Happy Whatever-Age-You-Are! A Little Bit About Coming of Age Birthdays

Let us talk about coming of age birthday parties throughout the world.  There are a lot of them and each culture has their own version of this particular tradition.  However, so that we do not have a book long post, we are only going to be going over the four of the most common ones celebrated in the States.  

Probably the single most common form of these coming of age celebrations.  Oh come on.  You all know what I am talking about.  I mean there is a stupid show on the telly about them.  The Sweet Sixteen.  Now, I never had one of these growing up.  I had something a different.  The Sweet Sixteen is usually celebrated in the States and Canada.  Granted, thanks to the media that tradition has spread to other countries.  Usually it is held for girls, I have never known a boy to have one.  The birthday girl typically dresses in a formal while her friends and family wear semi-formal attire.  Cakes for a Sweet Sixteen sometimes rival wedding cakes in how large they are in terms of height.  In fact, there are a lot of similarities between a Sweet Sixteen and a wedding reception.  Formal ball gown for the girl in question, semi-formal for guests, multi-tiered cake, and party colours.  Yep, every Sweet Sixteen girl will pick out colours.  Think of this coming of age party as practice to throw a wedding reception.  At times, they can be just as, if not more expensive than the wedding reception.  Kind of ridiculous if you ask me.

If your family is like mine and does not think that you are grown-up enough to have a coming of age party at the age of sixteen you will probably get a Graduation Party.  These parties are exactly what they sound like.  They are parties to celebrate one graduating from secondary school, that is high school for American readers.  These celebrations are held all over the world and are common for both boys and girls.  I had one.  It was fun.  A bunch of my friends and family came.  They are not not as overly expensive as the Sweet Sixteen.  The reason for that is that usually by this time you are more concerned about getting ready to go to college, university, or out into the real world.  Sure, I had a cake and a DJ at my party, but it was not ridiculously expensive.  In fact, my cake was a sheet cake.  No layers, nothing fancy.  It was a single sheet cake that was half white and half chocolate.  These parties are generally more used for receiving gifts to help with going away from home while being able to see those people you may not get to see for a while if you leave home for school.  There is a point to this type of party where as the Sweet Sixteen’s only point is to throw a ridiculously overpriced party for turning sixteen.  Also, since most people graduate from secondary school, at least in the States, it is also used as a ‘congrats you are now an adult by law’ type of party.

The Quinceañera is similar to a Sweet Sixteen.  However, it is usually celebrated in the Latino community.  Unlike the Sweet Sixteen, this celebration is held when the birthday girl turns fifteen.  Quinceañera means fifteen year old in Spanish.  While there are many different traditions throughout Latin America and South America when it comes to this party there are some common things done.  A formal is worn and there is dancing.  The dancing is usually waltzes and other ballroom dances as well as whatever the girl wants.  A mass may be held at the local church before the party even starts.  Tradition holds that a girl should not wear make-up or dance in public, except for family functions, until this birthday.  It is a nice tradition and they are a lot of fun.  I know there is a lot of feelings flying about in the air in the States surrounding people of Latin origins, but people just need to get over it.  I think the Quinceañera is a really neat tradition and the pictures that I have seen from my friend’s parties were beautiful.  This is probably my favorite of the coming of age ceremonies because of how steeped in tradition it is.

Bar Mitzvah and bat Mitzvah are the Jewish coming of age celebration.  Bar Mitzvahs are celebrated when a boy turns 13.  Bat Mitzvahs are when a girl turns 12.  So, what exactly happens during this celebration?  Well, the easiest way to explain is to tell you what it actually is celebrating.  When one is the age of bar Mitzvah or bat Mitzvah, they are considered to be a full member of the Jewish community.  This means they take on all the responsibility that comes with that and are given all the privileges that an adult is under Jewish law.  This means they can be legally married and have their own property.  They also are now allowed to read from Torah, they can be used as a witness for a Beth Din, and they must keep the Torah laws and halakah.  There are 613 laws in the Torah by the way.  There is a lot to remember.  To have a bar Mitzvah or a bat Mitzvah, one is usually expected to work with a charity or volunteer in one’s community.  Attending Hebrew school is also expected as well as regular attendance at the synagogue’s Shabbat services.  Learning Hebrew is no easy task since it does not use Latin characters, but it is really pretty when you hear the Torah read in it.  There are a lot of religious traditions that I could go in to, but unless you are Jewish or have studied Judaism for a while, understanding them is rather difficult.  So, just know that it is when a child becomes an adult in Jewish traditions.  Also Mitzvah means “commandment” in Hebrew.

I hope you all learned something.  Turning into an adult or a young adult is a cause for celebration.  Some people throw wild lavish parties and some have celebrations that are rooted in very old traditions.  Both types are fun and leave one with memories to look back on.