Coming of age is a big deal to a lot of young men and women, it gives them something to look forward to when they get to that specific age. For some, it is going to their first strip club and for others, it is hunting trip as well as shooting their first deer that signifies their status as a man/adult. This coming of age ritual is called a Rites of Passage, it is a holy ceremonial activity that people in certain cultures and religions partake in to cement their adult status. Rites of Passage is a very serious and effervescent pastime that people in certain cultures still follow today, it is a very unique sense of recreation that allows people to not only get in touch with their roots but to also take pride in their heritage; undergoing a rites of passage ceremony in some cultures is not open for debate. As most people well know, when they reach the age of 18 then they are technically an adult which is celebrated by doing something manly or something an adult would do. Some people usually get married and move out of their parent’s house which signifies their adult status, people have even branded going to college a rites of passage because it is their first real taste of adulthood. Most people don’t get to partake in rites of passage rituals because it is just enough to acknowledge that they are an adult, a rites of passage ceremony is a valued and a respected ritual worldwide and as should be respected as such. A Rites of Passage is usually done according to age, culture, aspects of the ceremony and the overall importance. The Mexican culture is an example of this, the ritual they perform to ‘promote’ their youth to adulthood is a time-honored tradition in the community and most women are honored to be able to take part in such an act of holy ascension to adulthood. Coincidentally, the Jewish community is another such culture where their Rites of Passage ritual is time-honored and very much respected. There is much commonality between the two cultures as this paper will point out.
Two cultures, one ritual
The people within the Mexican community approach the young woman’s ascension to adulthood from the perspective of throwing her a Quinceanera, it wholly celebrates the woman’s promotion into an adult at the tender age of 15. With the Quinceanera, the young woman in question is turned on to things she never thought possible. The thing to be discussed first about a Quinceanera is the early morning church mass where the young woman is escorted to the church by her family where she is at the altar giving thanks for a wonderful and endearing childhood, her formal attire for the affair is a formal gown either white or pink based on the young woman’s preference; sometimes the choice is made for her by her mother. To complete her formal attire, the young woman is given gifts usually expensive jewelry to wear along with her dress; the jewelry is also kept as a keepsake of the event. The mass phase of the Quinceanera requires that the young female kneel before the altar and after she does, she leaves a small bouquet of flowers and give thanks to the Mexican Virgin Mary which is called Virgen de Guadalupe. This is a very customary part of the Quinceanera because the young lady is giving thanks to the Virgen for being allowed to make it to this point in her life, their heart felt kneeling before the Virgen Mary is absolute. Once the mass is over, the young girl is then a woman and she is treated like one as well. The final feature of the Quinceanera is the party. Women in the Mexican community do not hook up with and dance with whatever random guy is there, the main dance of the ceremony is reserved for the father to dance with his now adult daughter then other male guests at the affair dance with the woman one by one. Shortly thereafter, the woman’s Quinceanera consists of a dinner party where every single last one of her relatives are at the table giving a toast to her for ascension into adulthood. Most Quinceanera dinner parties last anywhere from 4 to almost 7 hours, the cake is the endgame; it is created based on the woman’s design.
The Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a sacred rites of passage in the Jewish culture and there is much to learn about it unlike the Quinceanera, Bar/Bat Mitzvah is something that both men and women undergo. The prologue of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is that if a Jewish child gets caught doing anything wrong or misbehaving in any fashion, the parents are made to be held responsible for their child’s actions. As Fallik (2014) explains that “every rites of passage event is different per racial community, but they are just as sacred as the one that proceeded it (pg.4). Coincidentally, young men and women in the Jewish culture are taught to be mature as their ascension to adulthood looms. The first thing that people should know about the Rites of Passage ceremony is that there is a difference between a Bar and Bat Mitzvah. A Bar Mitzvah is for males and a Bat Mitzvah is for females, people often get these confused because they think the two are one in the same; they are not. The second aspect of the Rites of Passage ceremony is the steps in which a person in the Jewish faith would have to take. First, the person has to immediately leave their old life and “community” behind to study in order to be prepared to go before Torah. The second act is the person preparing for the sacred Rites of Passage and learning the rules and regulations as well as their responsibilities for their coming adulthood. The final feature of the Bar Mitzvah is actual ceremony itself, where the person in question is brought before the Torah to read everything that they see before them and are reborn as adults. Young males can partake in the bar mitzvah ceremony when he is 13 years of age, young females it is 12 years of age. The gifts that a young adult male can get can be anything from money, gift cards, clothes, regular cards even checks. It is not unusual for a woman to get the same thing or something similar; unisex gifts are acceptable in the Jewish community. Another thing about the Jewish Rites of Passage, the parents no longer takes responsibility for their child’s wrongdoing, the “adult” is responsible for their own actions.
The differences matter
The comparisons between a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and a Quinceanera are absolute, these differences are what makes these two events very well-respected and time-honored. For one, the Quinceanera is only for girls. Boys do not have a Quinceanera, they are just treated more like men and are expected to be the “macho” man as well as show maturity along with being more responsible. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is for both boys and girls of the Jewish culture, the ceremony, at once mandatory, is no longer. When boys and girls reach the Bar/Bat Mitzvah age, they are given a choice of whether they want a ceremony or not; a Quinceanera is not optional. The first part of the Quinceanera is taken place inside of a church and it is the first thing to be done in the morning, the Quinceanera is a Mexican Rites of Passage ceremony born in Mexico. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah has been around in the Jewish community for generations, the ceremony was vehemently enforced to all members of the Jewish faith; it is necessary for a Jewish person to study and be fluent in Hebrew. The young woman usually has the option to be limousine escorted to the church where the sacred mass of her Quinceanera will take place, people of the Jewish faith do not believe in taking a limousine or event-rented cars to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah because they are non-traditional and non-material so they are driven by their family to the event. Scott (2014) points out that “rites of passage are events that not just bond a family but they also bond father and son, mother and daughter (pg.1). The young Hispanic woman is given a cake at her Quinceanera unique to her own specific design, a girl’s Bat Mitzvah does not require anything especially a cake; it is optional. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah follows very different rules that require very little but a lot of time to study so as to satisfy the language requirement of the ceremony. A Quinceanera has different rules that state that if a woman does not marry by the time she is 15 then she will have to take care of her parents until the day she does.
For the Quinceanera, the young girl is required to wear a formal gown in commemoration of her special day, a girl having a Bat Mitzvah is usually in a regular dressy outfit but she is coated in a Jewish white scarf. A guy wears a suit and special robes including the scarf with the Star of David on it, they also have to wear the Jewish beanie as part of the ceremony. Maria (1995) explains that “one thing is absolute when it comes to a rite of passage, it celebrates new life and brings people closer together” (pg.1). The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is held inside of the temple that the people of the Jewish faith frequent, the first part of the Quinceanera is held at the church and the rest of it is held at the young woman’s house or a place of her choosing which is usually her house or a banquet hall in the community. It is mandatory for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to be held at the temple because the Torah cannot leave the temple and must be read right there before the congregation, the Torah leaving the temple is something that the Jewish elders frown upon; it is a violation of their order. Apart of being a woman following the Quinceanera, a woman is expected to obey her husband and do whatever she is told to do. In the Jewish faith, a woman has just as much power and right as men because they are recognized as adults. Men and women in the Jewish culture are considered equals whereas a man and a woman in the Mexican community are not. Following a Quinceanera, a woman has to remain at her parents’ house until she is able to marry and move away, women in the Jewish faith do not have such restraints. In the church during the Quinceanera, the young woman will have to go before the altar to give her thanks to the Virgen Mary, the Jewish people quote the Torah line by line. A 15 year old woman is able to make her own decisions and is responsible for her own actions including any mistakes she has made, young men and women in the Jewish faith do not take responsibility for anything they do wrong. The parents take the brunt of the backlash until the child reaches the age of 12 and 13 respectively in which they’ll get Bar/Bat Mitzvah’ed and have to obey the laws of the commandments which is regarded heavily. Following a young woman’s Quinceanera, there is a massive dinner party afterward. People have to wait and eat after the entire church part of the ceremony is over, people doing anything to the contrary is considered disrespectful. In the Jewish faith, a part of the rites of passage is being served wine and bread during the ceremony. During the Quinceanera at the church, the pastor and family of the chosen female are the ones talking; there are no songs to be sung during the ceremony. In the Jewish faith, different songs are sung during the ceremony. During the Quinceanera, the young woman is given gifts such as shoes, necklaces, a crown, a ring and everything else that makes up an entire jewelry collection. In the Jewish community, boys and girls can get different gifts based on hobbies as well as personal preference such as cash, checks, itunes gift cards, amazon.com gift cards, anything that the person in general wants or has a special preference for; a young woman during a Quinceanera do not get a choice about what gifts they get unfortunately. Perhaps the final comparison between a bar/bat mitzvah and a Quinceanera is that a Quinceanera is non-religious in nature, a woman does not violate God’s laws by not getting a Quinceanera because it is a human-made event. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah is, on the other hand, is very religious indeed because when the chosen reads the Torah, they are reading the commandments and are told to honor them to the best of their ability. Any violation of the Torah will result in the person getting banished from the order, obedience of the commandments are absolute and must be taken seriously. Part of the Quinceanera is done at a church where the young woman is brought before an altar, but she is not telling her parents or the pastor thanks for the opportunity to experience adulthood. She is immediately giving thanks to the Virgen Mary which is something that she alone has to do, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah takes a very similar yet different approach to this; the chosen reads the Torah but the Jewish elders do not help them quote the Torah.
Coming of age can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, it is a pretty consistent ritual that is respected and honored by races of every kind including religion. In America, certain rites of passage includes going to prom, a hunting trip, a strip club run or even the ceremonial shot glass of alcohol at the age of 18. However, there are certain cultures that have different rules for coming of age. In light of this, there are a couple of cultures in the world that celebrate coming of age differently and their rites of passage rituals are unique especially since these cultures all celebrate adulthood. For example, in the Mexican community young women who turn 15 are given a Quinceanera where they dress up and are given gifts that involve jewelry. In the Jewish culture, a young male or female hit adulthood at 13 and 12 respectively. Their parents take responsibility for their every action until they reach the aforementioned age then taking responsibility for their actions and obeying the commandments becomes their job. The rites of passage rituals associated with these two different cultures are absolute and they are time honored traditions that not many people get a chance to experience, but let it be known that a rites of passage is a ritual that the very concept of it makes certain people look forward to becoming an adult. Whether the person is black, white, brown, purple or even green, there exists rites of passage in each of racial group. Some people see a rites of passage ritual as just fun and games similar to fraternity hazing or pranking. However, a rites of passage ritual is something that defines a person’s heritage, that ritual ties them to their family and their family’s family. Ironically, some people in cultures where rites of passage are held sacredly have been known to have a sweet sixteen in place of a Quinceanera or father-son coming of age hunting trip ritual. No matter what rites of passage ritual is practiced in a community or among families, they all have one goal, to celebrate the greatest time in a person’s life; becoming an adult.
Fallik, F. (2014). Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a Rite of Passage. Chidush: Sweetening Jewish Education, 1(1), 4-4.
Maria, A. (1995, December 8). History of the Quinceañera as a Rite of Passage. Retrieved December 29, 2014, from http://www.geocities.jp/japanliving/quinceaneras.html
Scott, W. (2014, January 1). Rites of Passage and the Story of Our Times. Retrieved December 28, 2014, from http://schooloflostborders.org/content/rites-passage-and-story-our-times-will-scott