What a bar or bat mitzvah is all about
A bar mitzvah is a coming of age ceremony for a Jewish boy; the equivalent for girls is the bat mitzvah. It is a time for great celebration among the boy or girl's family and close friends, with bat and bar mitzvah planning and preparation taking place for months leading up to the actual event.
While the bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah services varying significantly across orthodox Judaism and its secular branches, there are a few universal features of the ceremony. The candidate is required to read from the Torah or Jewish holy book in public, typically during a Shabbat or other religious service in a synagogue. Following religious services, a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah celebration is held, during which a meal is served and the candidate receives gifts from his or her family and friends.
Bar Mitzvah Party Planning
The party planning basics don't differ a whole lot from secular celebrations. While the candidate's religious community may offer facilities for the occasion, booking a banquet hall is also common practice. Invitations are sent out, and the venue is outfitted with bar mitzvah decorations. Catering services are usually retained, as bar and bat mitzvahs tend to be rather large gatherings.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah Gifts
Traditional gifts for a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah candidate aim to further awareness of Jewish heritage. Thus, books of educational and/or religious value are often given; these volumes tend to be specially bound or even personalized, and a cash gift may accompany the item. Writing tools such as fountain pens were commonly given in years past, but these are declining in the age of digital technology.
Money -- particularly considerable sums of money -- is also a common gift. The idea is to help the young person start saving for his or her later life or education. Savings bonds and gift certificates may also be given. A common practice is to give monetary gifts in multiples of 18, since the Hebrew word for "life" has a numeric equivalent of 18.
Spiritual preparation is important for a bar or bat mitzvah candidate. Leading up to the ceremony, he or she will typically spend long hours practicing Hebrew and reading passages from the Torah. Reading from the Torah is the key test a young person must pass to be viewed as an adult in his or her religious community.