The custom waiting to cut a boy's hair until he is three and having a party to celebrate - upshirin in Yiddish or halakeh in Arabic - symbolises the end of infancy and the start of doing mitzvot. The rabbis see three as the age when a child's parents should introduce him to the world of Torah. The earliest source for this custom is the 16th-century kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, who cut his three-year-old son's hair at the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mt Meron on Lag ba'Omer.
Rabbis and family members are honoured with cutting the first snips. Often the child is bemused by all the fuss and by his new, less shaggy look. Until recently, the upshirin was a Chasidic practice. Now some non-Charedi communities have adopted the custom - for boys and girls - as a way of marking the passage from toddler to child.