Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jonathan. Jonathan Wonders, “Why do jewish men wear kippas? Or in hebrew...yarmulke?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jonathan!

Do you have a favorite hat? Maybe you wear a baseball cap when you go outside to play. You’ve probably seen pictures of people wearing beautiful fancy hats for the Kentucky Derby. Hats and head coverings can come in handy to block the sun or rain. Sometimes, people wear hats as part of their everyday personal style.

Sometimes hats and head coverings carry special meaning. Many brides wear a veil during their wedding. Certain colors or types of hats can show cultural status. Some hats show a person’s type of job—like a ten-gallon hat or a hard hat. Still other coverings reveal a person’s religion. Today’s Wonder is all about a type of skullcap called a kippa or yarmulke (yAH-muh-kuh).

Kippa is a Hebrew word for dome or skullcap. Another name for it is yarmulke, which is a Yiddish word with the same meaning. There are varying ideas on the history of the Yiddish word. Its roots may be based on Aramaic religious expressions. Or, it may derive from a Turkic word for rainwear. Judaism has existed for over 3,000 years. The tradition of wearing a head covering only started with European Jews in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Jewish people wear kippot (plural of kippa). The caps are brimless. They make them out of various types of cloth. Sizes of kippot also vary. Color, size, fabric, and decoration can all show specific clues about the wearer.

Yarmulkes and kippot have become religious symbols. Observance rules require Jewish males to cover their heads for prayer and for religious occasions. No religious text requires Jewish males to cover their heads in a certain way. Wearing a yarmulke or kippa is a custom now. Synagogues, Jewish religious buildings, ask that all men wear yarmulkes as they enter.

Legend says that the custom of wearing the kippa shows awareness that someone above watches everything. We expect Jewish males to always wear kippot. Showering and sleeping are the only exceptions. Some very Orthodox Jewish men may wear a hat over their kippa. They believe this shows extra faith and reserve during prayer.

Jewish women did not wear kippa in the past. In modern times, however, it has become more common. Conservative and Reform females of Jewish faith are most likely to wear kippot during prayer and religious study.

 As mentioned earlier, they can make yarmulkes of different materials, colors, and with a variety of adornments. Orthodox men wear black velvet or silk kippot. They may be slightly larger than others. They are left plain.

Those who are observant but less Orthodox may wear knitted, crocheted, or fabric kippot. Their caps often have a design included. The Star of David is a popular motif. Some choose to show their beliefs through the pattern. There may bear a message of peace in Hebrew. Or a rainbow pattern. Others may have many kippot to match their fashion choices.

Do you wear a kippa or yarmulke? Maybe you own many hats. What message do you hope people get about you from your choice of head covering?

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.8, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.9, NCAS.PR.6

Wonder What's Next?

Do you believe in angels? Join us in Wonderopolis tomorrow to meet the woman Civil War soldiers called “the angel of the battlefield.”