Folklore comprises the unrecorded traditions of a people. The study of folklore records and analyses these traditions because they reveal the common life of the mind below the level of "high" or formal culture, which is recorded by civilizations as the learned heritage of their times.
Folklore comprises traditional creations of peoples, primitive and civilized. These are achieved by using sounds, words, poetry and prose and include also folk beliefs or superstitions, customs and performances, dances and plays.
A simple and workable arrangement of the types of folklore may be based on three modes of existence: folklore is either verbal (proverbs, rhymes, myths, legends, folksong, ballads), partly verbal (superstitions, customs and festivals, folk dances and games) or non-verbal (folk gestures, folk music, folk architecture, handicrafts, folk costumes and foods).
Folklore under various names has been with us ever since man began to take an objective look at his culture.
Some of our surviving customs can trace their ancestry a very long way back, and have hitherto resisted all attempts to uproot them, many others have vanished for ever. Especially they disappeared during the last hundred and fifty years or so, for this was a period of great change everywhere, affecting traditional customs as much as anything else.
Customs involve both verbal and non-verbal elements that are traditionally applied in specific circumstances. But unlike superstitions, true customs do not involve faith in the magical results of such application. Thus, the "customs" that incorporate traditional belief in the supernatural should properly be classified as superstition.
Most true folk customs in the US are associated with special events, especially those that require rites of passage — birth, marriage, and death. They begin at once when a child is born. Boy babies are customarily dressed in blue, and girls in pink.
Wedding customs begin with the "shower" often several of them, to emphasize different kinds of needed gifts.
Customs of the wedding itself are numerous and largely regulated by tradition. They include the dress of participants, the seating of guests, the choice of attendants, kissing the bride, throwing rice, passing the bride's shoe around for money, playing pranks on the married couple, and decorating the car.
Only by turning to the folklore of peoples, probing into its meanings and functions, and searching for links between different bodies of tradition may we hope to understand the intellectual and spiritual life of man in its broadest dimensions.