chudakarana hindu first haircut ceremony Wikimedia Commons
Parenting Around The World

How 7 Different Cultures Approach A Child’s First Haircut

Deciding when to cut your child’s hair for the first time is a big deal. There’s just something about those first sprouts, contrasted by your quickly retreating seedlings, that feels special. But what often ends up happening is you sit your crying toddlers in the chair, assure them that it won’t hurt, snap a few Instagram pics, and go on your way. Ice cream may or may not be involved. A celebration it is not.

In many cultures, however, that first snip-session is a right of passage treated with great reverence. For some, it’s a family affair, with all members of the extended family lopping off a child’s locks; for others, it’s a celebration akin to a baptism (or that other snip-session, the briss) that follows strict religious protocol. Here are some of the more interesting first cut traditions around the globe.

In Hinduism, Haircutting Is A Sacred Event

For Hindus, haircuts are part of a series of cleansing rituals known as saṃskāras. A baby’s hair is seen negatively, as it can carry undesirable traits from former lives. Hindu boys get their first haircut — typically a complete shave — during odd months or their first or third year. For Hindu girls, their first is usually around 11 months and doesn’t involve getting sheared. In either case, families usually travel to a temple for the ceremony, which signifies purity and an auspicious future.

hindu samskara first haircut ceremony

Mongolian Families Take Turns With The Clippers

Mongolian babies, depending on the lunar year, get their first haircut between 2 and 5 years old. In a ceremony, family members and guests take turns cutting a piece of the kids’ hair and offering wishes — like “Have a happy, healthy life” — toys, and cash.

First Haircuts In Orthodox Jewish Families Take Cues From Sacred Texts

Never let it be said that Orthodox Jewish parents aren’t patient. According to their traditions, babies don’t get their first haircut until they turn 3, in a ceremony known as upsherin (Yiddish for “shear off”). Why 3? The tradition stems from a verse in the Torah that states a man is like a tree, and in Israeli law, trees cannot be harvested until they’ve matured 3 full years. An upsherin, held at temple with friends and family members, marks the start of a child’s formal education and shows that he is ready to start studying the Torah.

In The Polynesian Tradition, Cut Hair Comes With Cool Gifts

Polynesian culture might have the best first haircut ritual. The ceremony is basically a party, where kids sit on chairs and are covered in special quilts known as tīvaevae. As the child’s hair is sheared, friends and members of the community cover him or her with money and gifts.

Chinese Haircutting Ceremonies Focus On The Red

While Orthodox Jewish parents wait years for the first haircut, tradition-minded Chinese parents only wait one month. The shearing ceremony is known as a “good luck” haircut because many years ago Chinese babies had a high mortality rate. Red, which signifies good luck in Chinese, plays a large role in the first haircut ceremony – a lot of red-dyed foods are present and babies often don a red hat post hair-cut. While some babies have their heads shaved, many parents choose to simply give their kids a trim.

Apaches Are An Outlier In Native American Haircut Rituals

For Native Americans, long hair is a symbol of maturity and therefore many tribes refrain from haircuts unless someone is in mourning. The Apache tribe, however, takes a different approach and holds a haircutting ceremony each spring. The haircut encourages health and success and is often accompanied by a small celebration.

Traditional Muslim Families Don’t Wait Long To Bring Out The Clippers

Muslim babies get their first haircut a mere 7 days after being born. The hair is shaved to show that he or she is completely cleansed and thus ready to begin life as a Muslim. Typically, the hair is weighed and its value is donated to a charity. If the hair doesn’t amount to much, families can simply make a small donation.