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04 Mar 2019
A Holi Mitzvah

Okay, okay, okay....I know I decided a few years back to stop planning Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.  It's not because I didn't love doing them, or enjoy my interaction with my clients, but because they are very time consuming and take me away from what I really love doing, interacting creatively with kids.  However, when a dear client of over 25 years approached me about doing their daughter's Bat Mitzvah I found it hard to decline. Especially when I heard what they wanted to do for a theme.

My clients are Jewish of course, and also Indian. We decided we would celebrate both cultures at the party.  Fortuitously, the Indian holiday of Holi happened to fall during the month of the Bat Mitzvah. Thus the idea of a Holi Mitzvah was born.

For those of you unfamiliar with Holi, it's the Indian "Festival of Color", during which people douse themselves and each other in showers of colored powder.  It's a joyful celebration which just fit perfectly for this family. It was the perfect way to join both cultures on this one special day.

This was super special.  Instead of buying invitations each one was handmade by the Bat Mitzvah gal and her friends.  The invite consisted of a small rolled Torah with our young lady's name in Hebrew. The Torah was then placed on a sea of red and gold specialty paper that we purchased from Paper Source

To create over 150 invitations we held an invite making party 8 weeks before the event.  We had snacks, music, and 6 good friends to make the party not only fun but productive.  To speed the process my team and I had prepped some of the steps - we had the invites printed at our local printer and then added special papers to the front, had all the envelopes addressed, figured out the postage, prepped the tassels (which we created by gluing gold tassel trim into two ends of a clear straw) and pre-cut the parchment paper for the tiny Torahs.  

At the party the girls wrote the names in Hebrew, put postage on the return envelopes and numbered the backs according to the invite list (just in case someone forgot to fill out their name on the RSVP) , rolled the Torah scrolls, attached them to the invite, stuffed the envelopes, added postage to the main envelope, sealed them, and then checked everyone off the list to make sure every person was accounted for.  We took multiple breaks in between steps for not only snacks and libation, but for singing and dancing - gotta keep your team motivated!

Every person in the family, with the exception of the dog, was involved in the planning.  Dad helped with the design of the Save the Date and Shabbat Dinner invites, while mom and I handled every small detail.  Our Bat Mitzvah gal added her ideas on how to make Holi fun.  It was decided that since her friends were going to be dressed up that we should provide protective suits for the color storm.

Drawing upon images of Holi and other Indian celebrations I filled the party venue with color!  The space itself is called the Log Cabin. It is just that. A big, dark, timber and stone facade that lends itself more to an alpine lodge than to Holi.  I knew we wanted to fill the space with color and so I turned to my local Indian Market for inspiration. 

Luckily, there is a large Indian population where I live, and so I was able to walk down main street and find not one but half a dozen stores filled with Indian items.  My favorite was Neelam Market in San Bruno. The guys were so kind to me there. They were extremely helpful and gave me a bulk discount for buying so much stuff. (I think they were a bit shocked to see this caucasian blonde in overalls buying out their inventory).

I purchased silk flower swags in 10-foot lengths, exotic table runners in rich hues of red and magenta, and dangling strings of pearls and gold.  

I decided that I'd used round tables for the adults and long tables for the teens.  Every set of tables would be a different color.   

For the long teen tables I used orange with the above-mentioned runners, the buffet was purple, the bar was magenta, and the adult tables were red rounds.  I found these awesome and reasonably priced Mandala throws on Amazon and used those to embellish all but the teen tables.

For florals, my sister Freda and I opted for several looks.  For the adult rounds we used these beautifully brushed gold containers from Floral Supply Syndicate

I bought them in 2 sizes - 6 x 5.5 inches for the adult tables, and 3 x 2.5 inches for the fireplace and bathrooms.  For the large hearth, I chose to use basic glassware but place it in Potli bags to give it a festive feel. 


All of these were filled with an assortment of hydrangeas and orange roses.  Sadly marigolds, which would have been the obvious choice given the Indian theme, were out of season here in San Francisco, but the roses were just the right shade that I don't think anyone missed them.  Since the teen tables were already very colorful and shiney I opted for a very simple fluted glass ivy bowl from Dollar Tree with one single suspended flower.  

For the table settings, we rented gorgeous, richly colored Incanto plates from Hensley Event Resources.  We mixed them with Oriana water goblets and Etna stainless steel flatware

For the bar we used gemma-fern glassware.  To make the napkins pop we used Indian bangle bracelets as napkin rings.

To brighten the room further we decided to make colorful flags using 12 inch wide satin fabric that I found at the Table Cloth Factory.  Freda and my mother cut, ironed, pinned and sewed the strips of fabric into pocketed flags which we slipped over adjustable tension rods.

Anne Walker Catering supplied an amazing array of Indian delights, including sweet, warm chai tea, naan, papadum, Chaan Masala, & Tandoori Chicken. 

For dessert my client had us create the most amazing confection.  Instead of a cake, she suggested we spell out Mazel Tov in rice crispy treats.  I can't begin to tell you how amazing that looked.  It was so much more fun than a cake, and the colorful M&M's that we used to outline each letter just added one more pop of color.  Our baker Kathleen from Kathy's Kreative Kakes really outdid herself! 

The kids were lining up before we even had time to finish placing all the M&M's.

As luck would have it, the day of the Mitzvah ended up pouring rain. However, we chose not to let the weather dampen our spirits. Truth be told, I think the rain only served to make the celebration all the sweeter.  As we set up our Holi station the most magnificent bird appeared in the field, almost as if he wanted to pay his respects to the family.  He stood there, stock still, for at least 5 minutes. 

Because we didn't want the participants ruining their good clothes, we provided tyvek suits in small, medium, and large.  Sunglasses were offered to protect the eyes, and each guest was given their own bottle of Holi powder.  

We created a tunnel for our Bat Mitzvah gal to ensure that she was thoroughly inundated with color, but after that, it was every man, woman, teen and child for themselves.  The bird had wisely vacated the premises by that point.


I have to say, if I had to come out of retirement for one more Mitzvah, this was the one.  Not only was it special because of the mixing of the cultures but because I have such a deep sense of respect and affection for the clients.  For me it was a "wholly" perfect send off for my official last Mitzvah.