Coming of Age Ceremonies for Boys

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Coming of age ceremony for son turning 13

Feb 2011

My son will be turning 13 later this year. He has been invited to two bar mitzvahs. It had me thinking... about us not being Jewish and not having a spiritual, cultural, tradition rooted in history and community to acknowledge this passing... and how sad that is. I'm wondering if other parents have created their own coming of age ceremonies and would be willing to share their experiences or ideas for this. We have about 8 months and I like the idea of preparing him for something special...not the usual pizza party... I'd love to hear from other parents. K.

Im SO glad you brought this up! Rituals make us feel whole and supported and I too have had some deep feelings of grief over not having similar traditions being a boring Dutch Presbyterian. Julie Batz may be able to help you with some ideas. She is an incredibly progressive ritual planner, and though I have only worked with her on Bats and Bars, after watching her empowering work, I told her that I felt left out and she told me there was no reason at all that I couldnt do a ''coming of Age''. Reenie

When my son and daughter became bar/bat mitzvot, some of our non-Jewish friends were wondering the same thing. This ritual has a strong religious component, but other factors go into it. For example, kids spend many hours in Hebrew school, learning their portion, writing a teaching, etc. They often do this at the expense of other, more fun activities, and this aspect is also important. Does your son play an instrument and will he have a recital or solo? This event could be celebrated as a coming of age, especially if he devoted many hours to practice. I encourage you to look at the growing up part of the ritual as much as the party by celebrating an accomplishment for which he has worked hard. Giving up free time toward achieving a greater goal is part of the transition into adulthood. Bar/bat mitzvah mom

It's great to hear that you are looking to create something special like this for your son. I highly recommend the book ''From Boys to Men -- Spiritual Rites of Passage in an Indulgent Age'' by Bret Stephenson, and ''Boy's Passage Man's Journey'' by Brian Molitor. This will give you plenty of ideas. My son only just turned 11, but I am already exploring aspects of a customized rite of passage for him, which includes starting now with intentional mentoring by men within, or close to, our family. For more support, join the ''Bay Area Teen Rites of Passage'' Meetup group, which has its first event on February 27th. Anushka

We too are a family who does not participate as members of a religious institution, yet we too believe in the value of traditions and rituals. However, neither from my husband's nor my side of the family is there a tradition or ritual for coming of age. Nevertheless, to recognize the significance of the life passage, I did help my daughter to celebrate her coming of age, as follows:
- It had been agreed for years in advance, amongst the immediate family, that she could have her ears pierced once she had her first period. Much fanfare was made of the piercing event, including relaying stories of how her aunts and grandmothers came to have their ears pierced, in the context of maturing into womanhood. For our daughter, the new pair of earrings will remain the symbol of a life passage.
- Accompanying were the private mother-daughter talks about what entering womanhood means.
-Final celebration, still within the immediate family,and including the menfolk, was a tea at the Ritz Carlton in honor of our daughter having entered womanhood.

This all was very simple, yet out of the ordinary for the family. It will be our daughter's choice as to whether or not she will carry forward 'the tradition' if/when she has a daughter coming of age. high on celebrating coming of age

Green Gulch Farm (in Marin) which is part of San Francisco Zen Center has a program for kids coming of age. It's supposed to be wonderful. I would contact GGF or SFZC and ask about the children's program. Probably call GGF first, might need to leave a message. Good luck! atmnsky

Customs for a young man coming into manhood

Sept 1999

My uncle is wanting to find what different customs there are in different countries for a young man coming into manhood as my cousin is turning 13 in a few weeks. Any recommendations or tips regarding this would be appreciated! Tamara

Re: Coming of age practices in different countries. The classic book on this is by Van Gennup (sp?), called Rites of Passage. A warning that the customs in many places involve the sexual initiation of the boy/man. This may not be quite what your uncle had in mind. Dianna

We bought a book a few years back that discusses such rituals (among others). It's called The Circle of Life: Rituals from the Human Family Album, edited by David Cohen, copyright 1991 by Cohen Publishers Inc, printed by Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. ISBN 0-06-250152-6. We thought it was a GREAT book.

After I recommended the book, The Circle of Life: Rituals from the Human Family Album, I paged through it again. It had been some years since I had looked at it. I realized that some of the pictures were quite graphic. By this I mean that they show pictures of some rituals that we in our culture might find shocking, not that there are explicit body parts shown. There is a picture, for instance, of a teen undergoing the ritual of female circumcision. No explicit view of her genitals, but a VERY clear view of the expression on her face. I still think it is a great book. But I would consider it more of an anthropological piece, rather than as something to hand over to a teen unsupervised. Dawn