Becoming A Woman
When a girl becomes a mature adult, from a halachic point of view, she becomes a batmitzvah – literally, a daughter of the commandments. The Talmud states that this takes place at the beginning of the 13th year of her life, on her 12th Hebrew birthday.
Boys of course do not reach halachic maturity until they are one year older. Judaism reflects the fact that girls grow up faster from both a physical and an emotional point of view. By the time they hit the age of 12, they are more than able to cope with the responsibilities that being batmitzvah entails.
The custom of celebrating a girl’s batmitzvah only became prevalent in the 19th century, when families began to hold parties to mark the special birthday.
Until then, the batmitzvah milestone passed by unmarked; the status is conferred on a girl automatically and no ceremony or party is actually necessary.
In fact, the feasting aspect of modern batmitzvah celebrations is intrinsically linked to it – one reason for the rising prevalence of holding coming of age parties for girls in post-independence Israel was because celebrating families would receive extra food rations.
The batmitzvah milestone marks the beginning of young adulthood for girls. For this reason, it is also important for them to take the opportunity to learn more about their Jewish heritage and the future role they will play in their communities.
During the 1960s, a batmitzvah study programme was developed in the UK, with the specific aim of promoting the idea that young girls could further their Jewish education throughout their teenage years.
If you're organising a simcha then have a look at Totally Jewish Simchas for everything you might need.