The 1981 Festival, after a hiatus in 1980, returned to presenting a substantial program of children's folklore, featuring Washington, D.C. area school groups teaching and learning children's games, and adult craftspeople making dolls and quilts.
In any elementary school playground during recess, children are running, playing tag, throwing balls, jumping rope, hopping hopscotch, playing jacks, hitting, hiding, clapping hands, and singing. To adult spectators, this buzzing beehive of activity may seem chaotic, but the chaos appears only to them. The rules of the games are obscured by the noise and the action; boundaries, forbidden areas, and "it" figures - structures rigorously adhered to by the children. The shared knowledge of these games and the lore that accompanies them binds this community of children together. Friends teach the games to other friends, who discover them as new and original. Most children would probably be surprised to know that their parents played the same games, and their parents would probably be surprised to know that many of these games are several hundred years old.
Why is the folklore of the community of children important? Primarily because it is important to the children themselves. The games allow them to direct and to be in control of their lives. In these games they test limits and boundaries, obey or disobey authority figures, and hone their physical skills to the utmost. After playing these games the children can return to their adult -directed lives with the pleasure of having been in charge of themselves. Adults too can learn from this childlore, and appreciate the richness of that lore that has been handed down from child to child from one playground to another. Once upon a time, we all, as children, exchanged this lore, too.
Jean Alexander served as Children's Program Coordinator.