Nang Rong, Buriram: "The First Haircut"

10 February 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Along with the photographs he neatly pasted into my Baby Album (photos, I may note, of a very cute infant boy) my father Otto also affixed a small white envelope. The envelope is clearly marked, "Jan's First Haircut." Inside the envelope to this very day is a shock of fine, light-brown baby hair. Cute?

Ten years ago in Miami I noticed that the hair of my neighbor's young son grew longer and longer, almost to his shoulders. My neighbor, Levi explained that his son Baruch-David will have his first haircut at three years of age - a Jewish tradition.

Three years ago my friends in Mumbai, Sushma and Paawan invited me to Mundan Sanskar, the traditional Hindu hair cutting ceremony for their one and a half year old son Agastya. *

Last year, our Rabbi here in Bangkok announced that his three year old son Ephraim would soon undergo the traditional haircut ceremony or Upsherin. Rabbi Kantor explained: "In Judaism we recognize three cuts. The first is the umbilical cut. The second is the circumcision. The third, the cutting of the hair, takes place at the moment the young son is ready to begin study of Torah, the sacred books of Jewish learning.

Most recently, my friends Mai and Mark invited me to the Buddhist haircut ceremony, Kornphomfai, for their daughter Molly, now about eight months old. Also participating were Molly's infant cousin, Prairwar, and her parents and grandparents and great-grandfather.

The ceremony took place in a temple, Wat Rongmantade, near the Layton's home in Nang Rong, a small town in Buriram Province. The monks, in their traditional saffron robes, were sitting in a line on a platform. Mark presented Molly to each monk and they snipped a few hairs from her head and sprinkled her with holy water. Then Mai brought the monks a freshly cooked meal and Mark then went down the line of monks once again with a white envelope and a donation. In fact, Mark has been a generous supporter of the temple. His name is engraved on a plaque on the bell tower.

Back home, Mark held Molly as Mai shaved off all her remaining hair. Molly, normally a bubbly, cheerful girl was not happy. But it's hot now and she will be more comfortable with less hair.

Hair cutting ceremonies? I know it's hard to believe, but I have missed one: The Aqeeqah. The Muslim ceremony essentially consists of two acts: the shaving of the hair from the head of a newborn baby, and the sacrifice of an animal. The hair on the child's head is shaven and its weight in silver is given as charity. An animal is then sacrificed as a mark of celebration and distributed amongst friends, family, the poor and a portion is kept for ones own consumption. **

Perhaps one day one of my Muslim friends will invite me. Who can resist roast lamb?

Are we not all one and the same? From Mongolia to Montana, from Kashmir to Chicago, from Turkey to Timbuktu to Tel Aviv, with devotion and joy, every parent everywhere celebrates the arrival of their new and precious gift. **

Tell me, when, oh when will we all celebrate "the first haircut" together?








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