.
Travus Carlson riding bareback, detail from poster. Photo by Dan Hubbell 1996.

Explore Your Community: A Community Heritage Poster for the Classroom

Community Culture: It's All Around You

Explore Your Community Poster Panel One

Whether or not you know it, community culture is all around you. Although you probably take them for granted, you already are familiar with the traditions of your school, family, community, and the region where you live. That's what this poster is all about!

Community culture, sometimes called "folklore" or "folklife," is the living expression of culture in everyday life—anyone's culture—learned and passed on informally from person to person. It must be alive and current to be folklife, though it may have existed over long stretches of time. Everywhere people take the experiences of their lives and transform them into song, story, decoration, ritual, and celebration—examples of what folklorists call "expressive culture." When such expressions communicate the shared experiences, thoughts, and feelings of a group, and are passed on to others, they become traditions.

Examples of Folklife:

  • the stories that you tell at family holiday gatherings
  • the nicknames you call your friends
  • the jokes or chain letters that you forward to friends
  • the ghost stories or legends you tell of strange happenings in your neighborhood
  • the way your grandmother prepares special holiday dishes
  • the notes and rhymes you inscribe in each other's school yearbooks
  • the songs your parents learned from your grandparents and sang to you, and which you may sing to your own children someday
  • the rhymes you used for jump-rope or other playground games

Cultural Traditions are Almost Always:

  • passed on informally, by word of mouth, observation, or imitation.
  • anonymous—no one really knows where they came from.
  • enjoyed and performed by members of groups (and used to convey a sense of the group's identity).
  • found in several different versions and variations. (They change dynamically according to who is creating and sharing them.)
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  October 22, 2007
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