Written by Tom Booth
The World of Baby Haircuts
A baby’s first haircut is a significant event in many different cultures from around the world and is treated with great reverence. In Hinduism hair is considered as carrying undesirable traits from previous life, and is shaved during an odd month of the first or third year of the baby’s life. Muslim babies have their first haircut much earlier when they are only seven days old. It is regarded as an act of cleansing, preparing the baby for a life as a good Muslim.
In China, cutting a baby’s hair for the first time is also considered an important event for many families. Historically, high infant mortality due to poor nutrition and low levels of sanitation meant the early months of a baby’s life were thought of as the most pivotal in determining whether he or she would live a long and healthy life. A baby’s first haircut is both a celebration of the birth and the survival of the baby during this fragile period.
A baby’s first haircut traditionally occurs at a ‘Full Moon Party.’ This celebration marks that a full month, or a ‘full moon’, has passed since the baby’s birth, and so the baby is now ready for his or her first trim. Some families celebrate in lavish style with lots of decorations, expensive food and entertainment aplenty, while others prefer to have a smaller, more intimate celebration where the baby receives the full focus of everyone’s attention.
Full Moon Parties are almost always dominated by the colour red. Red is traditionally used at family gatherings and holidays as it is thought to symbolise good fortune and happiness. It is thought that by surrounding the baby with red the family can guarantee a future life of good luck and joy. Eggs, representing new life, are dyed red and given to guests. Guests are also offered pickled ginger, which was traditionally fed to the new mother to help bring the body back into balance after childbirth. Gifts of lucky money placed inside red envelopes are commonly given to the family of the new baby.
The baby, pride of place at the centre of the celebration, will also often wear a beautifully designed red babygrow. He or she will be introduced by the proud mother and father, who may also take this opportunity to introduce the child’s name for the first time. This is also an occasion where the mother is re-introduced to the family. Traditionally the first month after birth is a ‘sitting month’ where mothers spent one month in confinement, drinking medicinal soups and resting in order to regain strength following childbirth.
The hair of the baby then cut. This is traditionally done by a family member. The process is quick and painless but is evidently quite traumatic for some!
A portion of the hair is then taken by the family and tied in a red ribbon to be kept as a keep safe. It is hoped that by trimming the child’s hair it will grow back thicker and darker than before, and will stay with the child until he is much older.
While this is the general process of the Full Moon Party, China is a very large country and so different customs exist in different areas. Some families always leave a tuft of hair on their baby’s head as it is thought to prevent the baby’s soul for escaping the body. Others take the hair and use it to make a special calligraphy brush. Others conclude the ceremony by having mother and baby bathe together with pomelo leaves to wash away evil spirits.