Every country has holidays that are unique to that culture. Japan’s “Seijin-no-Hi,” or “Coming of Age” day this coming Monday is one we’d do well to endorse for ourselves.
The holiday is on the second Monday of the first month of each year. In Japan, the age of becoming an adult is 20. It’s a ritual celebrated throughout the country for 1,200 years. New “adult” attire is bought to wear at city-sponsored ceremonies where the young adults dress their best, exchange business information, meet high school classmates and are introduced to employers and other business-oriented concerns. They network and party hardy since they now are old enough to vote, drink alcohol and smoke tobacco products. Likewise, China has a similar recognition: Guan-Li for boys and Ji-Li for girls. The ceremony is mainly based on Confucianism.
Other countries, cultures and religions have “coming of age” days and celebrations, and that includes informal traditions in the United States. Largely a tradition stemming from Victorian England, a “sweet-16” party is a point at which both girls and boys begin their independence and start dating. They’re old enough to get a driver’s license, but still too young to vote, own property,or in most parts of the country, too young to marry.
Some religions have coming-of-age ceremonies. If born into a Jewish family, a Bar Mitzva (for boys) or a Bat Mitzva (for girls) takes place at 13 or 12, respectively. It is both a religious achievement and family tradition. The Amish also have a “coming of age” tradition called Rumspringa. Sixteen-year-olds are allowed to spend time away from home and even encouraged to go into the “sinful” world outside their community to learn about life away from the security of the Amish compound. It lasts for 10 years. When they return (at least by age 26), they will have their baptism confirmed as “their choice.” They are embraced then as one of the community, take on adult responsibilities and begin families.
The Hispanic ceremony, “Quinceanera,” is for girls 15 years old. They dress in pink and go through a number of activities to prove their value to the community. The Inuit traditionally sent their young sons into the wilderness with their fathers to learn survival skills, how to hunt and “man-up” to extreme weather conditions more severe than we have in North Dakota. For some time now, girls have been included and will be exposed to the wilderness habitat before she is a teen, just like one of the boys.
The Apache Nation had a tradition called Na’ii’ees, (Sunrise Ceremony) where pubescent girls spent four days in the wild learning how to be strong and useful as tribal members. They sought to become the living spirit of the first Apache female, “White Painted Woman.”
In the Deep South, regardless of race, young women (during the 19th and 20th centuries) were "presented” to society. Places like New Orleans included 16-year-olds in Mardi Gras parades or neighborhood rendezvous. They were recognized at church services as “adults” and as such began the seasons of romance and marriage.
Japan has a number of other days set aside for young people besides “Seijin-no-Hi.” Boys Day is May 5 and Girls’ day is March 3. Each holiday is recognized nationally and children on their special day will be treated royally wherever they go. Another holiday celebrates the health and well-being of youngsters. It’s called “Shichi-Go-San,” or 7,5,3. It celebrates girls ages 7 and 3 and boys aged 5. Families get dressed in traditional Kimono, go to their family shrine, take pictures, and have a meal out. Japanese children enjoy their birthdays but throughout each year, holidays help recognize how valuable children are to their families and their country.
If anyone has an item for this column, please contact Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.