When chassidim in America began celebrating Bar Mitzvos with grand events instead of chassidishe farbrengens, the Rebbe expressed his disapproval and encouraged making it a transformative day for the new bochur.
In days bygone, when a boy became bar mitzva it was a time of growth. His family, rebbeim and elder chassidim would impress upon him the magnitude of accepting the yoke of mitzvos, and with chassidishe warmth, at a festive farbrengen, a boy became a bochur.
Refusing to accept the status quo, the Rebbe expressed deep disappointment in how bar mitzva events had evolved, with American chassidim being influenced by local secular customs. The Rebbe writes in a note of 8 Nissan 5721 (1961):
“I am generally displeased with the bar mitzva celebration setup, for a number of reasons:
“(1) I am not happy with the custom that the bar mitzva bochur serves as a chazan and as the ba’al koreh.
“(2) Also, the waste of money on renting a hall and the like isn’t appropriate.
“(3) It would be proper that the bar mitzva bochur shares divrei Torah, and not a speech, etc.”
(Shmukler Teshura, Adar 5764)