Baby's First Haircut
Hair plays an important role in many cultures. The first haircut can have significance as a tradition or rite of passage in certain regions, cultures and religions. In many Asian cultures for instance, it is believed that shaving a baby's first head of hair helps to promote new hair growth. Here we have collected a few interesting traditions around the world with respect to a baby's first haircut. Perhaps you know of other traditions. Let us know!
In Islam, a baby's head is often shaved and anointed with saffron. According to the sayings of Muhammad, “A baby is being pledged for his aqiqah, sacrifice is made for him on the seventh day, his head is shaved, and a name is given him". Then it is prescribed to give to charity with gold or silver equal in weight to the hair. It is sufficient to estimate the weight and other forms of payment.
Many Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish boys get their first haircut when they are three years old. The hair-cutting ceremony is known in Yiddish as the upsherenish or upsherin (shear off), and in Hebrew "halaqah" (smoothing). In Israel, there are also non-religious families who practice this tradition and do not cut their sons' hair until the age of three. A mass hair cutting ceremony is held on the holiday of Lag Ba'omer at the tomb of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai in the Galilean town of Meron.
In Hindu tradition, hair from birth is associated with undesirable traits from past lives. At the time of the mundan, a child is freshly shaven to signify freedom from the past and moving into the future. It is also said that the shaving of the hair stimulates proper growth of the brain and nerves, and that the sikha, a tuft at the crown of the head, protects the memory. A boy's first haircut is considered a great event and must take place in his first or third year. While completely shaving the head is common, some families prefer to shave only partially in order to differentiate the haircut from the full shave that would take place at the death of a parent. When hair is completely shaved, it is often offered to a family deity. A Hindu girl traditionally does not cut her hair after the first haircut which normally happens at the age of 11 months. The first haircut for a girl is very important because it is the only time she will have it cut. Some Hindus will shave their daughter's hair. Details vary by region.
In the Yazidi tradition (mainly Iran), the bisk ceremony involves cutting of a baby boy's two or three first locks by the 40th day after his birth. The locks are given to the family's shaikh and pir. Or in more recent times, the haircut happens between 7 and 11 months, and then kept by the family. The bisk ceremony is regarded as the first rite of passage by many Yazidis from Turkey, Armenia. and Syria. In the European Diaspora, the term is often translated as baptism. The ceremony is similar to the Muslim aqiqa celebrated on the seventh day after birth, but the Yazidi ceremony takes place later, after the child has already been named.
Mongolian children get their first haircut in early ages between 2-5. Depending on the lunar calendar, boys receive their first hair cut in even years and girls in odd years. The ritual of cutting the first hair is called Daah' Urgeeh. It is an important event for a whole family and guests are invited. Each guest cuts a strand of hair while sharing wishes with the child, and then giving a gift.
The ritual first haircut for boys is a pre-Christian, Slavic tradition, though it survived in Poland well into the 18th century. The first haircut traditionally took place between the ages of 7 and 10, and was conducted by either the boy's father or a stranger, who would become part of the family through the ceremony. Before the haircut, the boy's life was connected to his mother and he was considered a child. The ritual haircut, along with the giving of a name (usually the third), marked the boy's coming of age as a man.
Do you know of a unique tradition for a baby's first haircut? Let us know at CultureReady.org!