Celebrating a Jewish Simchat Bat or Baby Bris Ceremony

Jewish traditions and rituals are the basis of most of the Jewish religion and all are unique and meaningful. The simchat, or celebration, commemorates life-cycle events such as birth, becoming an adult, joining of families in marriage, and death. The Simchat Bat is the naming ceremony for girls and the Bris is the ceremonial circumcision that marks the boy as a follower of the Jewish religion.

For the Simchat Bat, there are no fixed rituals for celebrating the birth of a daughter, however, it is usually celebrated and the baby named on the first Sabbath after her birth or when the Torah is read in the synagogue on the mornings of Monday and Thursday. The father gives his daughter her name at the Torah and also says a prayer for his wife's and daughter's health. He also says a Thanksgiving Prayer for his wife, if she is not at Temple.

More traditional sects celebrate the Simchat Bat at home, since they forbid the mother and child from leaving the house for a month after the birth to prevent sickness and disease. Families usually have their own traditions for the Simchat Bat party, but a light meal after the ceremony or even a few days after in a public hall are all acceptable ways to celebrate this joyous occasion.

The baby boy's Bris ceremony, however, is full of tradition. Exactly eight days after the baby is born, the Bris ceremony is celebrated at home and the naming ceremony and circumcision takes place at the same time. Discuss the details of the ceremony with a mohel, a specially trained male that perfoms ritual circumcisions. You will need to prepare a sturdy table and a “Chair of Elijah” for the baby to sit on to honor the visit of the Prohet Elijah. The mohel will provide you with a list of other things that you need.

About two hours before, feed the baby a light meal and let him rest. Dress the baby in a gown and don't allow any visitors except the parents.

A Bris ceremony after-party is commanded in the Talmud. Decorate the party area with lots of fresh flowers and candles and create a homey area where the guests can catch up with each other. A few balloons celebrating the baby would be appropriate here, too.

The traditional meal for a baby Bris ceremony is challah (Jewish egg bread) and red wine. You can serve a dinner if you wish, with matzo balls and roast lamb or other kosher food. If you prefer to serve appetizers instead, a cheese and deli meat platter is a nice choice. Serve with lots of bread, fresh sweet butter, mustard, and horseradish make a terrific meal. The beverage of choice is red wine or grape juice. Have a fresh fruit salad as a dessert dish. You could possibly add a cake to that, but it's not a usual part of the menu.

Favors of food are perfect for either a Simchat Bat or a Bris ceremony. A few sugared almonds in tulle bags are pretty and delicious. If all the guests are Jewish, a religious favor is definitely appropriate. A pocket-sized Torah or a set of Shabbos candles are some ideas.