Cutting baby hair: between culture and religion

If generally, it is customary to keep the first lock of hair of baby, symbolic and sentimental act, this action takes much more sense in some cultures and religions.
The first haircut of a baby corresponds in many societies to a form of integration.
The tiny lock of hair that Western parents keep in the baby’s album echoes multiple rituals concerning the hair of newborns in other societies.
Here is an update on these sometimes far-fetched customs!

Cutting baby’s hair: religious traditions

In the Judaic tradition, it is at the age of three that the first haircut for boys takes place. The custom of Upshirin, a Yiddish word meaning “cut”, practiced mainly in religious circles, marks a second fundamental step in the life of the boy child after circumcision.

It is at this age that his religious education officially begins and he begins to wear the kippah and tzitzits.
The three years of age represent an important transitional stage in the Judaic tradition when the boy is no longer a baby associated with the maternal and feminine world, but is about to enter the world of friends, of school…
The haircut announces this new role.

In the Muslim religion, the haircut is performed during the Aqiqa ceremony on the 7th day (after birth). During this celebration, the head of the newborn is shaved and the child is given his or her name.

In the Maghreb, depending on the region and the context (Berber world, nomadic peoples…), children’s haircuts present a great diversity of practices: periodicity that can go from one week to several years and distinction of hairstyles according to the sexes…

In Algeria, once the baby’s head is shaved, the hair is rolled into several balls, threaded and hung around the baby’s neck until the necklace falls off by itself.
In the Slavic world, the haircut corresponds to the entry of the young boy into the non-children’s camp.
This haircut is performed by the godfather, a particularly esteemed person who thus becomes the child’s protector. This practice is carried out at different ages depending on the region: on the first or second birthday in Russia, around three years old in Belarus, five to seven years old in Serbia, seven years old in Poland.

This tradition sometimes concerns girls, and is then associated with nail cutting and ear piercing.

Cutting baby hair: ancestral customs

In ancient China, the first cut baby hair is enclosed in a red bag, attached to the child’s belt or sewn into his pillow.
It was said that newborn hair had the ability to ward off bad luck. Some people even collected this hair, made balls of it and hung them on their door.

The experience of life does not begin until the newborn has a shaved head, so the first haircut of the baby is a milestone for many Chinese.
It is also customary to leave a little bit of hair on the front, in case the angels should catch the baby on their way to heaven.

In Madagascar, Ala Volon-Jaza means “the first haircut of a baby”. When the baby reaches its 3rd month, it is cut for the first time.
For this, the mother chooses a person with beautiful hair and hopes that the hair of her child will resemble that of the person chosen. At the time of the cut, the person is absolutely not allowed to turn the head for fear that the baby will squint!

While some people shave the baby’s head, others do not cut or comb the hair. Also in Mongolia, for example, parents wait several years before the first haircut, which takes place at the age of two or four for girls and three or five for boys, an act that marks the child’s entry into society. Each person close to the child will then cut a lock of hair. From birth to this first cut, the child is perceived as an intermediary being, a messenger between two worlds.


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