The Sweet Sixteen Birthday, An American Tradition

In the USA a teenager’s 16th birthday is a very special day, a birthday among birthdays that always warrants extra attention and a big party. While the famed “Sweet Sixteen Birthday” is primarily known as a significant day for girls, boys also mark the occasion, but with less formality. The reason for all of this hubbub over one’s arrival at this age is that it marks the passing from childhood into adulthood, an important milestone in the lives of young people in many cultures around the world. Today we will examine the American version of the celebration and some of its charming and enduring customs, focusing on the very special party thrown for the girls, because the boys usually spend the day out drinking beer with their buddies.

One of the first things girls about to turn 16 must do is go shopping for their Birthday dresses, which in general are frilly, pink, and have lots of shiny sequins, lending the birthday girls the glamour of an enchanted fairy princess. A sparkling tiara is also a popular accessory, as well as a trip to the salon for a really fancy hairdo, and to have her nails done.

Meanwhile, the birthday girl’s mother has been busy ordering that very special pink frosting birthday cake from the local bakery, and making sure the requisite sixteen candles are all accounted for! The traditional lighting of the sixteen candles is a party ceremony that honours the people who are closest and most important in the young girl’s life. The birthday girl hands a candle to these sixteen luminary guests and says something sweet about each one before they take their turn placing the candle on the cake and lighting it. The first, second, and third candles are lit by the parents, grandparents, and siblings respectively. The rest are meant for the rest of the sixteen special guests, comprised of relatives and close friends. If there is a boyfriend, he gets to light the last candle! Some families even have the birthday girl herself light a 17th candle for luck, which she places on a cupcake or in a bowl of ice cream and blows out last. Once all the candles are burning, you guessed it, everyone sings “Happy Birthday”!

The next special moment of the celebration is the father and daughter dance, a symbol of the bond shared by “Daddy” and his “little girl” who has grown up way too fast! This symbolic dance takes place one more time on her wedding day. A fun old song that holds happy memories for the family is played, and everyone watches as the father and daughter share their special moment together. By this time there may be happy tears in some eyes, and when the dance is done everyone will clap and cheer loudly before joining in on the dance floor. If there is a boyfriend, this is his chance to politely cut in and relieve Dad of his duties and enjoy a dance with his sweetheart on her very special day.

After the dancing, the gifts are opened, and they must be extra nice! Sweet Sixteen is a lovely custom that every American girl will treasure for all her life!

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