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Guide to Jewish Milestones for Babies & Toddlers

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Milestones are a great way of commemorating the growth and development of your children. Beyond birthdays, Judaism has many milestones you can celebrate with your babies and toddlers.

Baby Naming

When you have a bris for a baby boy, the planning is pretty simple–if you like, you can just do what the mohel tells you to do and arrange for some lox and bagel platters. When preparing to welcome a daughter with a naming ceremony, what, how and when you’re going to do it is all in your hands (along with your rabbi, cantor, or others you call upon to help plan and lead the ceremony). This can be both fun and stressful.

If you’re not into the idea of a traditional ceremony, here are some alternatives.

Bris

The main element of a bris–also called a brit milah–is the removal of the foreskin from an 8-day-old baby boy’s penis. But a bris is actually more than just a snip; it is a ceremony that includes various traditions, rituals, and prayers. Need a mohel to perform the ceremony? Find one here. And if you need helping taking care of the poor guy afterwards, click here.

Interfaith Welcome Ceremony

For intermarried couples, the arrival of a baby may become the moment to decide “how we’re going to raise the kids.” Or if you have already decided to raise children in one faith or the other, this may be the moment to make that choice concrete and public. In any event, you have many options open to you.

Pidyon Haben

Pidyon haben means “redemption of a son.” According to the Book of Exodus, during the 10th plague in Egypt, the firstborn sons of the Egyptians were all killed, but the firstborn sons of the Israelites were spared. Today, this is commemorated with a special ceremony for firstborn sons.

Weaning

The celebration of an infant’s weaning goes back to the feast Abraham held for his son Isaac.

First Haircut (Upsherin)

A number of religions and cultures have prescribed rituals for first haircuts, including the Jews.  At least since the 16th century, some Jewish communities have held special ceremonies to mark a little boy’s first haircut at age 3.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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