Do Jews Celebrate Birthdays?

It’s a question that has perhaps crossed all our minds at some point: Do Jews celebrate birthdays?

Yes, Jews do celebrate birthdays. Particular birthdays known as milestone birthdays are linked with Jewish religious duty and are celebrated by Jews with emphasis and ceremony.

In this article, we’ll explore how birthdays are celebrated in Jewish culture, which birthdays are considered significant milestones, and perhaps the most important Jewish birthday of them all, the Mitzvah!

How Are Birthdays Celebrated in Jewish Culture?

A traditional Jewish birthday greeting you might hear is the Yiddish phrase, ‘Bis hundert und tzvantzig’. It translates as ‘until you are 120!’ (Sheesh! That’s old!) Jews celebrate their Jewish birthday according to the Hebrew calendar.

They can, of course, also choose to celebrate their secular birthday (official registered birthday). (Two birthdays huh? Yes, please!)

Jewish culture believes that, on your birthday, you are blessed with good fortune. This good fortune is something they refer to as ‘mazel’.

It is expected of the birthday boy or girl to share this ‘mazel’ on their lucky day with the people around them, through acts of charity. (Gimme some of that mazel, please!)

Long life is viewed positively in Jewish culture. It is considered a reward for having led a good and honest life which is why birthdays have become intertwined with Jewish religious duty.

Which Birthdays Are Considered Milestones In Jewish Culture?

Some childhood milestone birthdays along with their specific religious duties as a member of the Jewish faith can be seen in the table below.

Child’s Age,

Religious Custom


A child is given their first haircut (something that is called ‘upsheren’)


Study of the Torah (the Jewish bible) begins


Study of the Mishnah (a collection of oral Jewish traditions)

12 for girls, 13 for boys

Bat or Bar Mitzvah, a coming of age party

As we can see from the table above, on their third birthday a child will be given their first haircut which is called ‘upsheren’.

On their fifth and tenth birthdays, children will begin to study the following religious texts: the Torah (the Jewish bible) and the Mishnah (a collection of oral Jewish traditions).

Perhaps the most famous of all birthday milestones, the Mitzvah, takes place at age 12 for a girl and 13 for a boy and is a great coming of age celebration.

How might a Jewish person spend their birthday?

Jewish culture treats the birthday as a time for self-reflection. The birthday celebrant is expected to find gratitude for the good in life and reflect on how they can continuously improve their moral conduct and character.

Some meaningful ways practising Jews might celebrate their birthdays, include:

  • Retiring to a private place to contemplate life
  • Praying
  • Studying their birthday psalm (this is a new poem for each year of a person’s life meant to be recited every day ahead of the coming year)
  • Giving to charity or committing a good deed (also known as ‘tzedakah’)

Celebrating a birthday in Jewish culture is more of a personal event rather than a social celebration. It can be a very introspective and meditative experience connecting the celebrant to God.

What is the Jewish Bar / Bat Mitzvah?

Jewish culture believes that children become accountable to the laws of morality and full citizens of the Jewish community at the time of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

It’s called ‘Bar’ when it is for a son and takes place at age 13 and ‘Bat’ when for a daughter taking place at age 12.

At their Mitzvah, celebrants wear a traditional prayer shawl called a ‘tallit, perhaps gifted to them that day from their parents. Gifts are usually monetary and given in multiples of 18 because this number represents the Hebrew word for ‘life’ or ‘chai’.

This birthday celebration is a rite of passage, celebrating the path from childhood to adulthood. The birthday celebrant is expected to show their new status by assuming key responsibilities.

This could be by making a speech or by organizing the event. A grand party often follows.

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it! Jews do celebrate birthdays and sometimes they even celebrate two!

Birthdays have become interlinked with the Jewish faith through the celebration of birthday milestones that mark special moments within the Jewish faith.