Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle lighting ceremonies have come a long way…
They started off as a nice & simple gesture: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah would light birthday candles (hey, it’s still a birthday after all) and invite close family members to light a candle with them.
That was pretty much it.
But then something happened…
Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations started growing… and growing… AND growing.
Unsurprisingly, the lighting ceremony grew along with it.
Now, you’ve got decorative candle lighting displays (as you’ll soon find out), poems, speeches, special candle lighting songs, just to name a few…
That’s what I call impressive progress, don’t you think?
I know what you’re thinking: “Damn…This sounds intimidating. How the heck do you plan such a ceremony? Where do you even begin?”
Don’t worry – all you need is a simple process, some Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle ceremony ideas and a dose of inspiration – and you’re off to the races!
Table of Contents
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Candle Lighting Ceremony Order
The typical Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle lighting order looks like this:
1. Decide how many candles you’re going to light
I know I know… The answer is pretty obvious:
- If you’re a Bar Mitzvah: you light 13 candles
- If you’re a Bat Mitzvah: you light 12 candles
This isn’t rocket science, now is it?
Hold your horses there, tiger! (cool – horses and a tiger in one sentence)
Now, let me ask you: did you ever blow out birthday candles?
Of course you did… who hasn’t?
Then, you might remember that many times there was an extra candle for good luck, right?
Well, same deal when you light Bar/Bat Mitzvah candles – you can choose to add an extra candle for good measure (or in case 12/13 candles isn’t enough to squeeze in auntie Bracha).
2. Decide who you’re going to call up to light a candle
Think this out CAREFULLY.
Make sure whoever you leave out doesn’t get offended.
You don’t want to wake up the next day just to find out your auntie Rachel got pissed off and blocked you on Facebook just because she wasn’t invited to light a candle (especially if auntie Bracha was! Shame on you!)
3. Decide the order you’re going to call them up
Careful again…you’re still walking on eggshells with this one…
Think about it – wouldn’t auntie Rachel get offended if you call auntie Bracha to light a candle first?
The point is – think carefully about the order you’ll invite people.
In most cases, the order would look something like this:
- A memorial candle to honor the deceased
- Aunts & Uncles
- Older family relatives
- Younger family relatives
- People who came from a distance
- Older family friends
- Younger family friends
- The Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s friends
- Special guest/s of honor
Remember – this isn’t a magic formula. Make your own adjustments to fit your own needs.
4. Dedicate a song to each person
Dedicate a song to each person you’re inviting to light a candle. Ideally, you’d want to choose a song they can relate with or that they particularly like.
Remember when Rocky used to enter the ring? He played his favorite same song every time he made his big entrance to get him all pumped up for the fight.
Same thing here (although I hope there won’t be a boxing match between auntie Bracha and auntie Rachel in this one).
If no song comes to mind, then you can choose a song from this list of Bar/Bat Mitzvah songs.
Tip for the Jokers: If the people you’re inviting up have a sense of humor – choose a song that makes them laugh.
5. Dedicate a small speech for each person
Just like you wouldn’t give an Oscar award without introducing the person, and why they’re an Oscar nominee in the first place – you wouldn’t invite someone to light a candle without introducing them to your guests, and why they “won” a spot in the candle lighting ceremony.
Don’t worry, it’s less tedious than it sounds. Let’s take a closer look…
How to Write Bar/Bat Mitzvah Candle Lighting Speeches & Poems
Here’s the recipe for a winning candle lighting speech (or poem):
1. Tell a personal story
A candle lighting ceremony can make people cry out of excitement, or it can make people cry out of boredom.
How do you make it the former and not the latter?
Stories. Personal stories.
Don’t sound like you’re just reading from a speech you downloaded from the internet. Every speech should be personalized to the person you’re inviting to light a candle.
But what if it’s your Mom’s second cousins from Australia whom you barely know?
Well, then you can say something like:
“I would like to thank my mom’s cousin, Bracha, for coming all the way from Australia to my Bar Mitzvah.
Bracha and my mom grew up together, and she keeps telling me how much fun they had playing in their high school band when they were young. Bracha always encouraged my mom to keep playing the violin, even when everyone else told her: “Meydele – you should quit this violin nonsense and go get a real job”.
Well, thank g-d she listened to Bracha. Because if she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have met my dad in one of the concerts she was playing, and I wouldn’t be here today.
Bracha flew all the way from Australia (that’s a 16-hour flight!) to attend my Bar Mitzvah. That shows you what type of person he is.
Bracha, I truly appreciate everything you’ve done and for being here with us tonight…”
Who the hell is cutting onions over here?!
2. DRY: Don’t Repeat Yourself
Make sure you don’t repeat yourself over and over again. This goes hand in hand with telling a personal story.
Trust me, auntie Rachel wouldn’t like to be called up the stage with the exact same speech you gave auntie Bracha.
Yes, it does require some extra effort, but trust me – it’s worth it.
3. Express your Emotions
The words you use are only half the battle. Your body language and tone of voice are the other half
In fact, a famous study from 1967 (!) showed that words are responsible for only 7% of personal communication (feelings and attitudes), while body language and tone of voice are responsible for 55% and 38% respectively.
In other words: when you give the speech – try to match your body language and your tone of voice with the words you’re saying.
Otherwise, you’ll sound like a robot… And nobody likes to hear a personal story from Siri.
4. Make each speech/poem short & sweet
You don’t want to ramble on endlessly for each person you invite to light a candle. Otherwise, 12-13 candles will quickly turn into a 12-13-hour snooze fest.
Remember: A candle lighting speech/poem is different than your main Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech, so don’t treat them the same.
Try to keep each speech/poem short & snappy: 5-10 sentences per person is more than enough. If you stretch it more than that – you’ll start noticing people grabbing their phones and scrolling on their Instagram feed looking for something more interesting.
Like the Brits say: “Get on with it!”
5. Use rhymes like Busta Rhymes
If you’re writing a poem – rhymes are what you’ll show em’.
To find cool rhymes – Rhymezone is your friend. Because a memorable poem is all that matters in the end.
Rhyme with the candle number to be extra clever. So your guests will remember it forever:
“For candle number eleven, I’d like to invite Kevin…even though he’s probably upset he didn’t light candle number seven”
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice makes perfect.
Practice your candle lighting speech & poems several times.
Practice until you memorize it: if not the whole speech, then at least the order of the candles.
Your mirror is your friend. Your iPhone camera is an even better friend (finally there’s a good reason to take selfie videos). And your parents are your best friends.
Practice in front of your parents and friends so you don’t get too excited in the moment of truth.
If all goes well, your Bar Mitzvah candle lighting ceremony will look something like this:
Unique Bar/Bat Mitzvah Candle Lighting Ceremony Ideas
Is a candle is just a candle, right?
I mean, sure, you can choose a nice, standard display, stick a few candles in it and call it a day.
But if you’ve got a whole Bar/Bat Mitzvah theme going on – you’re probably looking for a candle lighting display that’s a little less “vanilla”, and a little more creative.
Let’s explore a bunch of unique Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle lighting ideas you can choose from:
Note: I’ll continue updating this list. So if you’ve got a cool Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle lighting you’d like to share (with pictures) – leave a comment below and we’ll make it happen!
Note 2: Special thanks to Balloon Artistry for sharing their images!
Apps & Video Games
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Candle Lighting Alternatives
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle lighting ceremony does come with disadvantages:
- You “pick and choose”: 12-13 candles are not a lot. That means you have to make some tough choices and decide who is “worthy” of a candle, and who isn’t. Poor auntie Rachel… she has to see her nemesis (Auntie Bracha) light a candle, while she remains seated. Kind of cruel, isn’t it?
- It’s long: Humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish. People like to “get on with it”, otherwise they get bored… and when they do – they reach for their smartphones and “tune out” completely (sound familiar?).
- What if you’re not having a full-blown Bar/Bat Mitzvah party? Not everyone wants a flashy Bar/Bat Mitzvah party. Some people choose a modest reception with close friends and family or even choose to take a trip to (usually to Israel), instead of throwing a party.
No party ⇒ No candles ⇒ No candle lighting ceremony.
Luckily, there are quite a few alternative ceremonies you can choose from.
Let’s explore a few of them…
1. Tree of Life Ceremony
The Tree of Life is one of the most iconic symbols in Jewish tradition.
It represents maturity, responsibility, and new beginnings. Sounds like a natural fit for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, right?
But with the Tree of Life – we’re taking it a step further: you’re actually planting trees!
Let me explain…
One of the most popular Mitzvah projects is to plant trees in Israel. When you plan a tree, you receive a special certificate as a thank you for your donation.
The good news is – you can invite other people to join in on your Mitzvah and plant trees together!
It’s as simple as:
- Include instructions on your Bar Mitzvah invitation on how people can join in. It’s best to set up a crowdfunding campaign and invite people to donate money there
- After you raise money – contact the organization you used to plant trees and ask them to send you certificates you can give out. Make sure you customize each certificate for each person who donated
- Call each donor up on stage to receive their certificate
Sure, it does require a bit more work to set up… but it’s totally worth it.
In the end, everybody wins: you, your guests and of course the trees.
Note: An easier alternative is to invite people to plant seeds inside plant pots. Not quite the same magnitude as planting trees in Israel, but still a cute gesture.
2. Cup of Life Ceremony
This is a similar concept to the candle lighting ceremony – just with Kiddush cups:
- Fill 12 cups (or 13 for Bar Mitzvah) with wine (or grape juice)
- Invite your guests to pour a cup of wine in a larger Kiddush cup
- In the end – the Bar/Bat Mitzvah recites the Kiddush blessing and drinks from the blessed wine goblet
Tip: This is a great alternative to a candle lighting ceremony if you decide to host a minor reception after the Bar Mitzvah service, instead of a massive Bar Mitzvah party.
Think of it like crowdsourcing Kiddush: your guests bless you, and you bless their blessings.
Did You Know? Some people choose to replace wine with (often weird) alternatives such as candy, chocolates or even sand (just don’t drink the sand afterward).
3. Light up the Room
Yes, I mean that literally (hold on, don’t call the fire department yet).
Instead of inviting a select group of guests to light a candle – why not invite everyone to light a candle?
Here’s the process:
- Place a candle on each table
- When the time comes, invite one table “representative” to light their candle one after another
- Finally, you light up the last candle located on your family’s table
Tip: You can draw more Bar/Bat Mitzvah table decoration inspiration here.
The result: one bright & shiny room filled up with candles…
Now there’s a picture your photographer shouldn’t miss.
4. Light 3 Candles
I know what you’re thinking: 13 candles are barely enough to squeeze people in, so 3 candles?!
Don’t worry, you’re not inviting anyone to light these candles – so there’s no picking and choosing going on. In this ceremony, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah lights 3 candles, possibly with his parents and siblings:
- A first candle for the past
- A second candle for the present
- A third candle for the future
That way no one gets offended.
5. 12 or 13 “Mini” Mitzvah Projects
Feeling extra gracious? You can perform 12 (or 13 for Bar Mitzvah) tiny Mitzvah project gestures – one for each honorary guest.
- To honor your grandmother living in Israel – you can plant a tree in Israel.
- To honor your auntie Bracha in Australia – you can donate a set of personalized Siddurim or Tehilim books to her local synagogue.
- To honor your mother – you can join your mother and light Shabbat candles every week.
You get the idea…
I hope this article shed some light (pun intended) into what an exciting & unforgettable Bar/Bat Mitzvah candle lighting ceremony looks like.
Now, I’d like to invite you to join the party!
If you’re planning (or attending) a Bar/Bat Mitzvah party sometime soon – take some cool pictures or videos with your phone, upload them here, leave a comment below and maybe we’ll include it in the website!
Mazel tov! And go light them’ candles 🙂