Bar Mitzvah Party Traditions

by Daniel Cobalt
Prior to the party, the bar mitzvah reads from the Torah.

Prior to the party, the bar mitzvah reads from the Torah.

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The hardest part of a Jewish boy reaching the age of majority, when religious requirements become mandatory, occurs during the months before the bar mitzvah day as he learns all the things he needs to know to participate in the synagogue ceremony. Then the stressful part comes when the bar mitzvah, son of commandment, must stand before the community and go to the Torah for the first time as a full member. Therefore, in the United States, often the part most anticipated comes after the religious service -- when the time comes to party.


Originally, no formal synagogue ceremony or celebration marked a boy becoming a bar mitzvah and later it involved only the ceremony of the first time he goes to read the Torah. Eventually, the celebration expanded from the synagogue to the home, where participants enjoyed a feast and listened to the bar mitzvah talk about a religious topic, typically related to the week's Torah portion.


Bar mitzvah parties still contain older elements, including feasts and a traditional talk by the bar mitzvah on a Jewish topic. Other aspects of the celebration vary depending on the finances of the family, local customs and their synagogue affiliation. Strict sects, such as Orthodox and Hasidism, typically continue with traditional celebrations involving food and religious conversations. Among other Jewish groups, such as Reform and Conservative, little conformation in party celebrations exists. Some celebrations rival wedding receptions.


Giving gifts to the bar mitzvah occurs commonly at most bar mitzvah parties. Traditional gifts include a nice pen set, money or savings bonds and religious gifts. Traditionally, money or bond gifts come in multiples of 18, the number that represents the Jewish word for life. Religious gifts ideas include a tzedakah or charity box, Jewish books and religious items. Asking the rabbi or parents for suggestions, particularly for religious items, helps select appropriate gifts. Many people give modern presents such as gift cards, digital music devices and video games.


The bar mitzvah often dresses in new clothing bought for the occasion. Certainly most people attending the synagogue service dress in clothing respectful of the event. However, after the service many may change into less formal clothes for the party. Informal or party clothing usually fit with home celebrations. Some bar mitzvah celebrations may occur at restaurants or party facilities with requirements for formal attire. Consult the host and hostess regarding appropriate clothing if the bar mitzvah invitation did not provide the information.

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