Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: The Best Way to Party

image2After much debate over what I should discuss in this week’s blog entry, I decided to talk about Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Now I can only talk about Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations in South Florida, because they are the only ones I have been to. However, based on conversations with my non-Florida Jew friends, the celebration can be quite different elsewhere in the country.

barmitzvahstockphotoLet me briefly explain what a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is. Think of the Quinceañera for Latin American girls and the debutante for the upper-class teen. Like these two celebrations, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the Jewish coming-of-age celebration. Bar Mitzvah is the term for males and Bat Mitzvah is the term for girls. Boys become a Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13, while girls can become a Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12, but most wait until they are 13.

While there is a common misconception that the party or reception is the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the actual ceremony is what really matters. Would you have a wedding reception without tying the knot first? No. It just doesn’t make sense. Picture yourself at age 13, when you are at the most awkward stage in your life. You are just starting to go through puberty. Boys’ voices are cracking. The girls are taller than the boys and both sexes are getting acne. Now picture yourself chanting a song in another language up on a stage (or in Jewish terms, the bima*) with over 200 people staring at you. Talk about pressure! The only motivation to get through this awkward situation is the party that is only a few hours away that is 100% about you.

Open Bar or Bust!

Open Bar or Bust!

As sentimental as the ceremony is, the party is far and beyond the best part. Just like most weddings (99% of Jewish weddings), there is typically an open bar. Yup, that’s right – an open bar for a 13 year old’s coming-of-age party. The main reason the adults can stay sane while all of the crazy kids run around like wild monkeys.

Now that's an entrance.

Now that's an entrance.

After a normal cocktail hour the doors to the main event open up. Just like a wedding, the family and the Bar Mitzvah boy or the Bat Mitzvah girl are introduced to a super cheesy song like “This is Your Night.” This is then followed by the candle lighting ceremony. Thirteen tall candles are positioned on a stand that usually has something to do with the theme of the party. For example, my candles were in tea cups (this will make sense in the next paragraph where my theme is revealed). Each candle signifies a family member/group and/or close friends. It is an honor to get called up to light a candle. Each candle is presented with a cheesy poem and a song that represents the person/people lighting the candle. At the end of the ceremony, the candles are blown out like a birthday cake.

beth_kroman_bat_mitzvah_party0007-541x436Another cool thing about having a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is that at 13 years of age, you are in total control. Well almost. What I mean by this is that every party has a theme. Most boys choose a sports-related theme, while other common themes are movies, cars, music, etc. Girl’s themes range from candy to the telephone, to a 60’s theme and even my own theme, which was Ilene in Wonderland. I was originally going for a land where you walked in and everything was big, which then turned into an Alice in Wonderland inspired theme. My mom and I went all out – the place cards were little bottles of water with food coloring that said “Drink Me,” and the center pieces consisted of characters from Alice in Wonderland, which I drew myself, with brightly colored balloons and large foam floral arrangements. I honestly don’t know how the decorations at my wedding will top the way the room looked for my Bat Mitzvah party.

url4About 85% of the parties I went to when I was 13 had a really awesome DJ, while only a handful had a band. The DJ not only brought really hot 20-something year old dancers, but they also played games and gave out prizes, which is super awesome to any 13 year old kid. Only at a Bar Mitzvah will you get to play a giant game of Twister or the famous Coke and Pepsi game. Looking back on things, Coke and Pepsi is one of the most ridiculous games ever invented. The rules are simple – grab a partner and stand on opposite sides of the dance floor. The DJ will tell you which side is “Coke” and which side is “Pepsi.” When Coke is called out, the Coke side runs as fast as they can and sit on top of Pepsi’s lap and visa versa. There are other rules like “Sprite,” which means to freeze. The last person to get to the other side or the first to break the rules is out. Usually this game is fixed so the Bar or Bat Mitzvah kid wins.

I could go on and on about how awesome of a party you get as a Jew at 13 years of age, but I think this is definitely long enough. If I were a 13 year old non-Jew, I would totally convince my parents to let me convert so I could have a wedding-sized party thrown just for me without the commitment to join in holy matrimony. AMEN!

*Bima: the term for the stage in a synagogue

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March 31, 2009. Uncategorized.

2 Comments

  1. Sara Beth B replied:

    The Bar mitzvah ceremony is a passage into adulthood, one of Judaism’s oldest rites of passage. The first bat mitzvah, and the resulting search for feminist equality, took place in the 20th century!

    Other nerdy facts can be accessed via our friendship, DatingJew.

  2. Leigh Hinkel replied:

    Hello —

    I would like to use the 2nd picture shown on this page in a book I am writing. It is a “Coming of Age” course for young men and women entitled “Honor and Sword.”

    Could you please advise me regarding who I need to contact to receive permission?

    Thank you!

    Leigh Hinkel, M.A.
    Chaplain, I.F.O.C., F.C.A.

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