February 2, 2013

Sweet sixteen

Sixteen is considered an important age. At sixteen, one can drive and work. In the olden days, sixteen was considered a marriageable age. Sweet Sixteen parties have recently become popular in the United States due to the popularity of the MTV show My Super Sweet Sixteen. However, the tradition goes back several centuries. The term sweet sixteen was coined in the late 1500s. The parties go back to the 1700s. At that time in England, young women in the upper class were presented to the royal court during debutant balls as potential brides for men of high standing. The ceremony symbolized the fact that a girl could now marry and start a family. This is no longer true, but many girls still enjoy Sweet Sixteen parties. Nowadays, some boys have Sweet Sixteens; however, the tradition is still much more common among girls.

There is no fixed set of Sweet Sixteen traditions. The girl usually gets dressed up. A large selection of Sweet Sixteen dresses can be found on missesdressy.com.

A Sweet Sixteen dress: credits to missesdressy.com.
Some Sweet Sixteen parties borrow traditions from Quinceañeras; for example, the Changing of the Shoes sometimes takes place at a Sweet Sixteen party. This is especially common among Latina girls who choose to have a Sweet Sixteen rather than a Quinceañera. Sometimes a girl receives a family heirloom at her Sweet Sixteen. She often wears a tiara and participates in a father-daughter dance. Dances can range from waltzes to hip-hop.

One popular tradition is the candle-lighting ceremony. Sixteen candles are lit on a large cake. Each candle represents an important person (or, in some cases, people) in the birthday girl's life. The first candle represents her parents, the second represents her siblings, candles three through six represent extended family members, candles seven through fourteen represent the birthday girl's friends, the fifteenth candle represents her best friend, and the sixteenth candle represents her boyfriend or another close male friend. Sometimes a seventeenth candle is added for good luck. Candles are often lit by the people they represent.

Sweet Sixteen parties can be formal or informal, and they can be large or small. There are a countless number of themes one could consider. Several are listed on ehow.co.uk. Preparations for a Sweet Sixteen must be made well in advance, what with selecting a theme, buying outfits based on that theme, renting a space, and hiring a DJ. In this way, Sweet Sixteens are similar to Quinceañeras.

Some people believe that girls focus more on the party itself than on what it symbolizes. For this reason, many Latino parents are sad when their daughter chooses to have a Sweet Sixteen rather than a Quinceañera. 

Birthday shoutouts to Darcy and Henry

1 comment:

  1. Great post - I didn't realize that the tradition of Sweet Sixteen parties had such a long history!