Two brothers recently celebrated their birthdays. The older boy turned 6 at the end of May. His Mum told me that he loves to play with cars, and enjoys football and basketball too. I made him the driver of a bright red sports car and by the side of the road there is a basketball net and football goal, ready for him when he wants to go and play.
His younger brother turned 3 just a few days before him. His photo showed him with a mass of curly blond hair, though Mum said that it was soon going to be cut. It is customary to allow a Jewish boy's hair to grow untouched until he's 3 years old. On his third birthday friends are invited to an upsherin haircutting ceremony (from the German words "scheren", which means "to shear" and auf, which means "off").
There are a number of explanations for this three year wait. Some relate it to the Biblical law which stipulates that you are not allowed to eat fruit from a tree during the first three years after it is planted. Jewish tradition sometimes compares human life to the life of trees. Waiting three years to cut a child's hair, like waiting three years to pick a tree's fruit, suggests the hope that the child will eventually grow tall like a tree and produce fruit.
Another theory is that the upsherin is the third in a series of "cuts" symbolising a child's movements away from his mother and into the world. First the umbilical cord is cut after the birth, then the foreskin is cut during the brit milah. The haircut at age 3 marks the beginning of the child's movement into society when he is ready to be less dependent on his mother and to interact more with adults and friends.
Besides the important haircut, this blue-eyed 3 year old enjoys doing puzzles and absolutely loves the Winnie-the-Pooh character Eeyore. His Mum also said that he sings and dances a lot. He sounds like a delightful little boy!