Amazing Coming of Age Rituals

japanese coming of age

Amazing Coming of Age Rituals Around The World


One thing shared by many cultures around the globe: The transition from childhood to adulthood is important for both boys and girls. While different cultures express this remarkable moment differently, there is something nonetheless shared among all of them. The children themselves share a range of emotional responses, from absolute joy, to complete horror at an event they might perceive at the time as embarrassing.


This rite of passage can be expressed in a number of different ways. Then you have to consider that within a single culture, there can be also be differences between the genders. Taken as a whole, it is fascinating to see where these cultures share similarities, and where they divert sharply.


The Jewish Passage to Adulthood: Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Jewish boys celebrate their Bar Mitzvahs at the age of 13. Jewish girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvahs at the age of 12. This rite of passage establishes the commitment of a Jewish child to their faith. They must acknowledge that they will now be responsible for observing Jewish laws and traditions. Regardless of gender, the child is responsible for a good deal of work, in preparation for the big event. To celebrate their commitment to this work, and to celebrate the transition to adulthood, a large celebration is often held. Family and friends gather in great numbers to give gifts and praise, and to observe the ceremony that moves the child to the next stage of their life.


The Sateré-Mawé Passage To Adulthood: Bullet Ant Initiation

There is an indigenous tribe in the Brazilian Amazon known as the Sateré-Mawé. When young boys in this tribe turn thirteen, they mark this occasion with what is referred to as the Bullet Ant Initiation. The initiation involves taking numerous bullet ants, known for their brutal stings, and combining them with an herbal solution. The ants are then weaved into gloves, with their stingers pointing inwards. At this point, the boys will then wear the gloves for a period of 10 minutes. During this extremely painful period, even something as simple as crying out in pain will be seen as a sign of weakness. The boys are expected to wear the gloves several times, over the course of several months, before the ritual is considered finished.


The Hispanic Passage to Adulthood: Quinceanera

Throughout several parts of South and Central America, as well as in other countries which enjoy a large Hispanic population, young girls participate in a passage known as Quinceanera. This event occurs when the girls are fifteen years old. A Catholic mass is usually the first part of the occasion. During the mass, the young girl will renew the vows spoken at her baptism. The mass is meant to establish a profound foundation of the girl’s commitments to family and their faith. After this moment, the mass becomes a huge fiesta. Food and drink are served, gifts are given, and there is often dancing.

The American Passage to Adulthood: Sweet 16

For both young boys and young girls, turning 16 in the United States is a really big deal. This tradition is less rooted in a specific cultural background. Many different cultures throughout the United States mark a child turning sixteen as a significant occasion. Sometimes, a family’s religion will play a role in the proceedings. In other situations, a family may choose to combine a rite-of-passage from their culture/faith with the marking of the child’s sixteenth birthday. This is why this passage to adulthood is considered to be a little looser than some of the other passages highlighted here. Many children get to mark the occasion with a massive party, as well as gifts that are often considered to be extravagant. The Sweet 16 passage became something of a cultural phenomenon, thanks to the MTV show My Super Sweet 16.

girl's sweet 16

Khatam Al Koran Passage to Adulthood: Malaysia

Some Muslim girls throughout Malaysia mark their eleventh birthday as a very significant occasion. They may celebrate what is known as The Khatam Al Koran. Often held at the local mosque, this celebration indicates that the young girl in question has the ability to demonstrate their growing emotional maturity. This is expressed through a highly sacred ritual. In order to get ready for this ritual, many young girls will spend years getting ready to show what they have learned. They will review the Koran over and over again. On the big day, they will recite the final chapter before their family and other loved ones.


The Ethiopian Passage: Hamar Cow Jumping

Throughout Ethiopia, many young men choose a ceremony that proves they are ready for one of the most important rites of passage of their lives: marriage. In this ritual, a young man will strip off all of their clothes. Next, they will leap across a male cow that has been castrated. This effort must be completed four times in full. Through the efforts of this ritual, the Ethiopian man is indicating to those who attend that he is leaving his childhood behind. If they are successful in their efforts, they will become known as a Maza. This is the word used to describe the men who have passed the test successfully. After the ritual is successfully completed, the Maza may help to supervise other ceremonies along the region of Hamar.


The Japanese Passage: Seijin-no-Hi

For over twelve hundred years, this has been an important rite of passage for young Japanese men and women. Upon turning twenty, many Japanese youth will put on their very best traditional attire. They will then participate in a local ceremony at the city office in their area. With friends and family participating in the fun, the youth will receive gifts, and join a massive party. This is what is also known as the Coming of Age Festival. At this point in their lives, the men and women are now known as responsible, vital adults in their communities. This is also the age in which both men and women are allowed to not only vote, but to drink alcohol, as well.