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The Basics of the Upsherin

The Basics of the Upsherin

A Boy's First Haircut


A child’s third birthday signals a major transition in his or her education. For the first three years of life, a child absorbs the surrounding sights and sounds and the parents’ loving care. The child is a receiver, not yet ready to give. At the age of three, children’s education takes a leap—they are now ready to produce and share their unique gifts.

For a Jewish boy, this transition is marked with a ceremony. It is an age-old custom to allow a boy’s hair to grow untouched until he’s three years old. On his third Jewish birthday, friends are invited to a haircutting ceremony—called an upsherin in Yiddish, and a chalakah by Sephardic Jews. The child’s peyot (biblically mandated side-locks) are left intact—the initiation into his first mitzvah.

The world now begins to benefit from the Torah study and mitzvot of this young childFrom this point on, a child is taught to wear a kipah and tzitzit, and is slowly trained to recite blessings and the Shema. The world now begins to benefit from the Torah study and mitzvot of this young child.

The Venue:

An upsherin is traditionally a modest event, usually held at home or in a local synagogue. Light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres are the standard fare.

Many celebrate their child’s upsherin at the gravesite of a tzaddik (holy individual). In Israel, many make upsherins in Meron, at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon, author of the Zohar.

The Ceremony:

The lad is dressed in tzitzit and kipah, and all attending take their turn at cutting a snippet of hair. The honor of cutting the first lock is often reserved for the rabbi or a kohen (priest).

As always, a Jewish function is graced with some words of Torah.


There are many days on the calendar when haircutting is forbidden or discouraged. If the third birthday falls on one of these days, the upsherin is postponed until the first possible permitted opportunity. As such, speak to your rabbi before scheduling your son’s upsherin.

For customs associated with a girl’s maturing, see our Shabbat candle-lighting instructions.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Discussion (13)
March 8, 2017
what do you give to the 3 year old......
I am going to a 3 year old haircutting ceremony. What is an appropriate gift....
fishkill ny
March 2, 2017
There is no blessing recited specifically for an upshernish.
Malkie Janowski for
February 28, 2017
Are there particular blessings that should be recited? Anything by the rabbi? Thank you!
December 5, 2014
To Tina
A gift to the child is perfectly fine although not mandatory :) Enjoy! Staff
December 4, 2014
I am new to all this. I was not raised in an observant home. I am learning, so someone tell me what is appropriate to bring as a guest to an Upsherin? Is it normal to bring the child a gift? A gift to the parents? Both? Wine or a appetizer to add to the party? All of the above? Thank you!
Tinah Brown
April 23, 2012
There's no female equivalent of the upsherin, because the main point of the haircutting is to leave the peyot - sidelocks - which a girl does not wear. Girls have their own ritual which begins at age three, traditionally that is when they start lighting a candle before the beginning of Shabbat. According to tradition our matriarch Rivkah-Rebecca began lighting at that age.
Malkie Janowski for
April 22, 2012
Do Little Girls Have A Hair Cutting Ceremony?

That is similar to the boys' upsherin?
Carolyn Barratt
Mississauga, Canada
August 24, 2011
Re: So one may cut a girl's hair before age three?
Yes, the custom of upsherin applies to boys, and girls can get a haircut earlier than age three.
Rochel Chein for
August 23, 2011
So one may cut a girl's hair before age three?
I enjoyed this post and the comments. I have a 17 month old daughter whose hair is getting into her eyes. I'm assuming based on the last line of the article "For customs associated with a girl’s maturing, see our Shabbat candle-lighting instructions." that this custom of not cutting hair until age 3 applies only to the boys and not the girls. Is this correct? I read the article on shabbat lighting and understood that this is what a girl does instead for her maturing. Please let me know if I understood correctly.
Dallas, TX
May 6, 2011
post by J. Krieger, about upsherin, and a question
How beautiful, what she wrote! I cried through the whole thing. I am going to my first one in a few weeks. I would like to know if I should bring a gift, and if so, what should it be?
Marsha Myerowitz
Monroeville, PA