Do you celebrate the sixteenth birthday in a special way?

Q: Do you celebrate the sixteenth birthday in a special way? Tell me about sweet 16.

Well, “sweet 16” unfortunately has its roots in a pretty misogynistic tradition left over from Victorian times. At that time, 16 was considered old enough to marry, so wealthy families would host a debutante ball to introduce their daughter to suitors, so they could find her a husband quickly. It’s pretty gross when we think about it from today’s viewpoint!

Since this was a tradition carried out by the wealthy, of course families with less money wanted to copy it in some way. The tradition evolved into GROUP “coming out” parties (especially in the southern part of the US), where every girl who turned 16 that year would wear a fancy dress and attend a debutante ball on one night of the year.

It’s quite an old fashioned tradition, and people have become less and less attached to it as time passes (and more aware that 16-year-olds shouldn’t get married!!), but some watered down versions of the tradition replaced the ball, such as having a huge birthday party.

These days, though we see special cards and decorations that say “sweet 16”, the celebration isn’t much different than it would be any other year. In some families, they still consider a girl of 16 to have become a young woman, so she may receive more “adult” gifts for this birthday. Common gifts are things like a piece of heirloom jewelry, or an expensive piece of new jewelry (In the past, a girl might receive items for her “hope chest” on her 16th birthday).

When I turned 16, my aunt sent me a huge bouquet of roses and a special cake to celebrate. A friend of mine received small diamond earrings from her parents. Another friend received a silver locket that had belonged to her grandmother. Some wealthy families may still throw a big party for their daughter, but it’s just not so common these days.


これはお金持ちの慣習だったので、そうでない家もなんとかして真似をしたがったの。この慣習が“coming out”パーティー(特に米国南部)に進化したの。そこでは16歳になった女の子がその年のある夜に豪華なドレスをきて社交界デビューパーティに参加したのね。