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Cultures & Values ~ Colicchio

Coming of Age

Mepandes, Indonesia
Mepandes is a teeth-filling ceremony that takes place in Bali, Indonesia. It involves removing the sharp edges of canine teeth and filling the front six teeth flat to symbolically rid one of negativity like lust, greed, anger, and jealousy. The procedure can only be performed on girls who've had their first period.
 

Sunrise Ceremony, Apache Tribe
The Apache tribe, a Native American group based in the southwest United States, has a coming of age ceremony that takes place over four days. The Sunrise Ceremony, or Na'ii'ees, is reserved for girls who've had their first period. Prior to the actual ritual, girls participate in six months of teaching. They must reenact the Apache Origin Myth drawing each female participant closer to the first woman, known as White Painted Woman, Changing Woman, or simply Esdzanadehe. In doing so they obtain her power during this special time. The ceremony includes dancing for hours, running, chanting, praying, and having paint (a mix of clay and cornmeal) covering her face for the duration of the ceremony. At the end she "blesses" and "heals" fellow members of her tribe.

 

Bar and Bat Mitzvah, Jewish
Around the world, young Jewish boys and girls celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at age 13 and 12 in order to demonstrate their commitment to their faith and recognize that they are now responsible for following Jewish law. After the religious ceremony, a reception typically ensues to celebrate the young person’s hard work and accomplishment, as they have often spent weeks learning and preparing for this day.

 

Bullet Ant Initiation, Satere Maue- Amazon
In the Brazilian Amazon, young boys belonging to the indigenous Sateré-Mawé tribe mark their coming of age when they turn 13 in a Bullet and Ant Initiation. The tradition goes as so: they search the jungle for bullet ants which are sedated by a leader who submerges them in an herbal solution. The ants are then weaved into gloves with the stingers pointed inwards. An hour or so later, the ants wake up angrier than ever, and the initiation begins. Each boy has to wear the gloves for ten minutes. Enduring the pain demonstrates the boys’ readiness for manhood -- so few cry out as doing so would demonstrate weakness. Each boy will eventually wear the gloves 20 times over the span of several months before the initiation is complete.

 

Rumspringa, Amish
In Amish tradition, Rumspringa marks the time when youth turn 16 and are finally able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. During this time, they are encouraged to enjoy whatever pleasures they like, be that modern clothing or alcohol. The purpose of this period is to allow Amish youth the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond their culture and upbringing. In this way, returning to their community and way of life thus is entirely their choice. Those who return are then baptized and become committed members of the Amish church and community, marking the end of Rumspringa (but they must do so before turning 26).

 

Quinceanera, Latin America
In many parts of Central and South America, young girls celebrate their Quinceanera when they turn 15 years old. The coming of age tradition typically begins with a Catholic mass where the girl renews her baptismal vows and solidifies her commitment to her family and faith. Immediately following the mass is a fiesta where friends and family eat and dance. Some other parts of the ceremony include having a court of 14 friends, giving away a porcelain doll to a younger sister, and changing from flats to high heels to represent entering adulthood.

 

Sweet 16, North America
While less rooted in tradition, the 16th birthday is nonetheless an important one for American youth, as it marks the time when they are legally permitted to drive a car (and with driving comes big-time freedom). For some lucky teens the day is celebrated with an over-the-top, wedding reception-type party at a dance hall with family and friends

 

North Baffin Island, Inuit 
In North Baffin Island, Inuit boys have traditionally gone out to the wilderness with their fathers between the ages of 11 and 12 to test their hunting skills and acclimatize to the harsh arctic weather. As part of the tradition, a shaman would be called to open the lines of communication between men and animals. Nowadays, however, this tradition has been extended to young girls as well, as “outcamps” are established away from the community in order for traditional skills to be passed down and practiced by the young men and women.

 

Khatam Al Koran, Malaysia
After circumcision for boys and reaching 11 years old for girls, a Malaysian tradition has to be completed before they may be called an adult and be able to celebrate Khatam Al Koran, a prestigious ritual that demonstrates their growing maturity at their local mosque. Girls spend years preparing for this day, reviewing the Koran so they can recite the final chapter before friends and family at the ceremony.

 

Maasai, Tanzania and Kenya
The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have several rites of passage that carry boys into manhood. Boys between the ages of 10-20 come together to be initiated as the new “warrior class” of the tribe, placed in dozens of houses built for the occasion. The night before the ceremony the boys sleep outside in the forest, and at dawn they return for a day of singing and dancing. They drink a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood, and milk, while also consuming large portions of meat. After these festivities they are ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector. Similar to other rites of passage the boys cannot flinch, because doing so would shame their families and discount their bravery. For the next 10 years the boys will stay at a warrior’s camp where they learn various skills. After the ceremony takes places, marking their transition from warrior to senior warrior, they are entitled to marry the woman of their choice.

 

Hamar Cow Jumping, Ethiopia 
In Ethiopia, some grooms-to-be have their own “bachelor party” of sorts- a rite of passage they must complete prior to being able to marry. Participants must successfully jump over a castrated, male cow four times while naked, symbolizing the childhood they are leaving behind them. If successful, they will now be considered one of the Maza- other men who passed the test and spend the next few months supervising these events in villages throughout the Hamar territory.

 

Land Divers, Vanuatu - South Pacific 
Bungee enthusiasts will enjoy this: in Vanuatu, a small island nation in the middle of the South Pacific, young boys come of age by jumping off of a 98-foot-tall tower with a bungee-like vine tied to their ankles, just barely preventing them from hitting the ground. The catch? Unlike a bungee cord, the vine lacks elasticity, and a slight miscalculation in vine length could lead to broken bones or even death. Boys initially begin jumping at around 7 or 8, although they are permitted to jump from a shorter tower. In their first dives their mother will hold an item representing their childhood, and after the jump the item will be thrown away, symbolizing the end of childhood. As boys grow older they will jump from taller towers, demonstrating their manliness to the crowd.

 

Seijin-no-Hi, Japan
In Japan, the second Monday of January marks a special day- the day in which 20 year olds get to dress up in their finest traditional attire, attend a ceremony in local city offices, receive gifts, and party to their hearts’ content amongst friends and family. It’s their Coming of Age Festival, otherwise known as Seijin-no-Hi. The tradition started nearly 1200 years ago and recognizes the age when the Japanese believe youth become mature, contributing members of society (it’s also the time when they get to vote and drink).

 

Mepandes, Indonesia
Mepandes is a teeth-filling ceremony that takes place in Bali, Indonesia. It involves removing the sharp edges of canine teeth and filling the front six teeth flat to symbolically rid one of negativity like lust, greed, anger, and jealousy. The procedure can only be performed on girls who've had their first period.

 

Ji Li and Guan Li, Confucian - China
In some parts of China, there has recently been a resurgence of the Confucian-style coming of age ceremonies Ji Li (for girls) and Guan Li (for boys). The ceremonies typically honor youth who have turned 20, and provide an opportunity to wear traditional dress and pay tribute to Huangdi, a Chinese ancestor. Girls participate in a hairpin ceremony in which her hair gets washed, combed, and put into an updo with pins made of gold, jade, or wood.
 

Dipo, Ghana
In Ghana, the Krobo group introduces women to adulthood with the two-day Dipo ceremony. Young women, all virgins, get paraded around the community as Dipo-yi, or initiates. They are given a ritual bath, eat sugar cane, drink a cocktail (made of millet beer, palm wine, and schnapps), and their feet are "washed" with slaughtered goats' blood. After these practices, the women leave their village to live in confinement for a week where they are taught about childbirth, cooking, housekeeping, and what they consider being a good wife. They then return to the community and perform the "klama" dance half-clothed and adorned with beads and body paint.

 

Seijin No Hi, Japan
The second Monday in January marks Japan's official Coming of Age Day. It's celebrated annually by men and women who've turned 20 the year prior and involves ceremonies hosted by local government offices recognizing the celebrants as official adults able to drink, smoke, gamble, and drive. Participating women typically wear long-sleeved kimonos with fur and, after visiting shrines, celebrate in a party with family and friends.

 

Isnati Awica Dowanpi, Yankton Sioux/Ihanktonwan Oyate Reservation
In South Dakota's Yankton Sioux/Ihanktonwan Oyate Reservation, girls who've had their first period go through a four-day ceremony. The group of girls raise up a teepee in where they will live together throughout the festivities. They cannot touch food or drink and must, instead, be fed by mothers and other women in the "moon camp." Activities throughout the four days include gathering herbs, fruits, and wildflowers, learning how to make ceremonial food like dried buffalo beef jerky, being bathed in sage water, getting taught ceremonial songs and beading techniques, and listening to elders give serious talks about sex, relationships, and mental health.

 

Tamil Puberty Ceremony, Sri Lanka
Among the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, girls are considered women once they've had their first period. On the first day of her menstruation cycle, the girl gets bathed by close relatives, is kept in isolation, and fed a big meal. After isolation, she takes another bath and dons heavy makeup, dresses in a sari, and piles on layers of jewelry to signify womanhood. Friends and family gather for a celebration and offer gifts to the young woman.

 

Gwan Rye, South Korea
Every third Monday of May, Korean men and women around 20 years old celebrate en masse for Gwan Rye. Women entering adulthood traditionally wear an ornamental hairpin and a hanbok, the national costume, and receive three symbolic gifts: perfume, roses, and a kiss.
 

Debut, Philippines
Filipinos celebrate a girl's 18th birthday with a debut (pronounced de-boo), a big party with family and friends akin to a Sweet 16 or quinceanera. Traditionally, celebrants will also have a cotillion with 18 people (9 couples) to perform choreographed dance numbers that often take months to practice.
 

Tchoodi, Mali
In Mali, Fulani women are ushered into womanhood by practicing "Tchoodi," or getting facial tattoos. The ritual has young girls getting their lip area tattooed with black as a sign of cultural identity and beauty (the idea is to look more attractive to a prospective husband). As the young girl endures the pain of being tattooed, women from the village gather around to watch, singing, clapping, chanting, and beating drums throughout the process.

 

Confirmation, Catholicism
A Confirmation is one of the religious upbringings a Catholic youth has to go through. In society, to receive your confirmation means you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and are strengthened as a Christian. As a young one who’ll receive their Confirmation from the church, it's a sign of one stepping up as an adult to become closer with the Holy Spirit.


Naghol, Vanuatu- Pentecost Isles
This death-defying coming-of-age ritual comes from the island of Vanuatu. This leap of faith is made by a boy who is strapped on one leg to a vine while they dangle over a makeshift wooden platform that may reach up to 100ft. At first try, the mother will accompany the boy with one item from his childhood. Once he is ready to jump, the mother shall throw it away and hope that the vine will be long enough to stop mere millimeters above the ground. Touching the ground would mean a good harvest, dying would mean a great harvest.


Ogiek Roar, Ogiek- Africa
Children from the Ogiek Tribe in Kenya are painted white and told to hunt for a beast that makes a very fearsome sound, similar to that of a roar. The elders are the ones actually making the sounds and if they deem the kids brave enough the elders shall show the horn used and every hunter must blow the horn in order to become an adult. This coming-of-age ritual is done to both boys and girls and can be practiced in groups.


Festa De Mocas Nuevas, Tukuna- Amazon
This ritual is performed by the Tukuna tribe from Peru. In order for a woman to pass womanhood, she is left out in tents for days and painted 3 times a day while half-naked, leaving them exposed to the demon “Noo.” If they get through the ritual, they will become full-fledged women.