Long thick hair has always been a sign of pristine beauty, and neatly braided hair - a symbol of chastity, purity and an integral part of the image of a Ukrainian girl.
It was believed that if a girl knew how to take good care of her hair, she would then become a good hostess in the future – hard working and preppy. Therefore, from a very young age mothers would teach their daughters to pay great attention to their hair.
Ribbons were the most important decoration and accessory for girls. On Sunday or holidays girls would pick out their best ribbon and wrap it around their head. The remaining ribbons would be placed in the back of the head, forming a sort of a cascade. Even in the olden days girls had their beauty tricks. They would use vines to form head bands, which they would later cover with ribbons and decorate with various flowers, forming a sort of a crown. It is thus understandable that ribbons as well as necklaces were always desirable gifts.
The most solemn moment of a traditional folk wedding was undoing the bride's braid. This moment symbolized the end of virginity, single life and the transition to a new social status. The bride would sit on a barrel, covered with a ‘kozhukh’ or sheepskin coat. Her newly wed husband would start undoing her braid just enough to take out the ribbon he would then keep for himself. The bridesmaids would complete this ceremony – both joyous and sad, as it marked the end of an ‘era’, the end to ‘freedom’ but at the same time, the acquisition of a very special new status. Once the hair was unbraided, the bride’s hair was covered with a head scarf.
There were many beliefs and superstitions connected with braids and hair too.
In order to have healthy thick hair, girls would place some rope under their pillows on Christmas Eve.
Certain traditions or even rules also applied to haircuts. Never was one supposed to cut their own hair! It was believed that hair was a link between a man and the heavens, the upper powers, and by cutting off one’s own hair a person could change their own destiny, often for the worse. It was also thought that hair maintained one’s life forces, so trimming your own hair could shorten your life span. Another ‘legend’ stated that girls were not advised to cut their own hair to avoid ‘cutting off’ all their admirers.
Girls were also not supposed to throw any hairs away after combing or cutting it. There is a legend about a bird that found a hair and made a nest out of it, and so the person suffered severe headaches until the bird’s offsprings left the nest. In the past it was customary to burn any hair that was cut off.
Slavs believed that if a girl wanted to remain young and beautiful for a long time, she should not comb her hair after nightfall. Our ancestors never cut their relatives, especially their spouses hair, because it was believed to be a source of conflict and discord in the family.