Created By: dotchan on June 29, 2009
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Rite of Passage

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(Alt title for the specific trope I'm talking about: "Welcome to Adulthood" or "Congratulations For Surviving Your Childhood")

Lots of cultures have a special ceremony that marks the transition from teen to adult. It's both a celebration of a major life landmark and an acknowledgment that the celebrant is a part of the mystical society of grownups. In cultures without such a ceremony, other major life landmarks are celebrated instead.

(Keeping everything to one trope for now, it might be splittable once we collect enough examples.)
Japan has the Coming of Age Day for reaching twenty and the eating of Red Beans And Rice for a girl's first menarche.


America (and other parts of the Western World) has the Sweet Sixteen; less formally, getting your first car (representing freedom and responsibility), turning the age of consent, losing your virginity, turning 21 (or being old enough to legally drink), and graduating from high school and/or college are also seen as major steps towards adulthood.
Women of high society mark their first formal debut in high society with debutante balls. The Pimped-Out Dress is an important part of this. Also called a coming-out party.


Latin American girls get the Quinceaera ("Fifteen Years") and the Catholic rituals (see below).
Cultural and Ethnic Jews have the Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah at the age of 12, to symbolize that the celebrant is old enough to understand the Torah (the Books of the Law). Being roped in as a performer at a Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is seen as one of those jobs you have to do to make ends meet, but not a dignified gig, just barely above being a birthday party clown.
Catholics have Confirmation at the age of 12 to, well, confirm that the baptism they were given as infants has lead to becoming a full member of the church. Other Christian denominations have similar rites.
Muslims have the circumcision of both boys and girls (though this is rare) at age 12.
Stone Age societies (real or fictional) are presented as having ridiculously frightening rites of passage involving stinging insects, piercing of nether regions, psychosomatic drugs, and so on and so forth.

  • Spike's Manswers once did a "what rite of adulthood is most likely to kill you?" segment focusing on these kinds of tropes. (Answer: strapping a bamboo tube filled with fireworks to your crotch and hoping you don't lose a limb or worse.)

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • The decision of gender in Simoun.

Film
  • Flash Gordon (1980). A young Arborean man is initiated into adulthood through the "test of manhood", which involves sticking your arm into a stump and hoping you don't stung by the monster inside.

Literature
  • Alexei Panshin's SF novel Rite of Passage. 14 year old children on a starship must go through a Trial before being considered adults: surviving on a hostile colony planet for 30 days with minimal equipment.
  • In The Giver, getting assigned a job is an important rite that determines the rest of a person's life; being assigned the unusual job of Giver is what marks Jonas as special in the community.
  • In the Farseers trilogy, mention is made of a ceremony.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • June 6, 2009
    LickyLindsay
    Debutante balls, where girls are formally inducted into upper-class society. While people use the term "debutante" to mean any rich young woman, what it actually refers to is one who has made her social debut at such a party. Happened on Gilmore Girls. Also known as coming-out parties. (No, not that kind of coming out; Dr. Cox on Scrubs once had to explain the difference to JD).

    Another Always Female example is the Mexican-American QuinceaƱera, which is a girl's 15th birthday.
  • June 6, 2009
    VampireBuddha
    I've heard it's a common misconception that a Bar/t Mitzvah is an event - it's actually something one becomes, which is celebrated.

    Catholics also have first Communion.
  • June 6, 2009
    TBeholder
  • June 6, 2009
    LarryD
    Tolerate my becoming pendantic for a moment. In Anthropology, a Rite of Passage is any ceremony which marks a change of status for a community member. Marrage, graduation, Bar/t Mitzvah celebrations, baptism, conformation, and funerals all qualify. Swearing in ceremonies for public officials also qualify. Most of the American examples don't have a ceremony, and therefore don't qualify.
  • June 6, 2009
    idledandy
    And remember, not all Christians are Roman Catholic. Lots of Protestants have confirmations and first communions (though for most, the latter is not as big a deal as it is for Roman Catholics.)
  • June 6, 2009
    Magus
    The decision of gender in Simoun.
  • June 6, 2009
    halfmillennium
    And to be honest, getting a car, losing virginity, boozing and the other "American" examples are done all over the Western world, and aren't on specific dates.
  • June 6, 2009
    SweetMadness
    Actually, in Catholicism, it's far more common for people to recieve First Communion during grade school (around 10-11ish), then Confirmation in high school (15-16ish). However, adults entering the faith recieve all three Rites of Initiation (Baptism, Communion, Confirmation) in the same service, during the Easter Vigil Mass.
  • June 7, 2009
    halfmillennium
    Might be best to remove the ages from the Western examples, they can vary.
  • June 7, 2009
    VampireBuddha
    @Sweet Madness: That's wrong. First Communion is taken in first class (7-8), and Confirmation in sixth class (12-13).
  • June 7, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Bar Mitzvah is at age 13, not 12.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frank75
    I heard it's 13 for boys but 12 for girls.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    • In Drowtales, the Sarghress clan has a Blood Rite which is probably based on The Blooding.
  • June 7, 2009
    TBeholder
  • June 7, 2009
    Tacitus
    Female circumsicion (dangerous growl) isn't so much a Muslim practice as it is a cultural tradition in some places. It isn't exactly mainstream.
  • June 7, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    • Catholics have Confirmation at the age of 12 to, well, confirm that the baptism they were given as infants has lead to becoming a full member of the church, and then First Communion, which is the first time they participate in the symbolic eating and drinking of Jesus' body and blood (long story, don't ask). Other Christian denominations have similar rites.

    Really, just remove all mention of First Communion from this. When the two are separate (when someone is raised Catholic and has both as early as generally allowed), First Communion will always be before Confirmation and while a rite of passage, it's not really a sign of adulthood as the others are. Otherwise, both are part of the same event on the same day. So, it just isn't right. (Vampire Buddha, your reply is extremely specific to your own personal experience)
  • June 7, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Bar Mitzvahs (for boys) are always at 13. Bat Mitzvahs can be at 12 or 13 depending on denomination of Judaism, and I wouldn't be surprised if 13 is actually more common (at least in America) since Reform Jews are the largest group.
  • June 7, 2009
    Ronka87
    With regard to strictly fictional rites, in The Giver, getting assigned a job is an important rite that determines the rest of a person's life; being assigned the unusual job of Giver is what marks Jonas as special in the community.
  • June 8, 2009
    Arivne
    Film
    • Flash Gordon (1980). A young Arborean man is initiated into adulthood through the "test of manhood", which involves sticking your arm into a stump and hoping you don't stung by the monster inside.

    Literature
    • Alexei Panshin's SF novel Rite of Passage. 14 year old children on a starship must go through a Trial before being considered adults: surviving on a hostile colony planet for 30 days with minimal equipment.

    Western Animation
    • The Star Trek The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" introduced the kahs-wan, an ordeal in which Vulcan children must survive in the desert for 10 days by themselves with no supplies to prove their courage and strength.
  • June 8, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Russians (who are a generally Westernized people, but have their own quirks) have the high school graduation as a rite of passage. Complete with graduation balls (and Pimped Out Dresses).

    Most other Western rites of passage do not apply to them: they are mostly too poor to own a car at age 17, too unreligious (courtesy of 70 years of Soviet atheism), and not enough law-abiding to think about age of consent.
  • June 10, 2009
    Antheia
    This tends to show up in Robin Hobb's books.
    • In the Farseers trilogy, mention is made of a ceremony in which a young man is given a new, descriptive name, which is secret and never used.
    • In the Liveship Traders books, girls aged thirteen or fourteen "come out" (no, still not like that) at the summer ball, which is pretty much a debutante ball. After this, they are expected to act (and allowed to dress) like adult women.

  • June 12, 2009
    Arivne
    Literature
    • In the Earthsea Trilogy novel A Wizard of Earthsea, the mage Ogion the Silent gives Duny his True Name of "Ged" in a coming of age ceremony.
  • June 22, 2009
    dotchan
    Suggestions for the trope name?
  • June 29, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Today I Am A Man...

    That is actually what is said during a Bar Mitzvah. Presumably girls say "Today I am a woman."

    Or if you think the generic male form has Unfortunate Implications just title it "Today I am a (Wo)man
  • June 29, 2009
    Jack Butler
  • June 30, 2009
    dotchan
    Last call for name suggestions before launch.
  • June 30, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Today I Am A Whatever
  • July 1, 2009
    blackcat
    What is wrong with Rite Of Passage?
  • July 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    It'll do.
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