Haircuts and Lag Ba’Omer

Background: Informant is a 51 year old Israeli American. They grew up in Israel and hold a lot of Israeli culture within them. They immigrated to the Chicago area of the United States in the late 90s. They live in a largely Jewish area where access to Jewish religious services and resources are plentiful. 

Informant: Jews from… I don’t know if it’s European I think it’s Hassidim. Like, religious Jews. They don’t cut their hair because of the payas. You know what I mean? To leave payas? They do it in Lag Ba’Omer. So in Lag Ba’Omer all the kiddos, the babies like up to age 3 are coming and they get their haircut. It’s called, Ushkilin or something like that? And that’s it. 

Me: But like, why? Why do they wait to cut their hair?

Informant: It’s a tradition! Yeah, but I wasn’t too much into it. First it looks cute and second it’s in the religion. It’s a tradition to… I don’t know if it has anything like, health related or a purpose? Or you cut the hair because they are now a toddler? 

Reflection: This tradition was interesting to hear about because it involves the preservation of young kids hair in Jewish tradition. I found it funny how my informant described the tradition, as they inserted some of their own opinions into the description. They were also a bit hazy on the specifics but what is important is they knew the tradition and followed it themselves. It shows how sometimes we follow traditions blindly, without knowing why, just because we feel comfort in them. This piece also shows a ritual celebration called Lag Ba’Omer, where the cutting of the boy’s hair is done. This is to mark a change from being a baby and becoming a child.

For a mother’s experience with this ritual, look here:

“First-haircut, common at Lag B’Omer, can be mom’s rite of passage, too.” Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, 31 March 2008, Accessed 29 April 2022.