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Bar/Bat Mitzvah 101: What to Know About This Jewish Milestone

The coming of age celebration in any religion is a vital part of growing up and accepting one’s role in the community.

For Jewish boys, this occasion usually comes at the age of 13 and is referred to as a bar mitzvah. Young Jewish ladies celebrate their bat mitzvah between the ages of 12 and 13. It is not until they reach that milestone that they are able to participate in all aspects of the Jewish community.

When to Celebrate a Bar/Bat Mitzvah

The age of the bar/bat mitzvah coincides with the average age of puberty – 13 for boys and 12 for girls. However, adult bar/bat mitzvahs are growing increasingly popular and can be celebrated at any age! For some that convert to the religion instead of having been brought up on it, having a bar/bat mitzvah is a crucial part of being accepted into the Jewish community.

Why Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are Important Jewish Celebrations

Besides marking the official steps into adulthood, having a bar/bat mitzvah celebrations is a great way to invite non-Jewish friends and family to participate in such a momentous occasion.

It is also the last “official” celebration for the guest of honor as young man or young lady. From this day forward, their actions take on a much more important role in the community and it is no longer the responsibility of their parents to answer for them. Think of it as a last “hurrah” – one with lots of food, drink, and of course chair lifting.

How To Celebrate a Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bar/Bat mitzvah celebrations seem to be getting gradually larger every year. Even though the only mandatory part of the agenda is the service, typically taking place in a temple, today the celebration extends to a formal party similar to a wedding. And like a wedding, these celebrations can come with a pretty hefty price tag if you’re not careful. In order to cut costs, some temples have allocated space for these type of events. They are available to rent at a discounted rate than a free-standing venue may be, so contact your local temples for rates and packages they may have.

Once you have the venue, you need to cover a few basics. Since this is a sort of birthday celebration, you can have more fun with the decorating than you may with a wedding. At this age, certain theme parties are still seen as trendy, so you can fill your tables with centerpieces made of balloons and figurines. To save money, you can stick to a traditional color theme, which is still chic, but more budget-friendly than that Justin Bieber theme may be.

For the menu, a classic buffet style will do - no need for those fancy bite-size meals.  Keep in mind that a majority of your guests will still be in their teens, so they prefer a fried finger food than a juicy piece of salmon.

And since the room is going to be full of mostly kids, you can opt out of that open bar option. Instead, provide your own alcohol for the guests of age to save some serious dough. Use that extra cash to provide some fun entertainment the kids will love. A DJ usually comes prepared with some party game classics, and will know the popular party songs of the year.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Gift

As with any birthday celebration, guests are expected to bring a gift of money or tangible object the guest of honor would like. When gifting money or gift certificates, keep in mind the Jewish rule of “18”. All monetary gifts should be in multiples of 18 – 18, 36, 54. The number 18 symbolizes the word “chai” in the Hebrew language, which translates to “life”.  By gifting someone with a multiple of 18, you are also wishing them a long and happy life.

If you wish to give a gift other than money, consider giving something related to the Jewish religion, or something that is meaningful to the guest of honor. But do keep in mind that this isn’t just a religious milestone, it is also a birthday celebration!

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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