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Bar Mitzvah Candle Lighting Ceremony
Orthodox Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

Candles are lit at Jewish holidays and throughout the Jewish lifecycle. Every Shabbat begins and ends with candles. Yahrzeit candles are lit to commemorate loved ones. There are sources for lighting candles during a brit.  However, there is no religious significance in lighting candles at a bnei mitzvah celebration.

How candle-lighting ceremonies grew into an integral ritual in many communities is speculated upon. Enterprising caterers are said to have originated the custom in the 1950’s as a mix between the birthday cake candle and aliyah-like feel of calling people up to light.

Though the custom is not historically religious nor a ritual of yore, there is nothing inappropriate  with it. In fact, candle lighting is a nice way to honor people and is also a lovely photo opportunity. Whether to include a candle lighting ceremony in your celebration or not is a personal choice.

Candle Lighting Ceremony
The ceremony usually consists of calling up thirteen people or groups of people who each light a candle.  The bar mitzvah boy or bat mitzvah girl, or the master of ceremonies announces each honoree, and as they make their way to the podium, an explanation is provided to the crowd expressing the significance of the relationship between the honoree and the celebrant. The honorees may either just light the candle, or add to the festivities with a comment or a blessings.

Ideas and suggestions for the ceremonial honors:
 • Call up each person with a rhyme
 • Have candle lighters offer a personal blessing from the traditional to the ridiculous (“May you improve your jump shot.”)
 • Every candle lighter can present the bat mitzvah with a Jewish gift: a havdalah spice box, a seder plate, candlesticks. As each gift is given, the candle lighter explains the significance and why he chose to give this gift. (Be sure the gifts are different.)
 • Hold a “puzzle piecing” ceremony instead. Begin with a poster-sized picture of the bat mitzvah girl or bar mitzvah boy as a baby, and mount it on cardboard. Blow up a more current picture of the bat mitzvah girl, and mount it on a foam board. Using a razor, cut the foam board into interlocking puzzle-like pieces. At the ceremony, everyone who comes up fits a piece of the grown-up picture over the baby picture. The activity recognizes those who have helped the bat mitzvah along her journey to maturity.

Caterers may supply the thirteen long tapers and candelabra stands. At some bar  mitzvah parties, candles are lit on the cake itself. If you choose that method, be sure to protect the cake from wax drippings!

Mazal Tov!

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