What is Folklife?

The everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on
to the next generation:

The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to

Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories

Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking

Our childhood games and rhymes

The way we celebrate life
– from birthing our babies to honoring our dead

The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs
– religious, medical, magical and social

Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions

The way we decorate our world
– from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies

The crafts we create by hand
– crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs

Patterns and traditions of work
– from factory to office cubicle

The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group

Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade.

In the end, we are all folk.

The American Folklife Center

The Library of Congress

Washington, DC