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Coming of age is a young person's formal transition from adolescence to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes places varies in society, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a ritualistic cycle, similar to those once practiced by many societies. In the past, and in some societies today, such a change is associated with the age of sexual maturity (mid-adolescence) while modern legal conventions are more commonly a point in late adolescence or early adulthood (most commonly 18 and 21). In either case, many cultures retain ceremonies to confirm the coming of age, and significant benefits come with the change. (See also rite of passage.)

The term coming of age is also used in reference to different media such as stories, movies, etc. that have a young character or characters who, by the end of the story, have developed in some way, through the undertaking of responsibility, or by learning a lesson.

Religious coming of age



In some Christian traditions, generally Catholic and Anglican, Confirmation sacrament Confirmation is the ritual by which a young person becomes an official member of the Church. This sometimes includes the bestowal of a 'Confirmation name,' generally the name of a saint, which is often worn as a second middle name. Confirmation also bestows the Holy Spirit upon the confirmand, and in some churches is received concurrent with baptism or first communion.

Age of accountability

This is the age at which a child is old enough to understand the moral consequences of his or her actions and can be held accountable for sins. It is also called the 'age of reason.' Though it does not correspond to a particular age for every person, due to differences in personal and psychological maturation, it is sometimes set down arbitrarily as 12 or, in the Catholic Church, 7. In the LDS Church the age of accountability is 8. A child who has passed the age of accountability is said to know the difference between right and wrong and to be capable of obeying the moral laws of God. Some Christian traditions believe that the age of accountability is the end of a period of early grace (prevenient grace, in Wesleyan traditions) which covers over the sins of those not capable of knowing the moral consequences of their actions. (Those persons who, due to disabled mental or emotional development, will never reach a sufficient level of abstract reason, are covered by this grace for life and are sometimes known as 'the innocents.') In Christian traditions which practice Believer's Baptism (baptism by voluntary decision, as opposed to baptism in early infancy), the ritual can be carried out after the age of accountability has arrived. Some traditions withhold the rite of Holy Communion from those not yet at the age of accountability, on the grounds that children do not understand what the ritual means. Full membership in the Church, if not bestowed at birth, often must wait until the age of accountability and frequently is granted only after a period of preparation known as catechesis.

Greek polytheism

In certain states in Ancient Greece, such as Sparta and Crete, adolescent boys were expected to enter into a mentoring relationship with an adult man, in which they would be taught skills pertaining to adult life, such as hunting, martial arts, fine arts and philosophy. These mentorships were of a pederastic nature, in some cases chaste and in others sexually expressed.

Further information: Pederasty in ancient Greece


In Hinduism coming of age generally means that a girl attained puberty, and they have ceremonies that depends from one sect to another. One might have the ceremony for nine days and some for a month. They keep the girl protected in the home for certain period, doing prayers for her protection and take care of her by nourishing her with healthy food and women party to cheer her up. Hinduism also has the sacred thread ceremony for boys of higher castes, especially brahmins that marks their coming of age to do religious ceremonies.


In Jewish law and tradition, a boy who turns thirteen is known as a Bar mitzvah ("son of the commandment"), and is from that point obligated to fulfill Jewish commandments. This new status is often marked by a religious service at which the boy demonstrates performs a liturgical act, such as chanting a haftarah, that is ordinarily reserved for those who have reached the age of Bar Mitzvah. This service is not, formally speaking, a "coming of age" ceremony, since it only marks a status that is acquired automatically. In the popular imagination, however, it is often thought of as a coming of age ritual.

Similarly, a girl who reach the age of twelve is known as a "Bat Mitzvah." The general practice among Conservative and Reform Jews is to mark this event with a religious service essentially the same as that held for boys. Many Modern Othdodox Jews also hold Bat Mitzvah services, modified to conform to their interpretation of the limits imposed by Jewish law.

The Bar or Bat Mitzvah service is often followed by a party.

Cultural rituals exclusive to Nations

Australia, NZ, etc.

In Australia, New Zealand and numerous other countries, a party known as the Twenty First has long celebrated the coming of age. On their 21st birthdays, young people and their families and friends traditionally gather together for social parties where gifts are presented to the birthday boy or girl. The practice is gradually waning[How to reference and link to summary or text], primarily because the legal age of maturity has been reduced to 18, so by 21 they have already had the privileges of adulthood (the right to drink, smoke, gamble, get married, sign contracts, be independent of parents in decision making, vote etc) for three years. Many young people now heavily celebrate their 18th birthday's in the same way 21st birthdays were once celebrated. Traditional gifts, such as keys and tankards, symbolise this new stage of life.Twenty-one was once the age of majority, and this changed to 18 back in the 1980s this is when the significance of 18th came to prominence in Australia, the 21st is an excuse for a party for many people and allows them to have two coming of ages with special presents, speeches etc on both 18th and 21st. Twenty One is simply a tradition and does not bring the adult privilages it once did and 18 does now. Therefore 18 is the most significant for many people given it is now the age of majority and at that age a person is no longer considered a boy or a girl but a man or woman with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with that. Eighteen is the legal birthday and 21 for some people the traditional birthday. Also a significant coming-of-age event in the lives of many Australians is getting their driver's license. The minimum age varies from state-to-state, but the license is used as identification and proof-of-age that is often necessary to access the privileges of adulthood.


In traditional Latino cultures there is a tradition very similar to that of the Bat Mitzvah in the Jewish faith. For a young Latina woman, Quinceañera, Los Quince or La Fiesta de Quince (Fifteenth Birthday or The Party of the Fifteenth Birthday) is a rite of passage signifying that she has reached the age of adulthood. The event is marked by a large celebration and a candle lighting ceremony, which acts as a more spiritual mark to her achievement. This tradition is based on societal views of youth and faith.


In Spain during the 20th century, there was a civilian coming of age bound to the compulsory military service. The quintos were the boys of the village that reached the age of eligibility for military service (18 years), thus forming the quinta of a year. In rural Spain, the mili was the first and sometimes the only experience of life away from family. In the days before their departure, the quintos knocked every door to ask for food and drink. They held a common festive meal with what they gathered and sometimes painted some graffiti reading "Vivan los quintos del <year>" as a memorial of their leaving their youth. Years later, the quintos of the same year could still hold yearly meals to remember times past. By the end of the 20th century, the rural exodus, the diffusion of city customs and the loss of prestige of military service changed the relevance of quintos parties. In some places, the party included the village girls of the same age, thus becoming less directly relevant to military service. In others, the tradition was simply lost.


Main article: Seijin shiki

Since 1948, the age of majority in Japan has been 20; under-20s are not permitted to smoke, drink, or vote. Coming-of-age ceremonies, known as seijin shiki, are held on the second Monday of January. At the ceremony, all of the men and women participating are brought to a government building and listen to many speakers, similar to a graduation ceremony. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the government gives the new adults money.

In the past, coming-of-age ceremonies were largely reserved for noble and samurai families. A ceremony called genpuku was celebrated for men of such ranks at an age varying from 12 to 16. The equivalent for women was called mogi (裳着?), and was celebrated for girls between the ages of 12 and 14.

Papua New Guinea

Kovave is a ceremony to initiate Papua New Guinea boys into adult society. It involves dressing up in a conical hat which has long strands of leaves hanging from the edge, down to below the waist. The effect is both humorous and frightening. The name Kovave is also used to describe the head-dress.


In 1928, Margaret Mead published a book called Coming of Age in Samoa. It not only launched her career as an anthropologist but remains a classic in its field.

United Kingdom

The coming of age in the United Kingdom is celebrated either at 18, which is the legal age of majority, or at 21, the more traditional age. The legal age to drink is 18, Celebrations typically take the form of a particularly extravagant birthday party; presents given are often of higher than usual value, and Champagne may be served, as at other formal celebrations, but no set ceremony or ritual is observed.


In the rite of initiation of Baka Pygmies, the Spirit of the Forest ritually kills the boys to propitiate their rebirth as men. The Italian anthropologist Mauro Campagnoli took part in this secret rite of men's initiation in order to better understand its meaning. He became a member of a baka patrilinear clan and completed his trans-cultural coming of age.


In Korea, the Monday of the third week of May is "coming-of-age day."

Professional initiatory rituals

Academic Initiations

English public school


In many universities of Europe, first year students are made to undergo tests or humiliation before being accepted as students. Perhaps the oldest of these is "Raisin Monday" at the University of St Andrews. It is still practiced. A senior student would take a new student, a "bejant" or "bejantine" under his wing and show them round the university. In gratitude, the bejant would give the senior student a pound of raisins. In turn this led to bejants being given receipts in Latin. If a bejant failed to produce the receipt, he could be thrown into a fountain. The word bejant derives from "bec jaune" (a yellow beak, or fledgling).

Fraternities and sororities

Printing industry

Among apprentices, the step from apprentice to journeyman was often marked by some ceremonial humiliation. Among printers this lasted until the twentieth century. The unfortunate young man would be "banged out" by being covered in offal.

See also

External links

ca:Majoria d'edat es:Mayor de edad fr:Majorité civile

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