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Shaving baby’s hair off in China: a baffling custom

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For the past few weeks I've been admiring a new member of my housing compound: a cute little baby with the biggest mop of hair! Every day after work, I see a group of mothers huddled together at the entrance admiring each others' babies. It's a nice sight to come home to after a long day's work. One of the baby's in particular stood out because of the amount of hair on its head. I instantly took a shine to him/her.

But yesterday something broke the usual routine. I arrived back at the compound entrance and saw the same women huddled around playing with the babies. But “Hairy baby” was nowhere in sight. There were only bald ones, which though cute, just didn't stand out.

And then it hit me: “Hairy baby” was hairy no longer – his/her hair had been shaved off clean! My initial thought was how could they shave off that beautiful, healthy-looking mop of hair? But I'd heard about this before. My Chinese friend shaved her baby's hair off too a month after birth. At the time, she said that all Chinese parents do this to their newborns and that it ensures healthier, stronger hair in the future.

But my parents never shaved my head and I have a pretty respectable mane on my scalp. Surely that's some kind of old-wives tale? So I researched further and found out that shaving the hair of newborns is actually quite common in many countries across the world, not just China. Most websites out there say it's either a religious or cultural thing, often associated with traditional customs or superstitions.

In China, babies are often shaved at one month, three months or 100 days. Obviously, there is no scientific basis behind this and it is purely a custom based on some ancient tradition. After speaking to a couple of Chinese parents, I've come to the conclusion that the younger generation pays less attention to superstitions but genuinely believe that shaving their baby's hair will make their hair grow back stronger and healthier. It kind of reminds me of those ugly apron thingys pregnant women wear. Scientists have said that these don't help in the slightest, but still women are convinced that it's good for their babies. Oh well, I suppose the baby is too young to care at that age so if it puts nervous parents at ease, then so be it. I just know that when the day comes that I have a baby, I'm going to hide all the razors and shavers from my Chinese mother-in-law and husband. They're not touching his/her hair or else….

2016-06-23

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