Societies all over the world have different ways of celebrating a child’s entry into adulthood. As someone once said, children become adults when they realize that not only do they have the right to be right, but they also have the right to be wrong. Becoming an adult is quite a responsibility, and perhaps that’s why societies mark a child’s entry into the adult world with all sorts of rituals. After all, being an adult is kind of a big deal.

Besides, rites like coming of age celebrations link people across generations and strengthen the bonds of the community. These events are a part of society’s belief system, whether religion, sociological, or simply a legal convention. In a way, coming-of-age rites can mean a symbolic passing of the torch, a way of grooming future members of their community, thus ensuring their culture’s continuity.

Coming Of Age Events Around The World

Traditions like these remind humans that they’re not just an insignificant collection of atoms whose existence is a—according to the writer Vladimir Nabokov— ‘brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.’ Suffice it to say, these events are very popular and are often celebrated joyously. Below are some examples of traditional coming of age events from various cultures:

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah are Jewish comings of age celebrations for boys and girls. To prepare for these happy events, 13-year-old boys and 12 or 13-year-old girls study the Torah to participate in the rites. In Hebrew, ‘Bar’ and ‘Bat Mitzvah’ means ‘son’ and ‘daughter of the commandments.’

Several sources indicate that the Bar Mitzvah began in the Middle Ages. This coming-of-age rite grew in prominence during the 18th and 19th centuries throughout the Jewish diaspora. The Bat Mitzvah, however, is a relatively more recent celebration. For boys and girls who undergo these rites, it means they’re no longer looked on as children. They’re now adults, and as such, they are expected to uphold Jewish laws and commandments.

The ceremony typically consists of a religious service in a synagogue or temple. The bar or bat mitzvah would then read from the Torah. The event is then followed by a celebration with family, friends, and other congregants.


In Latin American cultures, a 15-year-old girl’s birthday celebration is called a Quinceañera. This event marks a girl’s coming of age into womanhood and can be a religious and social celebration. A Quinceañera also highlights the importance not only of family but of the whole community as well to the young lady’s life.

The event usually starts with a mass attended by the young lady’s family, godparents, and other guests. A party, complete with food, music, and dancing, often follows Mass, to which friends and the extended family are invited. The celebrant is presented together with her damas or maids of honor and with the chambelánes or chamberlains.

One endearing feature of this event is the celebrant’s presentation of a doll to a younger sister as a symbolic way of telling the world that the celebrant is leaving her childhood behind. If there’s no younger sister, a younger female relative is presented with the doll instead. However, the Quinceañera party can vary in terms of tradition or ceremony. As with other things, this tradition continues to evolve and can mean differently to various communities and families.

Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day)

In Japan, a boy or girl’s coming of age isn’t celebrated individually. Instead, the Japanese have a holiday called Seijin no Hi or Coming of Age Day that celebrates all young people who have turned hatachi or twenty that year. It’s important to note that twenty was the age of majority in Japan (recently lowered to 18) when young people legally become members of society as adults.

This public holiday is celebrated on the second Monday of January. And as this event is public, it’s often held in public places like community centers, public halls, and other venues. Public organizations and the local government host ceremonies called Seijinshiki. Of course, all boys and girls who turn twenty that year are encouraged to attend.

The brand new Seijin or adults typically wear formal attires and are free to join in the festivities. There are speeches from public officials and other popular figures; there’s also a reception and presentation of mementos to commemorate the happy event.

As a public holiday, Seijin no Hi is celebrated all over Japan, so there are bound to be slight variations in the formal attire and other accouterments. The young ladies, however, all wear brightly-colored, long-sleeved kimonos with a furry stole to keep themselves warm in the cold January weather. The young gentlemen, in turn, either wear suits or the traditional haori and hakama (coat and loose trousers).

Sweet Sixteen

In North America, a young person’s 16th birthday is generally celebrated as a ‘Sweet Sixteen’ coming of age event. However, unlike the other coming of age events, the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ celebration doesn’t have a religious or cultural facet. Rather, this event signifies the beginning of the celebrant’s ‘freedom’ and responsibilities as an adult.

The ‘Sweet Sixteen’ tradition is closely tied to North America’s automobile culture. At 16, a person can apply for a driver’s license in the USA and Canada.

‘Sweet Sixteen’ celebrations don’t have a rigid template to follow. However, a few characteristics are typically present in most celebrations. These are the placement of tiaras in the young lady’s head, the candle-lighting ceremony, and the father-daughter dance.


Societies have different coming-of-age celebrations. These events are a symbolic way of ensuring their community’s continuity and serve as a connection to their past. Welcoming new members to the community is proof that they’ve raised capable adults — the hope is that their community will be in good hands. As an African proverb says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ So as children turn into adults, they’ll surely bring in with them the lesson they’ve learned so far as a child and will carry it through as they continue to grow and age.

Main image is by OcelotsGriblit from PixaBay.