Turning 21 - Coming of Age

A DigitalNZ Story by Zokoroa

Pictorial description of 21st birthday parties over the decades

Birthdays, 21st Birthday, Celebrations, Parties, Party, Cakes

Turning 21 years old is celebrated in many countries as signifying the start of a coming of age and entering adulthood. Various ritual take place around the world to mark this milestone.  (See: Colors: the global multicultural magazine)

Cutting cake in front of 21st birthday sign

Allen, 21st Birthday

Puke Ariki

Son cutting his 21st birthday cake with his parents

Coming of age celebration, Papatoetoe, 1971.

Auckland Libraries

Twins blow out the candles on their matching cakes at their 21st birthday party (1961)

Turning 21: a joint celebration

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

21st Birthday cake

Whiting 21st

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Schouhkoff 21st

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Clifford 21st

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Aro 21st [party]

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Symbolic key to door

A British tradition is the giving of a key, which symbolises the person is responsible enough to have his or her own key to the front door,  while someone sings the words,  "I've got the key of the door, never been 21 before!"  It is also considered as being a ceremonial offering of a "key to the future".  The key is often signed on the back by well-wishers.   (See Te Ara: Birthdays and wedding anniversaries)

Anne Nicholls 21st 16

Upper Hutt City Library

No.016 21st key - 16"

Kete New Plymouth

21st birthday party, 1959

Auckland Libraries

21st Birthday Key

Palmerston North City Library

Recent Māori custom may see some families give a carved wooden key or pare (door lintel) to  women and a taiaha to men.  (See Te Ara:  21st-birthday pare

Anne Nicholls 21st 11

Upper Hutt City Library

Anne Nicholls 21st 10

Upper Hutt City Library

21st-birthday pare

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Yard glass

Another British birthday tradition is drinking a yard-glass of beer - a tall glass holding 1.4 litres ( 2.5 pints) of ale that is often spiked with a stronger alcoholic drink.

Speeches

21st birthday party, 1959

Auckland Libraries

Anderson 21st [party]

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Refreshments

21st birthday party, 1959

Auckland Libraries

Kupa 21st [party]

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Music & dancing

Socialising with famiLY & Friends

21st Birthday party, 1959

Auckland Libraries

21st Birthday 1949

Hawke's Bay Knowledge Bank

21st birthday party, 1959

Auckland Libraries

21st Birthday Party.

Kete Christchurch

Clifford 21st

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Presents and cards

Clifford 21st

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Cook Island quilts (tivaeva) are presented at 21st birthdays

"Blossoms of the new beginning" (Tivaevae manu with matching pillows and pillowslips)

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

21st Birthday card

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

21st Birthday card

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

"Coming of Age" Treasures - Tales from Te Papa episode 76

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa