from When a Jew Celebrates
|Redeeming the first
born is another traditional ceremony, is marked for some
babies- first born sons. (this refers only to the first
born of the mother; the father might have other sons if
he was previously married.) This ceremony goes back to
the Torah. It is called Pidyon ha-Ben redemption
of the first born.
Because all creature and things come from God, the Bible says that all first born things and creatures should be shared with God in thanks.
So the first fruits and the first grains and the first of the flock were brought to the Temple and given to God. It was supposed to be the same with the first sons; they too were to be brought to the Temple- to serve God. However, it became the custom for the father to redeem his son from the Temple service by a gift of money. The gift was five shekalim.
This ancient custom is continued today by many families. On the thirteenth day after birth of the mothers son a Kohen is invited to the house - along with all the relatives, of course, for the party that follows.
The Parents give the Kohen the equivalent of five shekalim. usually five dollars, and the child is redeemed from special service to God. The Kohen usually give the Money to charity.