Tag Archives: wish


--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 29
Occupation: Vice Principal
Residence: Oakland
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/10/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: The informant is my older sister (LC) and the following text is transcribed from our phone conversation. She reflects on a good luck ritual she used to do with her friends that was taught to them by their parents.

Main Text (LC): “The belief or myth behind the meaning of the Dandelion is that if you make a wish and blow on one, and the seeds all go everywhere, your wish will come true. And I think that’s the myth everyone knows about them. But now, to me, they mean something else. They show up in this book about activism and social justice that I read and the book states that the dandelion is a metaphor for change. The book says that just like the dandelion, only one seed is necessary to spread great change, and I find this message very powerful.”

Analysis: The belief or ritual that blowing on a dandelion grants your wish has been commonplace in the United States for a long time. This practice reminds me of how a child blows out a birthday candle and makes a wish. I think it is interesting how the dandelion is used as a different metaphor in the book my sister read and demonstrates how an object’s symbolism can change over time and garner new meanings.

Mirror Man

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Date of Performance/Collection: March 28, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

After I told a friend that I was collecting folklore for one of my classes, he was intrigued so I asked him if he had any folklore he’d like to contribute. I briefly explained the different kinds of folklore he could tell me. He said he wanted to think of something that is specific to his hometown, and the following came to mind, though he prefaced his account to mention that he wasn’t sure or not if this practice was just specific to his hometown.

“I’m not sure how local it is, but I’ve heard many people tell it, it’s called ‘Mirror Man.’ So, what Mirror Man is, it’s similar to Bloody Mary and in…at a sleepover or something one of the kids would go into a bathroom or something, alone, at midnight or 3am or something, lock the door, and look in the mirror in the dark and think of something you want, and you have to stand still and stare at your reflection for long enough to see your reflection move, and that means your wish has been granted and then you have to move. But, if you continue to stare after it’s [the reflection] moved, something bad will happen to you, like being sucked into another dimension by your reflection or something. But, then, some people will try to stay as long as possible after the reflection has moved to see what happens so it’s not just a wish granting thing but a bravery, dare thing.”

Afterward, he told me that he often did this at sleepovers when he was younger, and told me a few personal anecdotes surrounding his experiences, but requested I did not include them.

Blow a dandelion, make a wish.

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA, Israeli
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Huntington Beach, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/23/13
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The informant told me that when she was younger (age 4-5), she would pluck a dandelion and blow on it to make a wish. She learned this practice from her friends in preschool. “It was a lot of fun! We would run around looking for dandelions to blow on and fight over them sometimes.

Me: Do you have to get all the dandelion seeds off in one blow?

Informant: I think so!

Me: Do you still play this game?

Informant: Hmm… I think it’s second nature to pick up a dandelion and blow now. You don’t really think about it.

Analysis: This is a common practice in the United States, where dandelions are abundant in the grass. It is similar to blowing out all the candles on a birthday cake. It most likely stems from the belief that if you blow out all the seeds, they carry your wishes and dreams and eventually blossom. It is unclear where the origin of this game came from, however there are variations, such as if you blow a dandelion and all the seeds come off, your lover loves only you. If some seeds remain, he is not loyal. This may have come from the daisy petal-plucking “He loves me, he loves me not”, game.

For the informant, this game or ritual has become so common-place that it is almost innate for her to want to pluck a dandelion and blow the seeds into the wind.

“It’s 11:11, make a wish.”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese-American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Irvine, California
Date of Performance/Collection: Mar 2007
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Vietnamese

The informant first heard this phrase at the end of his 8th grade year in school, year 2000, from his female cousin.  It was 11:11 A.M., although this phrase can be said at either 11:11 A.M. or 11:11 P.M., and his cousin told him that if you spontaneously look at the clock and it is 11:11 A.M. or P.M., then you can make a wish inside your mind and then it will come true.  “It’s 11:11,” she said, “make a wish.”  The informant remembers it clearly because he remembered thinking, “What is this? I’ve never heard it before.”  It remained in his mind and he likes to use it whenever he sees 11:11 on the clock because it helps to lighten the mood and he believes deep down that everyone like to make wishes, even though they might not believe that 2 times a day a person can close their eyes and make two wishes that will necessarily come true.

Though being Vietnamese does not really have much to do with the 11:11 saying, the theme of making a wish does seem transcend different cultures.  Similarly, it does show that everyone has a child within them.  Though hardly anyone would admit to believing that making a wish at 11:11 would actually result in the wish coming true, many people still say “make a wish” and silently make a wish themselves, for fun or sometimes just for the sake of seeing whether or not it will come true.  Also, typically this type of saying is between a boy and a girl, though it is not restricted.  Generally, however, girls are more likely to say it to their own sex than are boys.  As in the informant’s case, family relation has nothing to do with the saying, though in some cases this saying can be used flirtatiously between boys and girls, when they can wish that the boy or girl that they like will like them back and maybe ask them out or something similar.

“You have an eyelash on your face, make a wish!”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese-American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Arcadia, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2007
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Mandarin

My informant learned this superstition when she was very young, so she doesn’t recall when she learned it.  She has been taking part of this superstition ever since she was in elementary school, where she probably learned it from a friend.  Whenever she sees a stray eyelash other people’s faces, she takes the eyelash, puts it on their finger and tells them to make a wish and blow the eyelash off.  She puts the eyelash on her finger if she finds an eyelash on her face and follows the same procedure.
She said that she does not believe in this superstition, yet she does it anyway.  According to her, there is no validity to this superstition, so she doesn’t believe her wishes will come true.  She believes that this eyelash superstition exists because losing an eyelash is more unusual than losing strands of hair.  Wishing with a strand of a hair would definitely not be as special because people lose many strands of hair everyday.
She tells this superstition because it has become a routine if she sees a loose eyelash.  It has become embedded in her that she has an automatic reaction to tell it.
Like the superstition of making a wish at 11:11, I do not necessarily believe that blowing an eyelash off my finger while making a wish will make my wish come true.  The willingness of a person to make his or her wish happen is what makes a wish come true.  Usually people do not rely on an eyelash wish, so they take action and make it happen.  I believe that eyelash wishing does contribute to making a wish become reality, but a person’s actions are what makes it become reality.


--Informant Info--
Nationality: German
Age: 23
Occupation: Front Desk Worker/ Grad Student
Residence: The Valley
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


“My aunt was injured in a skiing accident and she’s parapaligic and now my cousin believes in 11:11 and now he has an alarm that goes off.  And every 11:11 he makes a wish for her to walk again.  I believe it too and I also make a wish for her.”

The 11:11 wish is relatively new.  The earliest it could have started is the beginning of digital clocks and clocks that actually showed 11:11.  Plus, it is only possible to have two if the time is not military.  It is the only numbers on the clock that is the same backwards, forwards and upside down.  Somehow, this has given the number special powers and has people believing that it is a sign or signals spirit presence.  For this family though, it is a way to influence something they feel helpless in front of.  When medicine doesn’t work, it is much easier to turn to some kind of magic to help.

Folk Rhyme – Star Light, Star Bright

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 35
Occupation: Photographer
Residence: Seattle, Washington
Date of Performance/Collection: March 2007
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Italian

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.


While waiting for a Fourth of July fireworks show, my informant first heard this rhyme from her mother, who taught it to her and told her to watch for the first star.  My informant recalls being restless and was likely annoying her parents, so her mother probably taught her the rhyme to keep her busy looking for the first star until the show began.  My informant distinctly remembered her mother telling her that you must first see the star, then recite the rhyme, and only then could she make a wish.  If she did not follow that order, the wish would not come true.  When she finally saw a star in the sky, she recited the rhyme and wished that her pets at home would be ok and that the loud fireworks nearby would not scare them.

My informant suggested that this rhyme is simple and is likely to be shared only between children and the parents of those children.  She also believes that many parents likely use this rhyme to quiet their children before they go to bed.  If they’re preoccupied looking out the window for a star, they’re not making a fuss.  It’s interesting to note that this rhyme also operates as a superstition, because it details how one can make a wish.  My informant is not completely sure of whether or not the rhyme or the superstition came first, but imagines that the superstition came first and the originator of the rhyme took the details of the wish and made them rhyme.  My informant tried to remember if an improper recitation of the rhyme has any impact on a wish, but she doesn’t believe one needs to say the rhyme correctly for their wish to come true.  As long as someone sees the first star in the sky, performs the rhyme, and make a wish, in that order, the wish is likely to come true.

There are several interesting aspects of this rhyme that can be analyzed to gain an understanding to why it is still being passed down from generation to generation.  First, wishing this way means you can only wish once per day, and this limit is likely to make a wisher more sincere in their requests.  Also, the lines, “I wish I may, I wish I might,” suggest that the star that is being wished upon is of a higher authority and can permit and deny the wishes it chooses.  This superstition is unique because it suggests that a wish may or may not be granted, while most superstitions indicate exactly what is to occur.  There is no guarantee this wish will be granted, so one must have faith that by performing the rhyme, their wish will be granted more likely than if they had not.

I have lived in Los Angeles County my entire life, and my personal opinion is that it’s considerably difficult to wish upon a star because the first star cannot be seen through the smog.  Also, with all of the planes and satellites in the sky, it can sometimes be tedious to find a star among bright objects in the sky.  For this reason, children may be performing the rhyme less frequently nowadays.  Also, the rhyme says I should wish on, “the first star I see tonight,” but I’ve heard that for the wish to come true, the wish must be made when there is only one visible star in the entire sky.  This prevents you from walking outside at midnight and making any star wishing star.  This version instills patience, and makes your wish mean something, because you have to wait for the perfect moment when there is only one visible star.