This past Lag B’Omer, we were blessed to make our first upsherin, where we celebrate our son’s first hair cut. It’s a wonderful milestone that mimics the three years that we refrain from plucking a tree’s first fruits and symbolizes the entry of the child into the world of Torah learning. It’s a clear sign to everyone; this boy is no longer a baby.
An upsherin is a lot of fun, as it’s basically just a child’s birthday party. This simcha doesn’t have the stresses of other smachot, such as the Torah reading of a bar-mitzvah, or the post-partum hormones of a brit or a kiddish, or the financial headaches and negotiations of a wedding.
We just wanted to make a nice party to share with our friends and family, but one that was economical as well.
Here are some tips to help plan your own party for your little ones:
In this day and age, e-vites are the way to go. There are many different services you can use, including simple personal e-mail. I used e-vite.com, and found an easy and basic template that matched my décor of blue and orange balloons and allowed me to insert a picture of our son, Yehuda. The e-vite service also reminds guests to RSVP and keeps a tally of guests for the host as well. For the few of our guests who were not technologically capable, we called to invite them the old-fashion way – on the phone.
In terms of the location, if you expect a large crowd, I highly recommend renting a space. We were lucky enough to be able to use the beautifully renovated women’s section in our shul, Yeshiva Ohr Yitzchok. This arrangement eliminated the need to worry about having adequate space for our guests or having my home cleaned before and after the party. However, one disadvantage was the need to transport all the food and trays back and forth. Even with our large mini-van, we didn’t have enough room. Lucky enough, my sister-in-law was around to help drive the food over in her car as well. If you are renting a shul or a hall for your event, make sure you have friends or family that can be counted on to help transport the food or you might have to make two or more trips.
Regarding presents, I wanted to spare my guests the trouble and the expense of buying gifts. In addition, I also wanted to avoid any potential jealousy of behalf of Yehuda’s siblings or other small guests. As he is still too young to expect presents, this wasn’t a struggle for him. To help him mark the occasion, we bought him a new bike and he was very excited and satisfied with that. In lieu of presents, we encouraged our guests to donate to our designated charity, my brother-in-law’s yeshiva, Yeshiva Chok L’Yisroel. We felt that this would be an appropriate time for him to accumulate merits in honor of the beginning of his journey in learning Torah.
For décor, we bought orange and blue balloons, and with a helium machine from Party City, we inflated and tied strings to them for a fraction of the cost of regular helium balloons. The balloons provided a festive atmosphere, and we encouraged our guests to take some home. I set aside a table for children with arts and crafts and lined up party hats around the perimeter for some decoration. For the adults, I borrowed glass vases from my friend and sister-in-law and filled them with fruit and vegetables – it gave a colorful and fresh look to the tables.
The upsherin was called for two in the afternoon, which allowed us to serve neither dinner nor lunch. Instead, between my sisters, aunt, and sister-in-law, we made a nice spread of salad, pasta, doughnuts and cookies. If any guests asked if they could bring something, I answered, yes, thank you and told them what to bring. We filled little glass vases with candies and lollies, and filled party cups with licorice that the kids used as straws. With the addition of a large basket of super snacks, I felt that there was enough junk and party bags would not be necessary.
I had mixed emotions as we approached the date of the upsherin. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I would be capable of cutting his soft curly hair. However, that morning, when Yehuda started getting cold feet about the whole event and recommended that his younger brother take his place as the guest of honor, we did a quick snip in front of a mirror to show him that cutting your hair was no big deal, and indeed it wasn’t; not for him or me.
Early in the day I made sure all the kids took a nap to eliminate any melt-downs. While they were sleeping, I got to work, washing all the fruit and blowing up the balloons. I charged the video and digital camera, and after everyone woke up and got dressed in their outfits, we took a bunch of family pictures. Even without the added expense of hiring a professional photographer, we were still able to get some great before-and-after shots on our own cameras. We packed up the car with my sister-in-law’s help, and got to the shul just a few minutes before our guests. Everyone rushed to set up, including the unsuspecting prompt guests, and in less then 15 minutes, we were ready for our party.
We did not feel the need to hire a musician or an entertainer. In regards to music, I felt that it would get too loud to be able to talk to each other comfortably once the room filled up. In regards to entertainment, the three different craft projects that we provided and the balloons did a sufficient job to amuse the children.
All in all, it was a wonderful day, which was capped off by coming home to a clean house after an emotionally exhausting day.
May we all enjoy many stress-free smachot!
About the Author: Pnina Baim’s newest novel, “A Life Worth Living”, about finding happiness and meaning in the land of Israel, is now available at all online retailers. Contact Pnina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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