Tag Archives: snow

Wear Your Pajamas Inside Out and Backwards

“So when I was a little girl my grandma, I used to live with my grandma in Hawaii and whenever she told me to get ready for bed, I would get ready for bed and you know how, like, little kids will sometimes, um, like put their clothes on inside out or backwards. Well, my grandma, I would do that occasionally and my grandma ended up convincing me that that . . . like that brought good luck and like if you do that, then it brings good luck. So then I started purposely, purposefully, um, wearing my pajamas backwards and inside out and my mom never understood it, but I always would tell her, obviously, that it brings good luck.”


The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California (with short stretches in other areas of the country) and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place while the informant, whom I live with, was making lunch and telling me about her grandmother’s superstitions. Of her grandmother, she said, “My grandma’s a very spiritual person. She still believes it, she’ll still tell me.” She went on to say, “It’s like a family joke now. So like if I come down now wearing my pajamas inside out and backwards, my grandma will always be like, ‘Oh! It’s really good luck, right?’ . . . My mom thinks it’s a joke, but my grandma’s like super serious about it, she’s like, ‘It is. It is for good luck.’”


When I asked the informant what she thinks it means, she said, “My grandma’s very spiritual and thinks everything happens for a reason and so, like, the average person puts on their clothes the normal way that it’s supposed to be worn, so if you think you’re putting on your clothes a certain way and it turns out it’s actually backwards or inside out, well then it must mean something else. Then it must mean that there’s good luck coming to you.” When I said I had never heard of this folk belief before, the informant noted, “It’s interesting because I brought [the folk belief] up in my practice, and one of the girls said that she was taught that growing up, if she were to wear her pajamas inside out or backwards that it was gonna bring snow. And so during the winter seasons, she did that as a young girl hoping it would bring snow.”


At the end of the interview, the informant said, “And the thing is, I still do, a little part of me still believes that it’s gonna bring me good luck.”


This folk belief was interesting to me because it’s such a simple action, yet it is thought by some to make something happen, such as bring good luck or make it snow. I think it is partially performed because it is a relatively silly thing to get children to do, and it gives them a sense of control over the world. It could also serve as a way to teach them to embrace the unusual side of their personalities. When they perform this folk belief, they are doing something that goes against social norms. However, they are told this action causes good things to happen, and so the thought process behind it is reinforced.

Yuki-Onna the Snow Lady

One day two pair of woodcutters Minokichi and Mosaku go out into the mountains to gather wood, but a snowstorm prevents them from getting home. Mosaku—the father of Minokichi—suggests that they should find a cabin in the mountains to stay in to hide from the storm, and they do just that. When Minokichi wakes up the next morning though, he sees that Mosaku has been frozen to death, and a beautiful lady in white—that’s Yuki-Onna (雪女; lit. “snow woman”)—is standing over him. She finds Mosaku very handsome so she does not kill him and lets him go, but she says, “You must promise you will never tell anyone about me, or else I must kill you,” and then she disappears.

Years later Mosaku falls in love with a woman, and they get married and have children and everything. But the wife doesn’t age. One night Mosaku tells his wife, “You know, you are so beautiful in such a magical way. Every time I look at you, I remember this one time I met a snow lady just as beautiful as you, and she spared my life.”

Mosaku’s wife becomes angry, exclaiming, “That Yuki-Onna was me!” She wants to kill Mosaku but she didn’t want to hurt her children too, so she spared his life once again, and disappears.

Informant had studied abroad in Japan and considers herself more Japanese than Chinese or American. She learned such folklore from her Japanese friends.

The story of Yuki-Onna seems to have been adapted into a number of fictional materials, possibly because of the motif of the evil but beautiful white-clad woman that kills men, but also possibly because of the plot twist.

Ritual – Massachusetts

The informant speaks below about an annual ritual held at her high school:

“This is ‘Head of School Day.’ It’s, um, something we have at Phillips Academy Andover and, um, essentially, um, we were on the trimester system. So in the winter trimester, it’s just, it’s . . . if you’ve ever been to Boston in the winter, it’s not a very fun place. So I guess kind of it’s a way to, like, as a kind of way to help out the students they’d have what you call ‘Head of School Day,’ where the head of school would just randomly call off a day the night before, so—probably at 7 or 8 o’clock so that most kids had gotten most of their work done, so that, like, if you didn’t sleep in you could actually have, like, a full day off. What’s really interesting about it is that, um, how she would announce it was that she would walk into the, um, the what’s-it-called . . . the cafeteria? We had, like, four cafeterias, places, and she would walk in with a hockey stick and she would raise it up and everybody would just go crazy and it was just, it was just this huge thing where everyone was just like, ‘Oh, when is it going to be?’ And y’know, people had, y’know, theories of like they could nail it down to the exact day, or like if, y’know, it was supposed to be like negative twenty out, then she would call it then so she wouldn’t have to call it a snow day, because they didn’t have snow days. Even if there was three feet of snow there wasn’t a snow day.”

“I liked it. I thought it was a bit of a cop-out because, like, they wouldn’t have snow days and people would be driving for, y’know, 45 minutes and have a good drive in like 3 feet of snow and like, that was like their snow day. But I liked it.”

This school must have been a boarding school for the Head to be able to talk to the students directly in the evenings. I wonder how the poor parents would feel about this ritual if it were not a boarding school, having to make plans at 7 or 8 in the evening for their kids to be taken care of the next day during deep snow. This calendrical ritual, like the winter solstice holiday, clearly didn’t take place on the same date every year. The holiday, aside from keeping teachers from having to drive in deep snow, seems like a way to celebrate the idealized Western idea of childhood—children should be able to go out and play once in a while.