The last time I attended a bar or bat mitzvah celebration, the deejay blasted “Ice, Ice Baby” in between “The Electric Slide” and “Hava Nagila,” and my friends and I raced around the party collecting materials to make a memory glass. Not much has changed about the synagogue service in the two decades since I attended a bar/bat mitzvah, but the after-party sure looks a whole lot different.
I found this out over the weekend when I attended the b’nai mitzvah of my husband’s cousin’s kids (they’re 14 months apart and decided to have a joint celebration). They rocked their prayers and speeches and were more than ready to release the stress of it all at a nighttime bash at the W Hotel in Dallas.
The first thing I noticed is that the music was really loud. The second thing I noticed is that I am apparently now old. But the biggest observation I made is that the party has become about the kids, not the adults. Aside from an open bar, there wasn’t much for adults, and in fact, not many who weren’t family or very close friends were there. Gone, it appears, are the days of inviting teachers, friends’ parents, etc. Teens chowing down on sliders, chicken fingers, and fries far outnumbered the grownups carrying plates of veggies out to the quieter reception room.
I know that a lot of people are against having big, expensive parties for their kids. My own parents took me on a bar/bat mitzvah tour to Israel in lieu of making me a lavish event. They felt I would remember that a lot longer than I would a dance party. (I can’t say for sure if they were right because I didn’t have a party to compare it to, but I do remember that trip to Israel as if I went on it yesterday.) But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a celebration of the hard work and milestone that was met as long as the focus remains steadfast on what it all means rather than what it means for getting presents.
And if you’re going to make a party for your child, making it about your child is the way to go. Isn’t it?