Whether your child is 3 months or 3 years old, a haircut can be
traumatic. Here are a few tips for making things go more smoothly,
from Jill Jensen, lead store manager for KidSnips in Deerfield:
If all a baby's 'firsts,' the first haircut surely ranks among
the most special. The whole family comes to watch, someone takes
pictures, and more than a few tears are shed-by baby and by
But not every family celebrates this milestone in the same way.
The most common practice in the United States is for parents to
bring their child to a salon or a barbershop when the hair starts
to look too scraggly or sometime after the first birthday. Many
parents save a lock of hair for the baby book.
In other countries, however, the 'where,' 'when' and 'why' of a
baby's first haircut are different.
For Farha Badal's son Fayaz, the first haircut came when he was
a mere seven days old-and not because he was born with especially
long hair. Rather, it's because Fayaz and his family, who live in
Glendale Heights, are Muslim.
The seven-day haircut is a religious obligation, part of the
child's 'initiation' into Muslim life, says Shaykh Abdool Rahman
Khan, resident scholar at the Islamic Foundation of Villa Park. The
general idea is that shaving the baby's head-removing the hair
grown in the womb-cleanses the body at the beginning of life.
Traditionally, the hair is weighed and its value in silver is
given to charity. Since the average newborn's hair doesn't exactly
tip the scales, many families simply make a charitable
What is done with the hair afterwards varies depending on local
Muslim custom. Some families simply toss it in the trash. But for
Badal, a native of Hyderabad, India, tradition called for the first
wisps of hair to be washed away in water. "We did ours in Lake
Michigan," she says.
Muslims aren't the only group for whom a baby's first haircut
has religious meaning. Hindu babies have their heads shaved, or
tonsured, and the hair is given as an offering to the family
This tonsuring, and the elaborate Mundan ceremony that
accompanies the haircut, can only take place during the odd months
of the baby's life.
For parents in India, the event typically takes place at their
family deity temple. However, like many Indians living abroad,
Sangita Santhanam of Lombard had to make a few modifications to the
custom. When her son Siddhartha was 7 months old, they tonsured his
head at a local salon and kept the hair. During a visit to India,
they dropped the hair in their temple's offering box.
"Having seen all the kids in our family go through this ritual,
it was nice to see him go through it as well," Santhanam says.
But that's not to say that Siddhartha's first haircut was a
completely joyous experience. "The fact that he wailed and
complained throughout was the not-so-pleasant aspect."
Chinese custom says that babies should have a "good luck"
haircut after the traditional one-month postpartum resting period
for mother and child. Grandmothers do the cutting. Red-the Chinese
color of good luck-plays an important role.
With each of her grandchildren, Chicagoan Ruth Kung took
specially prepared balls of rice, red paper envelopes filled with
money and eggs dyed red and passed them over the child's forehead,
wishing him or her strength, peace of mind and smooth skin.
Some families shave the entire head except for the crown, while
others take just a few snips of the hair. After the haircut, the
child puts on a red cap especially for the occasion.
Unfortunately, says Kung, the good luck haircut is a dying
tradition, practiced these days only by those with an old-fashioned
mother or grandmother.
Orthodox Jewish custom has perhaps one of the longest timelines
for a baby's first haircut.
Following tradition, Chicagoan Devorah Lifchitz left her son
Shalom Dov Ber's hair long until his third birthday. Then, in a
special ceremony at the synagogue, family and community members
took turns snipping off his hair. This ceremony, called an
upsherenish, is part haircut, part birthday party and the official
start of a boy's Jewish education.
In a modern twist on this old world tradition, many Orthodox
parents donate their sons' hair to Locks of Love, a charity that
makes wigs for ill children.
Why wait until age 3? Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, regional director
of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, finds meaning in the Torah, where
a verse says man is like the tree of the field, and in Israeli law,
which says trees cannot have their fruit used until they've reached
their third year.
"We take from that a lesson that the child is in a more innocent
state by not cutting his hair," he says.
The upsherenish can be both a proud and a bittersweet moment for
parents. "I think it was more emotional. "When he had long hair, he
was innocent like a baby. Now that we cut his hair, he's more like
a little boy and he acts like a little boy," Lifchitz says.
Jill Jensen, lead store manager for KidSnips children's hair
salon in Deerfield, would agree. No matter how old the child is,
she says, "it's not uncommon for someone to feel that they ended
babyhood by getting that first boy haircut."
The little baby curls around the ears are gone, and the clean
line on the back looks grown-up.
"It's the end of an era, a milestone, a rite of passage."
Danielle Logacho lives in Lombard. Her daughter, Sofia,
received her first haircut around her first birthday, while her
son, Lucas, got his first trim at 6 months.
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