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Sweet sixteen (birthday)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A sweet sixteen is a coming-of-age party[1] celebrating one's 16th birthday, mainly celebrated in the United States and Canada. While they are not a legal adult, typically, when they turn 16 is when many people learn to drive, get jobs, and assume other adult responsibilities. For many, the 16th birthday celebrates adulthood and marks the end of a childhood. As the name suggests, the celebration takes place on a sixteenth birthday and is celebrated across all genders, though it is typically more common with girls. In the past, sweet sixteens tended to be formal, but they no longer tend to.[2]


Shoe ceremony[edit]

For girls, the shoe ceremony is common at Quinceañeras parties. In this ceremony, the birthday girl sits in a chair while her father, grandfather, Godfather, Uncle, or brother approaches her, carrying a decorative pillow with high heels. The girl traditionally wore flat shoes, such as slippers, and the father ceremoniously helped her into her new high heels. This is symbolic of the girl transitioning into a woman.[3]

Tiara ceremony[edit]

The tiara ceremony is similar to the shoe ceremony, except the mother or a strong female figure approaches with a tiara instead of shoes and places it on her daughter's head to symbolize her becoming a woman. Sometimes, this is combined with the shoe ceremony so that two people approach the birthday girl, one with a pillow with high heels and the other with a pillow with a tiara.[3]

Candle-lighting ceremony[edit]

This tradition is common in Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceañeras, and sweet sixteens, although in different ages. There are typically 16 candles, each given to special family members and friends by the birthday girl.[4] Usually, when the recipient of the candle is named, the birthday girl says a few words in regards to why this person (or people) is special to them, they may tell a short story or fun memory they have shared with that person. The birthday girl can decide to give her candles to whomever she chooses.[5]

Other specific coming-of-age parties[edit]

like the United States, Similar celebrations are found in different cultures worldwide, some even brought to America.

Latin America[edit]

While it's thoroughly combined when living in the States, the most famous coming-of-age celebration is mainly the quinceañera, which is shared amongst the large Mexican American population from California to Florida, as well as within the other Hispanic communities throughout the country in Hispanic countries and Puerto Rico and the festa de debutantes in Brazil, both at 15 years of age.


In the Philippines, the debut (pronounced de-boo) celebrates a young woman's 18th birthday. A young man may also celebrate his debut on his 21st birthday, albeit with less formal celebrations or none.


Coming of Age Day at Atsuta Shrine (Nagoya).

Coming of Age Day (成人の日, Seijin no Hi) is a Japanese holiday held annually. It is held to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached or will reach maturity. Festivities include coming-of-age ceremonies (成人式, seijin-shiki) held at local and prefectural offices and after-parties among family and friends.


In Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, girls reach maturity at the age of 12, celebrated with a bat mitzvah, and for boys (and girls, in the Reform movement) at the age of 13, with a bar mitzvah, or for both, with a B'nai mitzvah and both girls, with a b'not mitzvah. These are important dates in the Jewish culture because the young person is considered an adult following these ceremonies, bar or bat mitzvah.


In many Christian denominations, both girls and boys reach spiritual maturity at the age of 14, with the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Popular culture[edit]

Like most coming-of-age events, sweet 16s are common on TV, in movies, music, books, and online.[6]


Songs that talk about or represent sweet 16s.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ames, Lynn (4 January 1978). "Sweet Sixteen: A Rite That Persists". New York Times. Archived from the original on 19 October 2021. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  2. ^ Rose, Gracie. "Teens change attitude toward Sweet 16". The Charger Online. Retrieved 4 June 2024.
  3. ^ a b "What is Sweet Sixteen and How to celebrate it?". Cher. 15 September 2017. Archived from the original on 7 December 2018. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Sweet Sixteen Candle Lighting Ceremony in the BEGINNING or END?". Luminique Events Group. 17 April 2019. Archived from the original on 19 August 2022. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  5. ^ March 29, Staff WriterLast Updated (4 August 2015). "What Is the Sweet 16 Candle Ceremony?". Reference.com. Archived from the original on 19 August 2022. Retrieved 19 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "16 Celebrity Episodes Of MTV's 'My Super Sweet 16' So Extravagant, They'll Make You Wish You Were Still A Teen". Bustle. 27 December 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2024.