Coming of Age
London's different religious and ethnic communities celebrate coming of age in different ways, but many people share the idea that it is important to mark the moment when a child becomes an adult. Along with birth, marriage and death, coming of age can be one of the most important events in the life cycle.
Traditionally, the 21st birthday was considered the turning point between childhood and adulthood. Today, young people tend to celebrate their 18th birthday, or even their 16th, as a more important occasion.
Among religious communities, coming of age may involve a ceremony at which young people affirm their religious faith in the presence of their family and friends. They take on the responsibilities of adulthood, formally becoming full members of the community. Usually, there is also some kind of celebration to mark the occasion.
In the Jewish community, the coming-of-age ceremony is called 'Barmitzvah' for boys, and 'Batmitzvah' for girls. This means son, or daughter, of the commandments. It usually takes place at the age of 13 for boys, and 12 for girls. At their Barmitzvahs or Batmitzvahs, the young people read from the Torah in synagogue for the first time, and take on the responsibility of obeying the 'mitzvot' or commandments of God. These include many different rules on subjects such as charity, daily prayer and diet, as well as the more familiar Ten Commandments.
Jewish children attend classes to prepare for their Barmitzvahs or Batmitzvahs, learning about their religion and also about the specific Hebrew text that they will have to read at the ceremony.
After the Barmitzvah or Batmitzvah, the family celebrates their child's formal acceptance into adult life. In recent decades, it has become fashionable to hold large parties, but in the early part of the 20th century it was more usual to have a family dinner in a restaurant or at home.
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