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Becoming a real adult
  • Choi Hyeon-kyeong
  • 승인 2015.05.11 20:51
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How do you celebrate “Coming-of-Age Day”? It’s a day to notify officially that young people at the age of 19 are becoming a real adult through a formal ritual. It also means that they have a right and duty as a member of society. It’s celebrated every year on the third Monday of May. “Coming-of-Age Day” was a rite of passage across the ages and in all countries of the world. So, many countries celebrate it in various ways and we investigate these ways.

Korea - an old custom is that a man ties a topknot and a woman wears her hair up in a chignon and then, announces it to ancestors and village seniors. However, these days, we send 3 gifts to them, a rose, perfume, and a kiss, putting special meaning in these gifts.

Japan - famous for its grand coming-of-age ceremony, they celebrate it on January 15th every year and hold a huge event at shrines. Most men wear a black suit, but women wear a Kimono called ‘Furisode‘ and dress their hair up. ‘Furisode’ is the fanciest one among the kimonos and it is decorated with a showy pattern. The most special feature is that the sleeves are long. Also, parents present a wallet to their son and a handbag to their daughter and there is ten thousand yen to pray for luck with money in these gifts.

In some cultural areas, they ask for physical penances or decide to check whether the boy is a man or not, taking an examination. In Africa, they sometimes take an exam to resolve obstacles or make a wound on the face or back to mark special signs. In Ethiopia, the Hamar tribe call a boy who hasn’t done the ceremony ‘Ukeulli (donkey)’, meaning not a person yet. Their ritual is jumping over a bull’s back 4 times. The boy should jump up its back, naked. If he jumps up safely, he receives congratulations for passing the ritual. However, if he falls off, he becomes a laughing stock and gets a whipping from the women.

The culture of bungee jumping which is performed as a sort of ceremony in New Zealand is actually derived from Vanuatu. Vanuatu is an island country of the South Pacific and aborigines of Pentecost Island. They think of strength and courage highly as qualifications of adulthood. When they are a certain age, they dive 30m from a bamboo tower to the ground, binding a grapevine or trunks of a tree on their ankles. It’s called ‘land diving’ and tests for a brave spirit of challenge. Some people can lose their life or get hurt because there is no safety device.

Celebrating the “Coming of Age ceremony” is not only for congratulation to become a man in each country, but for hammering home qualities that they should have as an adult. Namely, they can enjoy rights, but it follows a responsibility as a social member. One needs to greet the “Coming-of-Age Day”, thinking about the true meaning of maturation.

Caption1: Women are wearing ‘Furisode’ and celebrating “Coming-of-Age Day”.

Caption2: A boy is trying to jump over a bull’s back.

Caption3: A boy is diving from a bamboo tower.

Choi Hyeon-kyeong  -

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