There is a growing desire for modern coming-of-age rituals in secular society, highlighting the importance of acknowledging this transition, individually and as a community, while also offering support to our kids as they move into adolescence.
The transition from childhood to adolescence is a significant and transformative period in a person’s life, marked by physical, emotional, and psychological changes. Coming-of-age rituals have long been a way for societies worldwide to recognize and celebrate this pivotal moment.
In Western societies, however, the shift towards secularism and the loss of cultural traditions have led people to want to create their own meaningful coming of age rituals…but they don’t always know where to start.
“How do we become who we are meant to be? This is a question religion has long engaged. But just because we lose religion, we don’t have to lose the question, or the rituals that help us answer it. Coming of age is a human transition, not a religious one. We all leave childhood for adulthood and take up our places in the world.”By Katherine Ozment, Coming of Age in a Secular Era and author of Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age.
Traditional vs. Modern Coming-of-Age
Traditional coming-of-age ceremonies have deep roots in various cultures, such as the Japanese Seijin Shiki, the Jewish Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, or the Quinceañera in Latin American cultures. These rituals often carry religious or cultural significance, symbolizing the transition from childhood to adulthood and the assumption of new responsibilities within the community.
In Western society, where many have distanced themselves from religious and cultural traditions, there has been a rise in secular coming-of-age ceremonies. These modern rituals aim to provide a sense of purpose, identity, and community during a time that can be both exciting and challenging for adolescents.
What Does a Coming-of-Age Ceremony Entail?
A coming of age ceremony is a way to support, honour, and celebrate a child who is stepping into adolescence. This ceremony can symbolize the transition from childhood to adulthood, acknowledging an individual’s growth, maturity, and increased responsibilities.
These ceremonies incorporate elements of personal and universal symbols and traditions. Typically, friends and family come together to celebrate the individual or a group of kids, reinforcing a sense of belonging and community support.
You can create your own Coming of Age ceremony using our guided ritual platform to inspire you with ideas and provide a framework to get started. Here are a few ritual ideas to get you started:
Here are 3 Coming-of-Age Rituals:
Ritual: Age Markers
Choose a designated path that the guest of honour will walk through, and place numbers for each age along the path. Attach notes of support at each age marker, pinned to a tree or in a glass jar. You can also have people standing at each age marker, sharing a piece of wisdom or advice along the path.
Ritual: Notes of Affirmation
Have everyone reflect on one thing they love about the guest of honour. Invite them to write down a note of affirmation and share it aloud or privately. Find a way to turn these notes into keepsakes that the guest can come back to during times of turbulence and uncertainty.
Ritual: Crossing the Threshold
Create a symbolic threshold that you can each step over to mark this time of change or experience. As you step over, take a moment to acknowledge what you are stepping into. Create space for any and all emotions to show up.
Why is a Coming-of-Age Ceremony Important?
In a rapidly evolving world, the need for meaningful and secular coming-of-age ceremonies is more apparent than ever. As Western society continues to distance itself from traditional rituals, it becomes crucial to create alternative avenues for adolescents to navigate this significant life transition. By embracing personalized and community-oriented approaches, we can ensure that the journey into adulthood is marked by self-discovery, support, and a strong sense of identity.
These ceremonies provide an opportunity for the individual to explore and express their developing identity. They may choose themes, activities, or aspects of the celebration that reflect their interests, values, and aspirations. A coming of age ceremony can provide a moment for social recognition of the individual’s new status and a chance for loved ones to show support and encouragement.
Create your own Coming-of-Age ceremony with Be Ceremonial’s guided ritual platform. With over 30 rituals to choose from, we offer you the ceremony framework as well as the ritual language to create your own unique experience. Sign up for free and start exploring the many ceremonies we offer!
You can also check out these wonderful organizations for inspiration:
- Seeking Ceremony: Guided ceremonies for moments of change and transition
- G Day For Girls: From 2014-2019, G Day gathered a village across Canada to support and celebrate 10-12 year old girls as they take their first steps into adolescence.
- Fire & Flower Girls: Mentorship & Rite of Passage Programs for Girls and Non-Binary Youth