Tag Archives: hair

Cutting Hair for Chinese Lunar New Year 

Informant Details

  1. Gender: Female
  2. Occupation: Student
  3. Nationality: Chinese-American

Folklore Genre: Holiday Ritual/Superstition

  1. Text

The informant explained a ritual done for the Chinese Lunar New Year. She said that people are supposed to cut their hair before the new year, and then not cut it for a while after the new year. It doesn’t matter how much is cut off – it can be just a trim. Sometimes she will go to a salon, but other times she cuts her hair herself. She has done this every year for as long as she can remember. Both women and men partake in this tradition. If you don’t cut your hair, the superstition is that you are carrying all of the bad things that happened to you in the past year into the new year. So, if you don’t cut your hair then you bring bad energy and bad luck into your future.

2. Context

The informant’s understanding of this ritual is that it signifies “out with the old, in with the new” because you cut off your dead ends to make room for the new growth in the new year. The informant was taught this ritual as a young child. She learned this from her Grandmother, who is from Guangzhou, China.

3. Analysis

This ritual embodies the principles of contact magic. The hair is believed to carry the energy of the past because it grew during that time period. By cutting off the ends of this older hair, the individual is able to move forwards without the weight of the past. In International Folkloristics, Dundes says “With Contact or Contagious magic, one can carry out an action on an element that was once touched by or connected to the designated target of a magical act.” (186) In this example, the hair was connected to the individual’s past. Therefore, cutting the hair is analogous to cutting energetic ties to the past.

El Sombrerón- The Man with the Big Hat: Legend


Me: “Within your Mexican culture, did you grow up hearing any scary stories or legends?”

NO: “oh my gosh yes, I have one that actually still affects me today. So there’s this guy that is claimed to be a short middle-aged man who wears black boots and this big, almost like a sombrero-looking hat. Supposedly he roams around the streets playing the guitar and sings captivating melodies that will make women and young children walk towards him and if they do, they will be casted under a spell of love, almost like a curse, as he plays music for them”. 

Me: “Is there a way to get rid of the curse?”

NO: “Well supposedly my family says that once you are cursed El Sombrerón will haunt you in your sleep and the only way to get rid of it is to cut your hair. It’s pretty random but growing up as a kid and even now I would always think about it if I ever hear random guitar strumming or street performers playing guitar in public”.

Translation: “The Man with the Big Hat” 

Context (informant’s relationship to the piece, where they heard it, how they interpret it):

-NO’s relationship to this piece stems from her Mexican culture within her childhood and early adult life considering this legend is claimed to be from Mexican decent. Not to mention, her relationship to this pieces stems from her real experiences as they still affect her today whenever she comes across street performers. NO would hear this legend at home by her family and older relatives. Considering NO grew up in a very musical household, NO thinks the reason why this legend was told so often was because it was a story that related to music and their favorite instrument. NO interprets this legend as a scaring tactic that her family would place to avoid children walking up to strangers. Not to mention, NO interprets this legend as an overall motive to avoid temptation. 

Analysis(what kind of personal, cultural, or historical values might be expressed) YOUR interpretation:

-The overall cultural value within this legend stems from Mexican culture given the very distinctive quality of culture and overall lifestyle value that is represented within the Mexican sombrero that the man wears when playing the guitar. This gives an overall emphasis that this legend’s origin comes from Mexican culture and Mexican communities. Not to mention, the personal values that can be expressed within this legend is that it influences individuals to be aware of their surroundings considering that it can affect their day to day life regarding their personal value of consciousness whenever they hear the strumming of a guitar. I can see this legend as a strange learning tactic that is placed by the parents of children in order to keep them safe from people they don’t know. Considering that this legend revolves around the idea of temptation in regards to the captivating music, I can interpret this legend as a motive to not fall for someone who seems to be captivating from the outside, no matter how inviting they might appear. In general, this legend draws similarity to the legend of La Llorona because they use the similar tactic of emitting noise in order for their victim to approach them. Given the concept of hearing a physical sound within this legend of El Sombrerón, the idea of a legend quest can be made from those individuals who really want to find out if the legend and curse is real or not.

Belief: Place an Eyelash on Your Head for a Wish


“If an eyelash falls off of you, then what you should do is take it off and put it on your hair– on your head. And then, if you do that, that’s good luck. Very simple.” They look up in thought. “Or– let me think. It might be making a wish. Yeah, that’s right. You make a wish. It’s been awhile and I haven’t done it. It has to naturally fall off and it has to be on you. Like, usually it lands on your face, on your cheek.”


“My mom would just be like ‘Ah! Do this!’ And I was just like ‘Sure.’ I don’t think I ever really was too into it, but hey– it’s that thing with all wish-making rituals where people are like ‘Let’s do it anyway!’ Because who doesn’t want a wish coming true. I would always wish for stuff like… Well, it was always love stuff.”

“I think it was a ritual that my mother said when I was like five. And it was still something she would joke about when I was like eleven or twelve. I genuinely don’t know where she got it from– I would assume just her family. So it might be and Iranian thing, but I don’t think it is. She definitely doesn’t do that anymore.”

“It’s kind of wild, ain’t it? I have no idea why it would be an eyelash, but there’s the one where you blow on it and you send that wish and part of you out into the world. But putting it on your head… a small hair going into big hair. It’s like growth, birth, or rebirth.”


The idea of using an eyelash to make a wish is common– as is using a part of one’s body as a means of magical sacrifice for the sake of making a wish happen. In terms of components, an eyelash is light and delicate which is frequent for the action of wishing upon an object, like shooting stars. The meaning behind it having to fall off rather than plucking it off is also a means of luck which might contribute to the wishful properties the eyelash is believed to hold. Placing it onto the top of one’s head seems to be a way to reclaim and internalize the wish, trying to keep it close rather than expelling it into the world– like casting the spell onto oneself.

North Dakotan German-Russian Proverb


“You can’t pull hair from a frog”


The country of Germany as we now know it is of course a relatively modern sovereign state. Prior to the unification of the German states in the late 19th century, Germany existed as a myriad of different “mini-states” all with their own governing bodies and economic models. Unfortunately, this led to many Germans becoming demoralized due to religious, economic, and political hardships, and many emigrated to Russia in the 18th and 19th century. To make try and make the historical background as succinct as possible, many of these Germans living in Russia were eventually forced to leave Russia, with many settling in the northern plains of the United States.

This was the case for my ancestors on my mom’s side of the family, with my great-great grandparents settling in North Dakota. In North Dakota, there’s a heavy concentration of German-Russians living within the state, who through a combination of their prior ethnic and national heritage, as well as an amalgamation of their new American life created a unique culture and folklore.

According to my informant, she first heard this proverb uttered by her siblings, but also occasionally heard it from other family members including her mother and aunt. This particular proverb is one my informant says she rarely uses personally, but still hears every once in a while when with friends or family members. Her analysis of the proverb is basically that one shouldn’t waste time bothering themselves with fruitless tasks. Like the proverb implies, there’s no hair on an amphibian creature like a frog, and thus one’s only wasting their time trying to “pull hair” from one. My informant said she often heard this proverb being by family members in regards to other persons. If a person was being difficult or steadfast in a particular view or belief, it was often said that “well, there’s no use pulling hair from a frog” or “you can’t pull hair from a frog.”

My Analysis

My analysis of this proverb mirrors my informant’s. There are times when it’s simply impossible to get through to another person. While it would be nice for everybody to see things through one’s own personal perspective, that’s not always possible, and thus as the proverb goes “you can’t pull hair from a frog.” The wording of this proverb is similar to other German-Russian North Dakotan proverbs in its relative uniqueness and bizarreness, both in terms of the subjects of the proverb (frogs and hair) as well as the sentence structuring of the proverb itself.

Haircuts and Lag Ba’Omer

Background: Informant is a 51 year old Israeli American. They grew up in Israel and hold a lot of Israeli culture within them. They immigrated to the Chicago area of the United States in the late 90s. They live in a largely Jewish area where access to Jewish religious services and resources are plentiful. 

Informant: Jews from… I don’t know if it’s European I think it’s Hassidim. Like, religious Jews. They don’t cut their hair because of the payas. You know what I mean? To leave payas? They do it in Lag Ba’Omer. So in Lag Ba’Omer all the kiddos, the babies like up to age 3 are coming and they get their haircut. It’s called, Ushkilin or something like that? And that’s it. 

Me: But like, why? Why do they wait to cut their hair?

Informant: It’s a tradition! Yeah, but I wasn’t too much into it. First it looks cute and second it’s in the religion. It’s a tradition to… I don’t know if it has anything like, health related or a purpose? Or you cut the hair because they are now a toddler? 

Reflection: This tradition was interesting to hear about because it involves the preservation of young kids hair in Jewish tradition. I found it funny how my informant described the tradition, as they inserted some of their own opinions into the description. They were also a bit hazy on the specifics but what is important is they knew the tradition and followed it themselves. It shows how sometimes we follow traditions blindly, without knowing why, just because we feel comfort in them. This piece also shows a ritual celebration called Lag Ba’Omer, where the cutting of the boy’s hair is done. This is to mark a change from being a baby and becoming a child.

For a mother’s experience with this ritual, look here:

“First-haircut, common at Lag B’Omer, can be mom’s rite of passage, too.” Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, 31 March 2008, https://www.jewishchronicle.org/2008/03/31/first-haircut-common-at-lag-bomer-can-be-moms-rite-of-passage-too/. Accessed 29 April 2022.